Postcards From Abroad

Not just another travel blog

Archive for the month “November, 2011”

(STORY) Studying Abroad: Affording the Expenses

Photo Courtesy of Devan Ellison

Photo Courtesy of Devan Ellison

By Jessica Albert

Ever since she studied African American poetry in the sixth grade, graduate student Devan Ellison has had a deep passion for all things Africa. She never thought that she’d have the chance to visit the places she studied at JMU as an Africana Studies minor because she is a student and on a budget … That is, until one day when a particular flier caught her eye.

“I never thought I’d have a chance to [go] again in the same fashion,” Ellison said. “I knew I wanted to go as soon as Dr. Owusu-Ansah had posted a yellow flier in CMSS outlining the trip and the different classes that it could substitute for.”

Deciding she wanted to go on the trip was easy. Filling out the applications was also rather easy. Getting her vaccinations and passport were also easy. However, getting the money she needed to go on the study abroad trip was a little tricky.

The fees associated with the Ghana study abroad program are over thousands of dollars. Affording the trip and her other necessities and interests seemed almost impossible. During her study abroad application process, Ellison had a lot of other financial obligations. She was responsible for paying her rent and needed to fulfill financial dues to gain entrance into a sorority.

“Most students are encouraged to check with financial aid to see how much [aid] they are qualified to use,” Professor Dr. David Owusu-Ansah said. “Others have family help.  For the Ghana program, most minority students have benefited from the Dr. William King Charitable scholarship.“

Ellison could not receive funds from her parents and didn’t meet financial aid requirements. Her last bet was Dr. King’s scholarship, and being African American and an Africana Studies minor Ellison applied and received the scholarship.

“I was granted $3500 to attend the trip and without this scholarship I probably would not have gone,” Ellison said.

With the $3,500 under her belt, Ellison still needed some more funds to pay for her plane ticket and for spending money while she was on the trip.

Ellison facilitated her own fundraiser in hopes of raising enough money so she wouldn’t have to choose between the sorority and the trip.

“Because my finances were so tight, I did conduct a fundraiser,” Ellison said. “I drafted a letter and I sent it out to my church members. I made sure I got the directory of ever member in my church and I mailed letters every day for about a month straight.”

In addition to sending letters, she had her father pass some of her letters to his co-worker.  Ellison, herself, also passed out fliers in the barbershop she frequents while at home.

Although many of Ellison’s letters did not make it to their destination, Ellison received about $1,500 from her church congregation and other family members. She received a number of individual donations amounting in increments of $50 to $100.

Ellison’s church gave her the second biggest donation she received. One day during a break from one of her classes in Memorial Hall, Ellison received a phone call from her church telling her they were donating $500 to her trip.

“I just remember crying because I didn’t have to choose at that point,” Ellison said.

Ellison credits her fund raising success to her faith.

“I felt like if it was going to be, God was going to make a way for me, and he did,” Ellison said.

After months of applying, fund raising and waiting, Ellison boarded a plane to Ghana in the summer of 2010. Ellison describes her trip as a rewarding experience.

“It was also rewarding in the sense that I had a chance to experience my own culture,” Ellison said. “I ended meeting one of my best friends there. I had a priceless experience. It’s a beautiful place and the people are beautiful.”

To learn more about the Ghana study abroad click here.


Dear Clueless Travelers

Posted by: Megan BrothersWe’ve all seen them, the disgraces to the art of travel.

They are dressed in tattered shorts and tennis shoes with ear buds stuffed so far in their ears they are oblivious to their surroundings. They are sprinting down the hall, yanking on suitcases that are clearly 3 times too big to fit in the overhead compartments. Better yet, they’re yelling, “Wait! Wait! We’re here,” as if anyone could care if we left your seats open and actually got to leave on time.

Seasoned travelers, you know them well. Travel is an art. It requires showing up early, standing in line for hours, getting frisked by angry TSA members, sitting next to annoying people who talk too much, losing your luggage, and dealing with connecting flights when something insignificant on your plane breaks. But despite all the irritants we face from the clueless travelers, traveling is who we are, its what we do. Its how we get from point A to point B, from fast paced and bustling to relaxation and sightseeing. Nevertheless, these clueless travelers that I so vividly described before, always seem to interrupt our path of travel.

So for those of you senior travelers or pilots who need a good laugh, read on and giggle. For those of you who noticed common similarities between yourselves and the description in the beginning of this post, please, for the sake of everyone, read this, and take it into consideration for the next time you travel. No hard feelings.

Rules and tips for travelers:

  1. Bring your passport or Visa for international travels and have it signed and up-to-date. Your passport/Visa is your life, as are your boarding pass, ticket, and other picture ID. Keep it with you at all times. Seriously.
  2. Anything you bring on the plane must fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. Smashing your oversized suitcase in the overhead compartment fifteen different ways, will not make it fit. Also, word of advice, make sure you can lift your suitcase above your head. Flight attendants cannot help you lift your suitcase. There is the rare occasion that the body builder in the seat next to you may help you, but I wouldn’t count on it. Besides that, you are allowed one carry on, and one personal item (backpacks, purses, laptops, and brief cases are acceptable).
  3. Security is not option for anyone. It is mandatory. Yes, you will deal with grumpy TSA members who are about as happy as the people at the DMV. Yes, you will get frisked by strangers and be asked to take your clothes off in public, all the way down to your shoes. And yes, your neatly packed bags will be torn through if TSA sees anything that could resemble a weapon. It’s for your safety, so do your best to keep your temper.
  4. 4.    The “3-1-1 rule” declares that travelers can only have 3.4 oz. of liquid in one quart sized, clear, plastic, zip top bag in your carry on bag. Travelers can only put one bag in the screening bin. 3.4 oz. does not mean 4 oz., or even 3.5 oz. Travel size means travel size. Save yourself, and everyone else the trouble, and put all your liquids in the bag and put it in the screening bin. When in doubt, leave it in your checked baggage. Also, on a side note when thinking about gifts for friends at home, snow globes do not meet the minimum liquid requirement; put snow globes in your checked baggage or don’t buy them, they’re kinda lame anyway.
  5.  Don’t bring weapons. Yes, this may seem like common sense, but don’t these all? By the way, manicure sets can be considered weapons, just be aware.
  6. Listen to the safety presentation on the plane because if we crash, I sure as hell will not be helping you pump hot oxygen into your lungs and leading you to the nearest exit. You will be stuck.
  7.  Be prepared for anything. In other words, expect for your flight to be delayed, maybe even canceled. Be prepared for your gate to change, for you to sit next to a 450-pound sumo wrestler who doesn’t believe in showers. Be prepared for nothing to be playing on the 12-hour flight or for the flight attendants to run out of hot food at your seat. Be prepared for your baggage to be in Toronto when you are headed to Paris. It happens. Just be prepared.

Besides all the other rules and tips, I have one word of advice that you should take no matter what. Do not freak out if you have never flown before. Order a cocktail, recline your seat all of the 20 degrees it will go back, pop in the provided ear buds with no padding, and watch a movie or six on the 5inch tv monitor on the seat in front of you.

I hope you all enjoyed the different twist I took on my blog post this week. I am a seasoned traveler and these are things I see a lot when I’m traveling. Plus my dad was a pilot, so he got really fed up with the “morons” that travel. I thought it would be a fun way to inform new travelers of the rules of travel and a humorous post for well traveled people. I won’t be posting next week because its Thanksgiving break. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday. I look forward to posting again in a couple weeks 🙂

If you’re Ghana Go….

This one’s a little out there, and I mean literally, it turns out JMU offers a summer program in Ghana, that’s in Africa.

I’m going to deviate from the format of this blog, so heads up. Obviously there’s no Guiness Brewery or Boat tours to be had in Ghana, so rather it’s best to explain what the program is. I’m assuming that this is the first time you’re aware of this program, as am I.

Ghana is a country in Africa. It is located about in the middle of the continent, towards the west coast, news to me. It has only been an independent country since 1957, after gaining independence from the U.K.


JMU has only been offering the summer semeseter in Ghana for a few years, and it was the first overseas program it has hosted in Africa, (there’s a study abroad program in Kenya now too.)

In terms of living conditions, don’t be afraid, you won’t be staying in hide-huts in the middle of Sub-Sahara, rather, JMU will put you up in hotels in Legon, a suburb of the capital city of Accra.

The accademic programs offered are somewhat of a grab bag. Naturally, many of the courses availible, which are taught at the University of Ghana (in Legon) relate to African culture and history. Classes like:

HIST 470/570 – Modern African History and ANTHRO 391 – Anthropology Travel Study(3).

However, JMU also offers classes that appeal to those looking to actually interact with individuals of the African continent. IBUS 298, International buisness and EDUC 310- Teaching in Diverse Society are Buisness and Education major oriented classes that provide first hand knowledge and experience, rather than the abstract ideas we get from a classroom in Harrisonburg.

The program is under the leadership of history professor, Dr. David Owusu-Ansah

In addition to the academic programs, JMU provides access to a multitude of interships, dealing with topics ranging from educating the youth about HIV and aids and english (not neccessarily together) to creating computer programs and websites for hospitals.

 Africa, at least for me conjures up ideas of that movie “Blood Diamond”. I always picture it as an entire continent, covered in turmoil and bloodshed. However, after looking into Ghana, it seems that at least there, it is not the case. It is not even financially unstable, Ghana has nearly double the national GDP of other west African nations.

In addition, the offical language is English (lingering evidence of colonial rule).

So, if you have the same aprehensions as me, you can safely put those to rest.

So if you’re looking for a less traditional route with regards to studing abroad, Ghana may be the choice for you. And, if you actually want to make your time in another country count, do some good, and learn a bit, then Ghana is definately the choice for you.


Neal Hollowell


England and Italy and France, Oh my!

By Jessica Albert

Hello readers,

It’s me, Jessica, and I would like to tell you some interesting facts and need-to-knows about the JMU Office of International Programs .


This post is exciting for me because I originally went on a search to find the names of all of the JMU study abroad locations… I soon found out that this list is GIGANTIC and is forever-expanding. So, after scrapping my first idea for a post, I went ahead and surfed the OIP website for some more information.

I didn’t know that there were different types of study abroad programs that the university exposes you to. There are many possibilities for a student looking to receive college credit while traveling the globe. There are actually four different options available to JMU students. Here’s what I found:

  1. There are JMU run programs. (Duh.) These are the ones we usually hear about. Where students go study in another country for a designated period of time–during the summer, fall or spring. Okay, okay, so here comes the information I didn’t know. There are short-term study abroad programs. I thought that study abroad programs had to be for an entire semester or entire summer. As it turns out, they don’t necessarily have to be. Who knew? (If you knew, I’m sorry if I’m boring you.) I also didn’t know that you could study abroad as a graduate student. I thought that once you graduated from undergrad your life was over and you couldn’t study abroad. Nope. It’s still possible. JMU offers a ISAT graduate study abroad program and a Political Science graduate study abroad program. Crazy, right?
  2. Up next are external programs. You don’ have to go through JMU to get you international study on, you can also go to a private company too. JMU will recognize credits received from an external company. You just have to be diligent and make sure you have all your ducks in a row in order to receive credit. Click here to get a list of external programs most JMU students use.
  3. Exchange programs are also offered through JMU. You could study at one of JMU’s partner universities as an exchange student. JMU has exchange locations in Australia, Egypt, Japan, Spain, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
  4. I was really shocked when I found out about this last one. You can do an internship, volunteer or even work through the OIP. What an awesome thing to put on your resume! JMU advertises a London internship opportunity, but also encourages students to find internships elsewhere. Check out this link for the London internship and this one for other internship, volunteer and work opportunities.

Now that I am done typing, I want to hear from you guys. I have inserted our blog’s first poll. Take a second and participate with us. Thanks.

Alright guys, I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I loved writing it. I learned so much from just a few clicks on the JMU OIP website. I’ll check back in with you guys next Friday. Have a good weekend :).

Getting down with your Irish roots

Posted by Megan Brothers

Good luck of the Irish

As promised from last week, I will be exploring the Ireland trip that is offered here at JMU. The link provided shows everything you need to know about the trip including program cost, dates, places of study, and what the program is about. The other fun part about the website is that it has links to the students’ writing/photos/videos that they worked on while in Ireland in past years. It also has photos from the trip and a testimonial video which is pretty cool, so check them out!!

Ireland is somewhere I have always wanted to go. I don’t know what its appeal is. Maybe it is it’s mystic mountains, or irish pubs, or the singing and dancing of the Irish folklore, or maybe its because I have a lot of Irish descent in me, who knows. But regardless of why you are attracted to the particular country, Ireland is definitely a place to look into, whether studying or traveling for pleasure.

For those of you who are, say, “illegal here in the US,” the drinking age is 18 over in Ireland, so for those of you that are of age, Ireland has that option. Scratch that, Ireland has many options. As many of us know, the Irish know how to drink. So if you go to a pub in Ireland, I wouldn’t recommend a drinking competition with the Irish; you’ll get drank under the table. For more information about the Irish and their alcohol content, read this article about why the Irish drink so much; which I thought was pretty interesting.

Besides drinking and the eccentric nightlife, Ireland has many other things to offer. If you can nurse your hangover from the night before, Ireland is a land worth exploring. Depending on the area and time spent in Ireland, I’ve found some things to do while in Ireland. 

1. Visit the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. According to travelers, it is a “must see before you die” item, even for those who don’t like the taste of beer; sampling the extra dark beer is a must when visiting Dublin.

2. Festivals galore. According to the “things to do in Ireland” site, no matter what time of year you go to Ireland, you are bound to experience some kind of festival. After all, the Irish know how to enjoy themselves. Can you imagine what St. Patrick’s day looks like if every day is a celebration? A town painted in green, toasting beer bottles and cheering all night; what a sight to see.

  • To actually see Ireland from the local’s perspective, take a look at this youtube video. Its about 9:30 minutes long, but I think it accurately depicts what I’m talking about.

3. For those of you not quite at the legal age, or those who need to take a break from all the parties Ireland has to offer, take a relaxing cruise on the River Shannon, the longest river in Ireland.

4. Visit St. Patrick’s cathedral. See what all the hub-bub is about St. Patrick by going to that website. When in Dublin, this is a must see for anyone who knows anything about Irish tradition, or St. Patrick himself.  St Patricks Cathedral

5. This is something that wasn’t really on any itineraries that I found on the web. I was on a few months ago and came across these pictures of beautiful cliffs, called the Cliffs of Moher. When I was reading on, which I didn’t save, otherwise I would show you the actual link I used, it showed people walking near the edges of the cliffs. Apparently, there are no guard rails or anything. There are tours that lead you on a path, but staying on the path is not mandatory, but recommended. The winds near the edge are sometimes unbearable, forcing people standing too close to the edge to plummet to their deaths. The US Coast Guard is always on duty in case something like that does happen. However, do not let that stop you from witnessing the absolute beauty that these cliffs provide. Feel free to google search the cliffs for more outstanding pictures as well. Also, for those of you Harry Potter buffs out there, in the picture underneath this text, you may notice the rock formation jutting out of the sea. Yup, that is where Harry and Hagrid went in the first movie when Hagrid rescued Harry from the Dursleys!! 

So whether studying abroad in Ireland, trying to escape the homeland for some peace and tranquility in the mountains and scenery, or getting down with your Irish roots in the pubs and festivals, Ireland has something for everyone to enjoy!

Not the Sandwich.

COB 300 is the hardest class facing prospective Business Majors at JMU. This 12 credit hour class is comprised of four grueling components, Marketing, Finance, Management and Operations. This course is known to be relentless, and worst, it’s all packed into one semester.
Fortunately, if you can afford it, there is another, more interesting way to take this class, in Europe.
Those who are interested, can enroll in this study abroad program, based in Antwerp, Belgium, in both fall and spring semesters.
But COB 300 won’t take up all of your time, you’re going to need to relax, and take a breather.
But Let’s assume your parents are paying for this trip. They’re going to want to know you’re getting something more than a class out of this trip. You’re going to need to convince them that you took in some local culture as well, believable, as the majority of Belgium can understand English.
The best way to do this is by examining the history, and artistic endeavors of the region’s citizens.
And who better to examine than Antwerp’s own Renaissance man, Peter Paul Reubens, and how better, than by visiting his former residence, in downtown Antwerp.
Ruebens moved into the residence in 1610, until his death in 1640, in 1946; it was turned into the museum it is today.
His former home offers a great medium to learn about this great, if obscure man. He is to Antwerp as Davinci was to Florence, his presence had a tremendous impact on the culture of the city, and he was not only a painter, but a diplomat, scholar, and studio owner.
The house itself is comprised of three sections,
The courtyard and porch lead up to the interior of the residence, and were designed by the man himself. It’s opulent design put it in contrast with the traditional dull buildings of the era, and resembled an Italian palazzo, if not a palace.
The art room, appropriately named, was a centrally located foyer where Reubens housed the largest art collection in the entire city, some of which are still displayed.
Finally, the studio, in which the master worked, it set up, as it would have been in his time.
And naturally, the house is filled with his works, predominately based on subjects of history, religion, and mythology.
I can’t say for sure whether business majors like art and artists naturally, or if it is an acquired taste. If it turns out as the latter, The Rubens House would be a great place to widen your pallet.
As a fan of the Renaissance and of art, I certainly would enjoy it.
However, you may just want to show up, and snap a couple pictures for mom and dad, and call it a day. If that’s the case, this is the place you’re looking for.

3 Fun Things to do in Dublin, Ireland

By Jessica Albert

Hey readers,

It’s me Jessica and I would like to tell you some interesting facts and need-to-knows about Ireland.

The application deadline for JMU’s study abroad in Ireland was due on Tuesday. So for those of you who were able to get that in on time are some go-getting lucky ducks! However, for those of you who were a little slow on the uptake I still want to give you the oppourtunity of seeing what Ireland has to offer.

I found this article  that talks about some of the best places in Dublin you can’t miss when traveling there.

This is by far one of my favorites on the list. The legal drinking age in Ireland is definitely not 21 so most of us will be able to enjoy a trip to the Guiness Storehouse. The Storehouse is seven stories and from what I understand you can smell the brew from down the street!  Despite what you’re inital impression of this factory might be, the Storehouse is also filled with history. You can take a tour to see how the factory works and what goes into brewing Guiness beer. The tour also gives you a chance to get to know a little bit more about the history of the Guiness family. After your tour you can knock back a few and go to the top floor of the Storehouse for the best 360 degree view of Dublin. Beer is one of the staple beverages in Irish culture. So, that is why the Guiness factory is a can’t miss.

This is the Science Gallery in the St. Steven’s Green Neighboorhood of Dublin. The Science Center would be a great stop for any student traveling abroad in Ireland. Even the ones that hate science! The center is only two years old but has launched to be a phenomenal success because it is an interactive museum. The Science Gallery gives its visitors a very different experience. It allows you to partake in experiments within the facility. Not convinced? I wasn’t either to be quite honest. However, when I went to the Science Gallery’s YouTube Channel I really got into the place. The Youtube channel lets you see some of the experiments the the Gallery has to offer.


This final Dublin attraction is by far my favorite. The Viking Splash Tours are the most unique tour service I’ve ever heard of. You cannot miss the car/boat ride vehicles the tour service uses. They are like unlike any others. This activity is especially good for those who don’t have enough time to visited it all because it allows you to see it all. The tour takes you past attractions like St Patrick’s Cathedral,  Trinity College and Merrion Square. But, most importantly, the boat actually goes into the water of the Grand Canal to float past the U2 recording studio. How neat is that? All-in-all the tour is about 75 minutes long is is guided by a man dressed in a viking’s costume.

Alright readers, I hope that you found this post to be very appealing to you. It will give you many great and unique things to do if you ever choose to go to Dublin.

Traveling to Urbino, Italy

As a brand new study abroad option, the SMAD program opened up a documenting/magazine production course in Urbino, Italy. But when you think about studying abroad, don’t you normally think of London or some other really big, metropolitan city full of high rises and fast driving taxis? I know I do. So what is the appeal behind Italy? What makes Urbino a good place for students to practice film documentary and magazine production?

The city itself is known mainly for its position in the Marche region of Italy, which was a huge region involved in Renaissance culture and the medieval world. But again, we are media arts and design majors, why does studying here make sense for us? The program is called “A summer in Urbino, Italy; Documenting a Community.” In that sense, it pretty much says it all. Going to a small town like Urbino would make things a lot easier in documenting an entire community. The smallness allows for more intimate connections to the people you meet and really allows you to immerse yourself in their culture. Overall, I think the experience would be so much more different than that of any other study abroad option. Looking to travel somewhere like this would be very exciting, especially if you enjoy the Renaissance lust and medieval clashes.

To me, I think the uniqueness of studying abroad in such a  quaint little town would be a bonus for me. Yes, I love places like London; there is just something about the city that appeals to me,  but I think it offers a different perspective to the media world than a little town would offer. Looking through pictures, Urbino seems like a wonderful place; being the supposed birthplace of the Renaissance adds appeal for me as well. I loved learning about the Renaissance and the medieval times in high school and would open up a wide variety of things I would want to know. What would I write about if I was interviewing the Italians living in this town? I personally, would be interested in the history of Urbino. Maybe Raphael. Maybe even finding descendants of people who lived during the Renaissance time period. Being immersed in such a rich culture really opens you up in a way that you couldn’t imagine. Having had a father who traveled all over the world, I was personally introduced to many different cultures, which I think is incredibly important; being a well rounded individual in my mind menas being well traveled and well known and accepting of other cultures. What better way to learn about that than to study in such a culturally rich town? What better way to learn about the history and culture than from the people who live there?

Besides studying, for those of you not in school anymore, or just looking for places to go on the weekends while there, Urbino is obviously full of history. But besides that, Urbino is nestled comfortably between two beautiful mountain ranges and is full of quaint little plazas, pizza shops, alley ways and courtyards that make everyone stop and stare.

Whether looking to study media in a small town, learning about culture, history, and everything else, or simply traveling to a new town you’ve never been to before, Urbino, Italy is definitely a place worth looking into!!

When traveling, consider this:

  • Weather. According to sources, the best time to travel to Urbino, is from April to October, but preferably May, June, September, and October because August can have unbearable heats

Points of Interest:

  • Festival of Ancient Music- hosted in July- a celebration for Urbino’s famous duke (Federico da Montefelltro) with processions, street performers, and a jousting tournament

(video of Ancient Music Festival)

  • Ducal Palace– one of the first palaces in Italy and features the Dukes study, courtyard, stables, cellars, etc.
  • Marche National Gallery– located inside the ducal palace holds many Renaissance paintings
  • Duomo– a cathedral that houses many important pieces of art work from the Renaissance time period

  • Raphael’s house-Raphael, Renaissance painter, was born in Urbino, his family’s house is now a museum

  • Albornz Fortress-a small fortress at the top of Urbino is great for views of the town, was used as defense in the 14th century

  • Botanical Garden

Posted by: Megan Brothers

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