09 Jun Festivals Abroad: Summer 2015

  Although summer hasn’t technically begun (June 21 can’t come soon enough!), the season of music festivals is already well underway! Each year, the number of music festivals worldwide continues to grow, and while being abroad certainly adds a few hurdles to seeing your favorite artists on the circuit this summer, you’d be surprised at just how many international festivals there are that feature major headliners! Of course, we’re always ones to promote local bands, scenes, and cultures, but even locals get excited at the prospects of major international music artists playing their country. So, whether you’re looking to vibe out to electronic music, head bang through a few rock sets, or lightly sway side-to-side with your arms crossed while your favorite indie band strums along (kidding, kidding, not all indie fans are like this!), you’ll definitely find something to suit your tastes abroad this summer. You might even see your favorites along the way! Take a look at an abridged (seriously, there are hundreds) selection below, for just a taste of what you’ll find abroad. Greenfield Festival When: June 11-13, 2015 Where: Interlaken, Switzerland Headliners/notable acts: Slipknot, Motörhead, In Flames, Lamb of God, Gaslight Anthem Isle of Wight Festival When: June 11-14, 2015 Where: Isle of Wight, UK Headliners/notable acts: Blur, Fleetwood Mac, The Black Keys, The Prodigy, Pharrell Williams Orange Warsaw Festival When: June 12-14, 2015 Where: Warsaw, Poland Headliners/notable acts: Muse, The Chemical Brothers, Incubus, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Bastille Secret Solstice When: June 19-21, 2015 Where: Reykjavík, Iceland Headliners/notable acts: Wu-Tang Clan, The Wailers, FKA...

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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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22 May Hit or Miss: North American songs that failed to chart in the US, and their successes abroad

With the advent of the Internet and streaming services such as YouTube and Spotify, music has become more readily accessible, in terms of both delivery platform and price. In turn, this has allowed for greater exposure for musical groups, both foreign and domestic, as users share music with each other effortlessly after a few simple clicks. Streaming services have had such a major impact on popular music that Billboard Magazine, which produces internationally recognized record charts each week, tweaked its algorithms to include on-demand streaming of individual songs to calculate its charts. Before the addition of streaming music plays, Billboard’s charts, along with most other international record charts, were constructed according to record sales (physical, and later digital). Radio was the most ubiquitous form of advertising and marketing musical groups, and the lack of open, easy, and inexpensive communication across the world created musical markets that were distinct from one another: what you heard in London would differ from what you heard in Berlin (and further still, it could differ between East and West Berlin). Of course, there were still international sensations (see the British Invasion), but on the whole, becoming a global hit was a more difficult achievement; artists were more likely to have regional success, simply by proximity. North-American artists would be more likely to sell well in North America, but there’s no guarantee for success in, say, the European markets. But what about artists that had little-to-no success within their...

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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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18 May Cultural Comfort Foods: Panamanian Edition

Comfort food is universal. While cuisines may vary from country to country, or even between different regions within the same country, there are always dishes that remind people of family, security, home. Sure, we can talk about greasy pizza, mac and cheese, or fudge brownies, but if you grew up in an international household or spent a significant period of time abroad, I’m sure you have some pretty eclectic comfort food cravings from time to time. Some of my favorite comfort foods are Panamanian in origin, since they remind me of family dinners growing up – arroz con coco y gandules, patacones, and carimañolas are among my favorites. Pretty standard Panamanian fare, but also incredibly delicious and comforting (especially when mom makes them)! Central and South American dishes overall are known for being simple, rustic and fresh, utilizing local ingredients - lots of fruits and veggies as well as local meat and seafood. Panamanian food in particular has a variety of influences, including traditions of native indigenous groups mixed with African, Spanish and Chinese cultures (yes, Chinese! There was a significant labor migration at the end of the 19th century to build the railroad system.) Of course, some dishes are easier to prepare than others. I’d rather not spend 2 hours peeling, cooking and mashing yucca, thankyouverymuch, but I’m more than happy to swap out water for coconut milk in my rice and double-fry some plantains.   (Carimañolas - too labor intensive for me to attempt, but...

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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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08 May Flowers speak foreign languages

[caption id="attachment_2275" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Flower markets in Amsterdam are just too enchanting.[/caption] Spring has FINALLY arrived here in Michigan. Trees have bloomed, birds are chirping, skies are blue, and flowers are popping up all over. All of this blooming and Mother’s Day (yes, it’s Sunday) got me thinking about flowers, which got me thinking about my mom’s favorite flower, which got me thinking about flowers in France, which got me thinking about traditions with flowers around the world. I personally find it fascinating how flowers have a universal quality to them. Mostly everywhere in the world they’re offered as a sign of love, apology, or appreciation; used as decor; carried by a bride; and adorn the graves of loved ones. But, as universal as flowers are, they also carry unique meaning and etiquette in different cultures. Let’s start with the Lilley of the Valley, since this is my *mom’s favorite flower and the thought of which started this whole thing. This flower has special significance in France. On the first of May, the country’s Labor Day, you’ll find florists and vendors on the street selling sprigs to passerby. The cultural significance of the May Lily dates back to 1560 when a notable Chevalier offered the flower, picked from his own garden, to a young King Charles IX. So enamored by the act, the King began the tradition of offering the flower to each Lady of the Court every spring. Of course the “fête...

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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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