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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19 Jan Passing through Social Faux Pas in London

[caption id="attachment_2343" align="alignnone" width="660"] Tip #1: Don't wear these masks.[/caption] While England and the US share a de facto official language (English, although legally the US has no official language), it’s clear that cultures and customs remain distinct, and occasionally incompatible. Navigating social situations can become tricky, particularly when addressing international politics (Ireland anyone?). Keeping that in mind, I present a few guidelines when speaking with London locals, superiors, or even (if blind chance intercedes) the Queen. First, be aware of small talk. Britons are more reserved than Americans. Idle discussion with a new coworker can prove uncomfortable. Don’t take it personally if they shrug you off and bury their face in a newspaper or computer. Likely, your positive demeanor and openness for discussion took the individual off-guard. Throw in a couple self-deprecating statements about yourself and you might just open them up as well. Recognizing the function of humor, sarcasm and wit in British discourse will be your most important tool. And don’t get unnerved if your statements elicits sarcasm; this is a defense mechanism employed when conversation has struck a tender spot for the individual. Don’t take sarcasm or irony personally; offer a bit of your own (without making a fool of yourself) and this impasse may be crossed. If you’ve struck up a light conversation, it’s best to stick to open questions as opposed to loaded ones (“what do you think about the Queen?”) or personal assertions. Comment on the weather and...

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03 Jan How to survive a 17-hour flight

[caption id="attachment_2339" align="alignnone" width="660"] Only 16 hours to go![/caption] Yesterday a college friend called and asked me to attend his wedding. It takes place in less than two months. It wasn’t the short notice that surprised me. It was where the wedding is to be: a ceremony in Kyoto, Japan, with a party of sorts a week later in Tokyo. And then selfish thinking entered, and that constant biting of the travel bug began. “Well, I have always wanted to order sushi from its original source,” I mused to myself. “And at the first location I could act as ‘dignitary attaché’ and sign the environmental Kyoto Protocol the U.S. refuses to.” The trip was quickly turning into a productive one even before I decided whether or not to go. And then I remembered the flight. The time on a plane from the east coast of the United States to Japan is nothing short of 17 hours. One-way. Next to a crying baby in the lap of a mother who seems to have neglected it since birth, the child’s face red and full of runny snot. This thought led me to wonder what to do on a plane for so many hours. Initial reaction, like many seasoned flyers, is to drink as many miniature Absolute vodka bottles, and as quickly as possible. Then pass out, hoping to reawake when rubber hits tarmac upon landing. You then smile at the sleeping baby who only minutes before passed...

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08 Sep How to choose a destination for Study Abroad

[caption id="attachment_2238" align="alignnone" width="660"] Can't go wrong![/caption] After freshman year in college I went abroad for two months to Merida, Mexico. I saw a flier in a campus building I normally don’t enter: “Two Months in Mexico. Field Research. $500 Stipend.” It piqued my interest, and I emailed the professor whose name was listed below and that was that. My life took an entirely new direction and I was hooked. But what makes a student choose to travel abroad to a particular country? Reasons vary: A friend is dead-set on Tanzania, so you tag along. The price is right for Buenos Aires. 9 credits in two months for studies in Lyon. You’ve always wanted to try Chinese food in China to compare to Peking Wok Restaurant a block from your dorm...

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12 Jul Don’t Appear “Touristy”

[caption id="attachment_2189" align="alignnone" width="660"] Case in point.[/caption] When spending any amount of time in a new country, you want to feel like you are absorbing the local culture and avoiding "tourist traps" and stereotypes. Unfortunately, being easily identified as a tourist will make you a perfect target for theft and may also prevent you from meeting real locals. But how to combat this is a place you've never been before? In an article on ehow.com, the writer identifies that clothing is the main item that shows you are a tourist. Research your location before you leave and check out what clothing they wear on a regular basis. You can always buy a few outfits when you arrive if need be, nothing expensive though and you can always wash your outfits so you do not have to buy many. Do not be afraid to approach some of the locals and start talking to them about why they love their country so much. Many tourists may shy away on this idea because they feel uncomfortable or are only worried about seeing the main tourist attractions. Being polite, respectful, and willing to talk to the natives will open your world of exploration and teach you more than you'd expect....

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07 Jun Traveling Abroad Anxiety

[caption id="attachment_2166" align="alignnone" width="660"] Don't ruin your travels before they start![/caption] "Will I have to use my elementary-level French? Will I be speared with a triton for being American? Will there be peanut butter???" These are just a couple (of probably a thousand) worries I had before I went on my college study abroad program. These anxieties are felt by almost everyone before you go abroad to study or intern; so don’t feel like you’re alone! Internally I was a wreck before I left because I am a planner; I want to know every single detail, but you can’t and that’s okay. Here are a few tips to help quell your anxiety. 1. Do not over pack!!!! This is big deal! Trust me you do not need to bring 20 pairs of shoes.  You need a pair of flip-flops, tennis shoes and a pair of going out shoes. Bringing too much means you don’t have room for souvenirs to bring back with you. Also, if you pack too much, the airlines will charge you extra; and not just a little, a lot extra! Lucky enough for a past travel mate, I had room in my bag to put her shoes in my bag. 2. Keep a small copy of your itinerary in your wallet. I do this anytime I am traveling. This way you have everything in arms reach. Do not feel nervous going through customs! Just state why you are there. You can also...

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