16 Jun Famous Landmarks that almost didn’t survive WWII

 When discussing World War II and its lasting impact on international populations and politics the focus is, rightly, on the human cost of the conflict. Six years of war claimed the lives of over 72,000,000 soldiers and civilians worldwide, and some regions have never regained the prosperity they enjoyed before the battles. Every aspect of society was altered by the massive conflict, which saw the birth America as a superpower, the fall of several empires, the rise of the Soviet Union, and the introduction of some of the most destructive weapons the world has ever seen. During the chaotic war years when the preservation of human life took precedence over all else, innumerable works of art and architecture fell victim to the astounding destruction. Mystery continues to surround the fate of some treasures, including Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael, and the infamous lost Amber Room of the Czars. Though teams of historians and experts have devoted years to finding stolen works, repairing damaged décor, and protecting sites against future damage, it is an imperfect science. As ISIS’ recent destruction of irreplaceable historic sites across Iraq and Syria has taught us, sometimes the survival of iconic buildings and structures is left entirely to the whim of occupying forces. Though it may be easy to despair for the art and history of the Mideast during the current conflicts, it is important to remember that less than 100 years ago the treasures of...

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09 Jun Oh Say Can You Sing?

The Best National Anthems You Haven't Heard Though you may not agree with the politics behind the flag, it’s generally accepted that the United States of America has an excellent national anthem. Originally written by Francis Scott Key as a poem expressing his feelings during the War of 1812, the poignant words were later paired with the music of “Anacreon in Heaven”, a gentleman’s club song from London. The most common places to hear the tune are sports matches, the Olympics, and memorial services, and it’s safe to say that even if you don’t know all the words you can hum a few stanzas. Britain’s “God Save the Queen” and Canada’s “Oh, Canada” are similarly recognizable, and the Francophiles amongst us will certainly know France’s “La Marseillaise”. However, there are 196 countries in the world, all with songs to honor their land. In addition, if we work off the definition of nation as “a large aggregate of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory”, there are even more anthems to consider. It can all get a bit overwhelming, but never fear! Here are 5 of the best national anthems you’ve probably never heard. Qatar – “Peace Be to the Emir” [embed]https://youtu.be/_Ub4frgwRTw[/embed] “Al-Salam Al-Amiri” is a baby as far as national anthems go, only instated in 1996 when the current Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani ascended to the seat of power. The song opens with a great thrill of strings...

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02 Jun 5 Classes to Take in Your Second Language

Studying abroad is a hugely enriching experience, which deepens your understanding of your host country and yourself. Before you leave home you’ll picture yourself on your new campus: Making new friends, settling into new accommodations, trying new foods, and gaining fluency in a language previously foreign to you. All of these things will happen. You’ll make more friends than you can count, the food and housing will initially frustrate and then enchant you, and little by little that language that was always confined to the pages of your textbooks will come alive. It’s a crazy, humbling experience and you’ll never, ever regret it. However, there will be aspects to your overseas program that you might not be able to anticipate so accurately. For example, most of your friends will probably be other exchange students. Odds are you will be housed with other international learners, you’ll all be in the same language classes, and during the evenings and weekends you’ll form an amazing group of adventurers. They will be some of the best friends you ever make, but they will also be in the same boat as you. They will also be “other” in this adopted country and therefore not much closer to linguistic fluency OR local savvy than you. This can be frustrating if your ultimate goal is to acclimate to your surroundings. So what should you do? It’s always a good idea to become involved with your local community, whether through volunteering...

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26 May All Aboard!

The popular idiom of “planes, trains, and automobiles” is often first on our minds when we plan transportation for a trip abroad. What airport will I fly to? Is there a shuttle service? Should I buy a subway pass? These are all good questions to ask, but too often travelers forget the fourth option: boats. Rewind history 100 years and boats were still the top choice for traveling, domestically and internationally, to say nothing of transporting cargo in the days before semi-trucks. Though no longer nearly as popular as their heyday, ships, cruises, ferries, and barges still operate all over the world and can elevate your vacation from “great” to “ridiculously awesome.” Here are 5 suggestions to get you started. Prince Edward Island – Canada Located off the east coast of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island (PEI) is an idyllic getaway not too far from the mainland. With activities as varied as whale watching and golf, there is something for everyone! The Northumberland Ferry Ltd takes 75 minutes one way and is open to shuttle cars as well. The ferry’s path takes it past the beautiful Caribou coastline, so be sure to get a window seat. Small Cyclades – Greece When visiting Greece there are so many islands to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start! We suggest taking a tour of the Small Cyclades a group of 8 islands which includes Santorini and Ios. The Express Scopelitis service runs daily and provides...

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20 May Drink It All In

We’re often told not to judge a book by its cover, but I have absolutely done so. I also generally choose wine based on the label design, purses by their designer, and household cleaners by their mascots. The irresistible power of marketing confronts us at every corner and I can’t say it bothers me. With that in mind, I recently went through a long, LONG list of international soft drinks and chose the ones I would most like to try based solely on their names. Keep in mind that I have no idea what these drinks taste like, so don’t take this as a suggestion. It’s merely a silly exercise in “Well, if I could, why not?” Manzanita Deliciosa – Mexico How can anyone resist a drink named “deliciosa”? This is a traditional apple-flavored soda which apparently makes an excellent pairing with Mexican food. Midnight Taco Bell run anyone? Chubby – Trinidad and Tobago Luckily this name refers to the cute little bottles and NOT the after-effects it has on your body. Apparently the main target is children between the ages of 4 and 9, but they got me hook, line, and sinker. Schwip Schwap – Germany Just try saying this drink name with a German accent, isn't it amazing? I would order this just to have the chance to say it aloud. This orange-flavored cola is a strong seller and is actually produced by Pepsi! Splashe Back O’ Bourke Cola – Australia The unnecessary “e” at the end...

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13 May Treat Yourself

One of my favorite things about traveling is the chance to try out foreign foods, specifically candy. Nothing can compare to the discovery of a new favorite sweet in a wrapper that is impossible to decipher. Foreign candies have also given me some of the more startling taste sensations I’ve experienced. You should never let a few bad tastes stop you from adventuring, though. To help further your quest for sweet sensations I’ve compiled some of the candies you absolutely must try. Some of these are so good the taste more than justifies the price of the plane ticket. Wine Gums – England Wine gums are chewy, gummy candies that are flavored after a variety of your favorite alcoholic beverages, with none of the hangover after-effects. In every bag you’ll be able sample burgundy, champagne, claret, gin, port, and sherry. Cheers! Kinder Country – Germany Purportedly a good source of your daily dairy, Kinder Country bars consist of a milky cream layered over puffed rice and then covered with some of the best milk chocolate you’ve ever had. Super delicious, but it melts fast, so eat quickly! Chimes Mango Ginger Chews – Indonesia Made with ginger grown in the volcanic soil of Java, these chews are spicy, sweet, and great for settling your stomach after a night out on the town. As a bonus they’re also gluten free and vegan, so feel free to share! Alfort – Japan Though many people don’t associate chocolate sweets with Japan, these cookies...

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06 May Where the World Vacations

Spring is here and with it comes the inevitable urge to travel during the upcoming summer months. Though the vast majority of Americans travel domestically, there are still those who wander farther. These are the people who dream of tropical getaways to Mexico, or hiking adventures in the northern wilds of Canada. These are the travelers who don’t feel fulfilled until there is a new stamp in their passport and a new security tag on their baggage. Seasonal wanderlust is hardly limited to Americans. In fact, Europeans are famous for their vacations. It certainly helps to live on a continent full of distinct nations easily reached by a car trip or short plane flight. Interestingly, a study conducted on travel trends for the EU noted that vacation destinations differ by nationality. Here are some of the results. Italians vacation in France. Yep, even Italians need a break from pasta occasionally. They head inland to the mountains and cities of France for a refreshing getaway. British go to Spain. It’s no secret that the Brits love the Mediterranean coast. Tans, tea, and tapas; Spain is the dream destination for everyone looking to escape the grey skies of England. The Irish visit the UK. This is a bit of a surprise until you consider that you can get a round trip from Dublin to London for $50. $50! You can hardly buy a suitcase for that price! Czech tourists choose Slovakia. Though not well known in the US, Slovakia is a gorgeous...

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29 Apr Manage Your Manners

During the 5 years I lived in Japan I committed my fair share of cultural faux pas. Dressing incorrectly, saying the wrong thing, exposing my misunderstanding of basic social rules… I unwittingly checked all of these missteps off my list. However none were more memorable, or more embarrassing, than those rules I broke at the dinner table. (Never stick your chopsticks point down in your rice. Trust me on this.) Table manners are a sign of civility and good character everywhere in the world. Unfortunately, “good” and “bad” etiquette is subjective dependent on culture, which can lead to unintentionally rude behavior. There are a few tried and true rules that transcend location (chew with your mouth closed, wash your hands, don’t throw things) but the rest are tricky. We’ve compiled five of the harder ones below. Read on to become a politer you! Italy – No cappuccino after 12pm Cappuccino is a morning drink. Indeed, for many Italians it can function as their entire breakfast. Therefore, anyone ordering it after noon is instantly identifiable as a tourist. Older Italians will admonish you for ruining your appetite and upsetting your tummy. Stay on the safe side and order espresso instead. Britain – Hold your fork in your left hand For most of mainland Europe, and particularly Britain, the approved way to hold your fork and knife is in the “Continental Style.” (Does that mean Americans use the “Colonial Style?” Need to look into this…) To be correctly...

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20 Apr Don’t let the internet ruin your vacation

I recently spent a very nice day out with my friends. Mid-adventure I tweeted a selfie of myself enjoying the scenery to the internet. De rigueur, wouldn’t you say? A standard amount of likes came in, but nowhere close to my top posts. I kept checking my phone periodically, but found myself with few comments to reply to. As the day progressed I puzzled over my vague dissatisfaction, not with the experience (it was a truly lovely day), but with why I found it necessary to receive affirmation from my online followers. I was happy in the moment. The day was beautiful, the trip progressing perfectly. Why wasn’t that enough? We live in an age of hyper-connectivity. Studies have been done about the constant presence of computers and their effect on our brains (check out this Invisibilia podcast on the topic.) College students are given seminars on how their online presence can make or break a career, and children in elementary school are given tips on how to deal with cyber bullying. I’ve paid attention to the discussions, but haven’t allowed them to panic me. I keep my Facebook security settings high, and think twice before I tweet. I’ve also made a concentrated effort to not use my phone during mealtimes, but it wasn’t until the day out with my friends that it became clear I have more work to do. Specifically, I need to stop letting the Internet throw off my groove. Allow me...

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15 Apr Flea-Bitten: A Guide to Flea Markets in Europe

[caption id="attachment_2301" align="aligncenter" width="300"] An awesome Lion's Club Flea Market I stumbled upon in Denmark.[/caption] Caught the Shopping Bug? Whether it’s to find that one elusive dinner plate to complete a set from the 1940s, or because a modern couch just doesn’t have the same charm as an orange couch from the 1970s, there are many reasons people flock to flea markets. The air is always filled with excited chatter, music, and the mingled smells of food and dusty age. Flea markets are rarely just about buying old things - they also bring to life a sense of community and familiarity. Europe has some of the oldest and largest flea markets in the world, and stopping by at least one or two is almost a requirement for a well-rounded study abroad or travel experience. Flea markets give people an inside look into the culture, history, food, and customs of an area, all in one unique place. During your time abroad, take a day or weekend to hop on the train and get down to one of the flea markets dotted all across Europe. Even if you have no intention of buying anything, you won’t be disappointed in the rich experience you will have. Just be sure to keep an open mind and try to engage someone in conversation - people selling vintage pieces usually have amazing stories to go along with the items. Mercatone dell’Antiquariato del Naviglio Grande Held along the Naviglio Grande, this flea market...

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