Postcards From Abroad

Not just another travel blog

Archive for the tag “travel”

The financial realities of studying abroad.

For most of us, studying abroad is a far-fetched fantasy. Spending an entire semester living and learning in a foreign country is a would be great, unobtainable due to time, or budget constraints.

So we sit here looking at our priveldged friends post new pictures from far-away places on Facebook.

But are we better off for not going?

Michael DePaola spent last May living and studying in Saarbrucken, a city that lies on Germany’s westernmost border.

DePaola described the experience bluntly.

“It was the most fun I have had my entire life”

But his trip  was expensive to say the least. DePaola was charged the standard tuition rate for a maymester at JMU, nearly 300 dollars per credit hour, he took six. Depalo was also charged an additional 2500 dollar fee and had to pay his own airfare.

All accounted for, a month in Germany cost him just under six-thousand dollars, an amount similar to other study abroad programs of that length.

DePaola also revealed that JMU charges out of state students extra for study abroad programs.

Depola, a Senior, and ISAT major, learned of the program through his professors. Strictly for ISAT majors, the  JMU-hosted program was concerned with “Energy and Enviornment Sustainability.”

He defended the overwhelming price, citing boosts to his academics, social life, and cultural appreciation

“It helped me be able to graduate with a duel concentration in environment and biotechnology within ISAT, he said “without the trip, I wouldn’t have been able to do it”

He took two courses, ISAT 480 – International Energy Intiatives and ISAT 428- Industrial Ecology, and despite only meeting a few times a week, he claimed the hands on approach of the courses was more valuable than anything learned in a classroom.

“We went on tours of solar panel manufacturing areas, and climbed a 100 meter tall wind turbine,” he said, “totally awesome”

He used his free time to explore the city, and enjoy the nightlife.

“We went to clubs where they played techno mixed with 90’s music,” he said “it was really funny hearing German teenagers singing ‘Oops I Did it Again’ to a techno beat not really knowing what any of the words meant.”

In addition, he also took a trip to Amsterdam, for what he claimed were “obvious reasons”

Despite wishing to return to Saarbrucken for employment, Depalo admits that there are no programs in place through JMU that would help him achieve that goal, even if his time abroad padded his resume.

“I applied for ten alternative energy jobs in California, Colorado, and actually one in Germany, in the city i studied in, he said. “I’ve been going at it on my own, and its very difficult.”

Laura Pond, a 2010 graduate of JMU, was enrolled in the SMAD summer semester in London, prior to her senior year. Like Depola, she acknowledged the tremendous price-tag associated with the program.

Her program lasted 8 weeks, and cost nearly $10,000

“My parents paid for all of it” she added.

Overall, she enjoyed her time abroad.

“I went to many museums and tourist attractions.” She said “I also was a Corporate Partnerships Intern at the National Autistic Society for 20 hours per week. “

Like DePaola, she also has had some difficulty in justifying the trip in the long run, as her career choice as an event planner is unrelated to the minor in British Communication she received from the semester.

“I thought it would really help me in the future to set myself apart in the job market.” She said

Pond is currently unemployed.

These stories confirm what we already knew, while studying abroad may come with a steep price tag, those of us who are stuck at JMU are missing out on a great experience, academically, socially, and culturally.

Neal Hollowell



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 🙂

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