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Morocco Study Abroad Pt. 2: Sahara Desert

Morocco has abundance of diverse landscapes; from the crashing waves of the coast, jagged mountains in its center, to the mysteries of the desert in the east. Two other AMIDEAST students and I decided to check visiting the Sahara Desert off the bucket list and took a two hour train ride followed by a ten hour overnight bus to the far east town of Merzouga. Upon arrival, we were greeted by our host at the local Riad (a Moroccan styled hotel) where we rested before going on our two day camel trek.  Our guide, Youssef, greeted us in a bright, sapphire colored gown and dark headscarf.  Each of us took turns getting on our seated camel, and holding on for dear life as not to get flung off when it stood up. We departing in the early evening as the beating sun set and the temperature cooled.  After riding our camels for an hour and a half, we arrived to an abandoned nomad village.  Under a fire and the light of a small solar lamp, our guide made fresh Tajine, a vegetable and meat stew.  After the meal, we arranged blankets outside one of the crumbling clay houses and slept under the stars.  The silence of the desert and brightness of the stars was unlike any other. The land and the sky harmonized and formed a feeling of peace.

In the morning, we trekked to a nomad’s house in the black desert, a part of the Sahara characterized by coal colored rocks and sand. As we continued our journey, we could see the plateaued mountains of Algeria along the horizon.   We arrived at our lunch spot where we would spend majority of the day under a collection of trees to wait out the heat before continuing our journey. We were served a fresh salad and a nomad prepared “Pizza.” He stretched out the dough, placed a mixture of vegetables and spice, rolled it into a calzone. He then put out a brush fire he lit previously, and underneath revealed a mosaic of black rocks that were heated from the flame. He placed the pizza on top of the rocks and covered it with a metal tin, and let it cook for 30 minutes.  The other students and I paid close attention to the traditional cooking techniques, joking how it would be our new party trick at the next barbeque we attend back home. As the sunlight became dim, we trekked another hour to our final destination in the desert, a collection of caravan tents. We met several groups of people taking part in a similar excursion as us, and we all shared a delicious meal together. After dinner, all the guides collected together with drums and began to play while humming and chanting in Tamazight, the language of the Amazigh (or Berber) people. The Amazigh are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa and they have a large presence in Morocco. Their language differs from Arabic in letters and over thirty variations can be heard spoken in the MENA region.  After the music and late night sand boarding, we returned the caravan where we once again set our beds under the stars. The night consisted shooting stars and the brisk bites of the freshly cooled air.

We woke up at the break of dawn and completed our trek back to Merzouga on the richly pigmented sands with the sunrise behind us. The journey to the Sahara was and will be one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had.  It was incredible to spend a few days in the desolate and peaceful land and also learn more about the culture of the Amazigh people that inhabit the region.

Morocco Study Abroad Pt. 1: The Beginning

Since the moment I landed in Morocco, this study abroad experience has been nothing short of an adventure. Taxiing over to Rabat, I quickly blended into the hive of 26 other confused Americans, all sharing their university and degrees, while desperately trying to recall the others’ names. When I share my background of aviation with Embry-Riddle, I get the usual squinty, confused face followed by questions such as “How many planes crash on average?” and “Are airplanes really safe?”

We spent orientation at the Oumlil Hotel, a 4 start hotel in the neighborhood Adgal. I like to think of “4 stars” as where a maximum of 4 out of 5 of the basic necessities will be available at any given moment: lights, air conditioning, wi fi, plumbing, and locks. The service received, however, was unlike any other with warm genuine greetings from everyone coupled with quick assistance to address any of our concerns.

During the first week, we dove right into the nitty gritty of everything we will love about being abroad, as well as the challenges we will endure. This included topics such as culture shock, or adjusting food and water; I have yet to get sick, Allhamdulila. Included in our orientation was a day dedicated to sightseeing the major sites of Rabat, where we toured through the fascinating Roman ruins of Chellah, saw the tombs of the previous King in the elaborate architecture of the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, and concluded with venturing through Kasbah de Oudaias, a 12th century gateway that leads into a charming neighborhood of white and blue houses overlooking the Atlantic.

After a few days into orientation, we were paired off and greeted by our host parents. We taxied over to the neighborhood L’Ocean, a quiet mosaic of tall apartments near the water.  I was thrilled to meet my host family, and equally “thrilled” to learn they did not speak a word of English.  This is the case with most host families that work with AMIDEAST, the program I am studying abroad through. This immersion technique has demonstrated improvement of a student’s language abilities, or in my case, skills in Charades.

Three weeks in, we have been saturated with information and the pace has stayed the same since orientation with the start of classes and participation in out-of-class cultural learning activities. As the dust settles and routine kicks in, I look forward to the learning this study abroad experience continues to hold. I plan to be abroad for the academic year to get a prolonged immersion experience, and this whirlwind of a start is only the beginning.

Q&A Study Abroad in Germany

by guest blogger and student John Marbut

Going to Europe for an extended stay can be a bit intimidating at first, there are a lot of things to take care of. Hopefully this will answer some of your questions and get everything set up.

Kloster Andechs

Kloster Andechs

Study Abroad Scholarships:
Well there are several options for scholarships to Germany, these include CBYX, UAS7 (they offer a one semester and two semester trip), and fulbright.de. There are also program specific offers from various universities. I went to Germany on the UAS7 SIP program for two semesters, one semester studying in Munich and one semester working on a project in Bremen.

How much does it cost?
For a year a safe bet would be around $13-14k and would give you cash for traveling around Europe. There is no tuition at German universities, but there is a small semester fee that covers the local transport ticket. If you are staying in Munich and aren’t able to get into the Studentenwerk you will have to plan to spend more on rent.

Munich Olympic Park

Munich Olympic Park

What about housing?
If possible try to get in with the school’s studentenwerk, they usually offer a dorm style setup with a private bedroom. There are also cheap bars built into the student housing, these tend to be great places to hang out or party with your friends. The rent is very reasonable and you won’t have to worry about supplying a lot of things. If you aren’t able to get a room with the studentenwerk I would recommend checking http://www.wg-gesucht.de/en/ it is the most popular rental listing site in Germany. Please do be aware that there are scam artists that use the site and you should never agree to mail a deposit and wait for a key. Also the housing market moves very quickly in Germany, listings generally last less than a week if it is a good deal.

Do I need any special paperwork?
I would strongly recommend carrying your acceptance paperwork on you when you arrive in the country, this will make getting through customs easier. Also after arriving at your residence you are required by law to go to the Burgerburo or Burgerservicecenter to register your address within two weeks of moving. Additionally within 90 days of arriving in Germany you will need to get a residence permit, the somewhat tricky part is proving that you have funding. The German legal system expects you to be able to show that you have about €750 for every month you plan on living in Germany to cover the cost of living. You will also need your university paperwork that has your immatrikulationnummer on it and proof of health insurance. The permit costs around €60.

Marienplatz in MUnich

Marienplatz in MUnich

Health insurance?
Everyone in the EU is required to have health insurance, Germany has state run health insurance companies that offer full coverage for about €80 per month. If you have health insurance in the US you may be able to waive the requirement by providing documentation on your coverage. The health insurance is required for your enrollment in the university and they usually have some one from the insurance companies at the enrollment.

What are the classes like?
German courses are structured very differently than US courses, in Germany the lectures can be optional. Most classes give you a “script” which is a compilation of notes for the class, this can include worked problems. A textbook will probably cost you €10-50, but there will probably be a copyright notice stating that it can’t be imported to the US. Additionally there are no homework assignments or midterms, the entire course grade rests on the final exam. Don’t forget to register for your final, otherwise you won’t be given a grade. There is usually another form that you need to fill out to send your report card to Embry-Riddle.

Munich Olympic Park

Munich Olympic Park

How easy is it to get around?

It’s incredibly easy, Germany and most of Europe have a very well developed system of public transportation. In Munich there are buses, trams, and subways that will take you to just about any part of the city. There is also uber if you are out and the buses/trams/trains stop running. I would suggest that you bring leather shoes though as you will probably be doing a lot of walking and its cheaper to resole a leather shoe than to buy a new pair of shoes every 5-6 months. I would also recommend that you carry a messenger bag with a bottle of water, shopping tote, and an umbrella. It makes wandering around much more simple and most fast food/smaller restaurants are ok with you bringing your own drink, especially since they won’t serve you tap water.
Any hints?
The big one is to check with your bank on their international fees. The last thing you want is to be stuck Germany paying $5 + 5% of the withdrawal + 1% Visa fee every time you take out cash. Germany, and much of Europe, is cash based so expect to take out cash regularly.

Stick to prepaid sim cards, the standard contract is 2 years and in order to break it you have to submit a handful of paperwork and a letter explaining why you are breaking the contract. Prepaid plans are about €10 a month and can be adjusted to include data for foreign countries relatively easily, which is great for traveling.

Buy a universal powerstrip! They use a different type of outlet here and that is the best way to keep from having to buy a bunch of converters.

Marienplatz in Munich

Marienplatz in Munich

Check your electronics, here they use 220 volts at 50 hz instead of the 110 volts at 60 hz that is used in the US. If your charger or device has 110-220 50-60 on the power supply then you should be in good shape.

Consider bringing a wireless router. Not all rentals offer wifi, and it beats using a cable.

Before you leave install the textfree app, it gives you a US number and lets you place calls and text from a US number. Since it uses wifi its a good cheap option to stay in contact.

Learn your German numbers, it makes checking out a lot easier.

When you go shopping, don’t forget your bags. You have to bag your own things, and you will have to buy bags if you forget yours.

If you like to travel get a Bahn card, you can get 25-100% off of train fares through the Deutsche Bahn. They also have regional specials that let you travel for reduced prices.

Keep your options open when you travel, there are a lot of options flixbus, megabus, Deutsche Bahn, Ryanair, and eurorails are all good ways to get around.

-John Marbut







Study Abroad – The City of Lights: Paris

by guest blogger Alexandra Vinck who is studying abroad in Paris for the spring semester 2016.

French baguettes at the Eiffel Tower! About as Paris as it gets!

French baguettes at the Eiffel Tower! About as Paris as it gets!

It has many names…The City of Lights, The City of Love, but I’m lucky enough to call it home. When I moved to Paris at the beginning of the spring semester, I was ready and excited for a new experience. I had spent two and a half years at school in Prescott, and although I love it there, I wanted to try something new. Paris has turned out to be just that, and then some. Paris is exactly as wonderful as everyone says it is. Every street you walk down is beautiful, and every croissant you taste is better than the last one.

Here's a new friend and I on a school trip to Versailles!

Here’s a new friend and I on a school trip to Versailles!

I get to live my life immersed in culture and thousands of years of history. One of my favorite classes I’m taking here is called the History of Paris through Art and Architecture. So not only do I get lectured on important buildings and works of art, but each week we go to a new part of the city and learn all about it. Paris has a very unique atmosphere, because in addition to being filled with history, it’s full of young people and students just living their lives, which makes the nightlife here pretty fun.

Not only am I able to live in this magical city, but also I get to spend almost every weekend travelling and seeing Europe. So far I’ve been to Madrid, Dublin, Prague,

Skiing in Stockholm, Sweden this past weekend

Bordeaux, Versailles, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. Needless to say, my life here so far has been pretty life changing, and I am forever grateful to the people at Embry-Riddle (Kelly O’Brien) that helped make this happened for me, and of course my parents for giving me the opportunity of a life time! Check out some photos below of my life in Paris and some of my travels. Au revoir!

Not exactly studying in a cafe...but this is a super bowl party at an American bar in Paris! Lauren Holdaway is next to me...she's a Riddle student studying in Ireland! She was in Paris for the weekend.

A super bowl party at an American restaurant in Paris! Lauren Holdaway is next to me…she’s a Riddle student studying in Ireland! She was in Paris for the weekend.

Study Abroad: Ryan Marr in Tanzania

Ryan Marr (GSIS) is in Tanzania on an African Flagship Languages Initiative (AFLI) scholarship from the Boren awards. He spent last semester studying Swahili and living with a host family in Arusha, Tanzania. Now, he is doing an internship at Nkoaranga Lutheran Hospital. Below are excerpts from an interview with him.

African and South Asian Flagship Languages Initiative (AFLI/SAFLI) Interview Ryan D Marr (AFLI)

Ryan Marr 3How did you become interested in studying an AFLI language? I became interested in studying an AFLI language and Swahili in particular due to the general lack of academic and strategic interest demonstrated to the extremist threats present in Africa. While studying for my bachelor’s degree, I focused my attention and eventual thesis on counter-insurgency and irregular warfare. Insurgencies thrive in areas of minimal oversight and I saw great potential for the expansion of groups such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab in areas of limited economic progress. Swahili is one of the most widely spoken languages within the continent and its value as an intelligence asset has already been proven through Al-Shabaab’s online recruiting efforts targeting Kenyan and Tanzanian youth. The ability for these groups to take advantage of poor cooperative security efforts and intelligence sharing has been demonstrated time and again, including the recent devastating attack on a Kenyan military camp in Somalia. In order to best safeguard East Africa’s future it is absolutely necessary that Swahili acquisition become a priority for the defense community.

How did you learn about the AFLI program? I became aware of the AFLI program through my mentor, Dean Phillip Jones at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. He was familiar with my area of focus, (Global Security and Intelligence Studies) and we discussed at length the security situation within East Africa from both a historical and strategic perspective. He offered professional insight regarding the significance an opportunity such as the AFLI program would provide to my career and supported my reasoning for choosing Swahili.

What aspects of the program interested you? After having studied abroad with the Critical Language Scholarship in Luckow, India, I became aware that I wanted a program with a longer immersion opportunity and a more like-minded peer group. I knew that the AFLI program would surround me with people dedicated to government service and determined to act as student ambassadors abroad in order to further perpetuate a positive image of our nation as a whole. The combination of ten months of dedicated language study in correlation with a peer group that I know will prove invaluable in years to come are the two main factors that drew me towards the AFLI program.

Was your domestic study experience what you expected it to be? My domestic study experience met my general expectations for an intensive two month program whose general purpose was to provide the ground work necessary to function and progress overseas. I felt the amount of attention dedicated to cross-cultural awareness and language immersion was impressive considering the circumstances.

Tell me about your overseas study experience? Homestay/Living? My home-stay experience has been incredible and I have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly and sincerely I was accepted as a member within the family unit. A positive home-stay is absolutely essential for language development and I have personally found that I have been able to refine my Swahili most effectively within the familiar context of my home. It is far easier to leave your comfort zone within the security of a trusted host family and, for example, utilize new vocabulary than in a classroom full of your peers. I have personally established a very close relationship with my host mothers, (they are sisters who live together), and they have proven an invaluable resource not only for Swahili but also as strong, positive examples of proper conduct and decorum. They have made the transition into the community seamless and treat me as no less a part of their family as their own children. I have become so comfortable within the local community between work and school that we love to go out as a group on weekends to local restaurants to catch up and tell stories about people we are all familiar with. I will miss them greatly upon my return home but have every intention of returning as soon as feasible.

Courses? The coursework was demanding as is to be expected in any intensive language immersion but very manageable. The emphasis was placed on maximizing immersion whether in the form of host family interaction or even conversation with school staff. While a great deal of language development is dependent upon private study, the professors were always ready to provide assistance and the classes were predominately productive.

Internship? My internship at Nkoaranga Lutheran Hospital has been one of the most profound experiences I have encountered since leaving the military. The amazing work that is being done with such minimal equipment and even less funding is awe inspiring. One particular instance stands out in my mind after an especially grueling day and has opened my eyes to the medical field as a potential career path. As I sat next to the surgery table soaked in sweat from exertion and the Tanzanian summer heat, the young man whose leg we had just spent the last five hours mending awoke from anesthesia and said with tear laden eyes the words that have changed my entire life’s perspective; “Asante sana kaka, nashukuru kwa vitu vyote”, which in English translates to “Thank you very much brother, I appreciate everything”. He expressed his gratitude towards me for helping piece his leg back together with such heartfelt sincerity that I am seriously considering shifting my career objectives toward medicine. The ability to have such a profound and productive impact on someone in such desperate need has left an indelible mark upon my person.

What was the best part of your overall experience? The best part of my overall experience have been the moments I realize I am thinking in Swahili and that it is no longer a conscious effort to continuously cross translate but rather that it is developing into a learned means of communication. The excitement of being able to effectively communicate with someone without hesitation and enjoy a meaningful conversation in Swahili for the first time was a unique and memorable experience. To that effect, being able to speak with the patients at Nkoaranga Hospital and offer solace, advice, and being able to actively assist ares experiences that I feel will never be matched. The impact this internship has had on my personal growth let alone language development is difficult to articulate, but I know I have become a part of this community in a way I could have never imagined.

What are your plans for the future? My plans for the future include applying for graduate schools with a focus on continuing my foreign service within the federal government. I would like to continue my research regarding asymmetrical warfare and counter-insurgency from an anthropological standpoint. I am also considering applying to medical school in order to work for MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, and provide aid where it is so desperately needed. I am comfortable in areas of conflict and the time I have spent here has motivated me to assist to my full potential. In addition, I plan on advancing my Swahili education through private tutors and personal study in order to assist East Africa to the best of my abilities upon my return.

 Would you suggest the African Flagship Languages Initiative program to other students? Why? I strongly recommend the AFLI program to other students due to three main factors; length and depth of immersion, the criticality of the AFLI mission, and the chance to expose yourself to options otherwise left unconsidered. Being able to study abroad for eight months gives students of any language ability the chance to become truly comfortable with the language and reinforce it daily in every imaginable context. I am by no means a strong foreign language learner, but I have succeeded beyond what I thought was possible in great part due to the length and breadth of my experience here. Secondly, the AFLI mission is undeniably applicable to not only the domestic security agenda, but that of the global community as a whole. Africa is a continent of amazing potential but remains incredibly vulnerable to forces who wish to revisit an era of manipulation and extortion. The visceral difference in interaction between a Westerner who knows no or little Swahili compared to my peers and I is drastic. We are immediately embraced and seen as a positive force in an area so willing to forgive misstep and so grateful to others who embrace their language and culture. They understand that we are not here as simple tourists but as individuals invested in their quality of life and the future of their nation. Cross-cultural awareness and language acquisition are the crux of effective foreign policy application. The issues that plague this part of the world can never be resolved unless the security threats are addressed first and a stable situation within which development can occur is fostered. The entirety of Maslow’s hierarchy is built on top of a firm foundation of security, and the AFLI program is a catalyst towards that end. Finally, I strongly recommend the AFLI program to any and all students in order to expose themselves to a part of the world that will transform them into more compassionate and effective global citizens. I never could have imagined the impact this experience would have on me and today I am a far different individual then when I first began my application those many months ago. I have found new purpose and the people I have encountered, shared meals with, and loved have provided me with a focus that will prove the keystone to the rest of my career and life no matter the direction.

Study Abroad: A Semester in Italy

Hi I’m Briana Martinez, a student in GSIS at Embry-Riddle but am spending a semester in Florence Italy attending an Italian university through International Studies Abroad. I thought you might like to hear about some of what I’ve experienced so far…

Florence Italy

Florence Italy

The academics are very much different here. Very more relaxed and in depth then I was expecting. For instance, one of my classes is in an Italian Prince’s palace inside of a ballroom. The ballroom is filled with plush couches and amazing art pieces. I’ll be sure to send you a pic on Monday. The professors are very passionate about what they are teaching, (not that American ones aren’t) and really draw you in. One thing I noticed is that they are very personable and accommodating to international students and they really want us to feel comfortable and really want us to understand the material they are teaching. Very much reminds me of Embry-Riddle. However, they take class attendance very seriously (going to class is important, I know that). If you miss up to two classes then you will be failed. So, going to class is a must here and very very important.

Briana gelato


Briana Piazza della Signoria

Piazza della Signoria

Briana sculpture

Sculpture everywhere.

Briana street of Florence

A street scene.


Duomo, the Basilica di Santa Maria dell Fiore

John Marbut: Mapping the Ecuadorian Rainforest with UAS in Study Abroad

John Marbut is a guest blogger on a study abroad program through UAS7 which is a full-year, full tuition program in Germany. In the fall students take classes at the University of Applied Sciences and in the spring participate in an internship in a lab or institution with hands on work on a project.

Starting from the left in the lower row its: Severin Mainz, Niclas Purger, Benjamin Bachmeier. The second row from the left is myself, I don't know the name of the two tribe members, then Mascha Kauka, Domingo (President of Shartamensa), Dr. Siebold, and Dr. Krzystek. In the last row is Fabian Braun, Christoph Oberndorfer, and Jonas Wilhelm.

Starting from the left in the lower row its: Severin Mainz, Niclas Purger, Benjamin Bachmeier. The second row from the left is myself, I don’t know the name of the two tribe members, then Mascha Kauka, Domingo (President of Shartamensa), Dr. Siebold, and Dr. Krzystek. In the last row is Fabian Braun, Christoph Oberndorfer, and Jonas Wilhelm.

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to join a research team and senior thesis project at the Munich University of Applied Sciences, the major focus for the project was mapping the Ecuadorian rainforest. The group was actually invited to do the mapping through their partnership with Amazonica who works with the tribes to help improve their quality of life by improving education and providing medical supplies. The planned project required us to modify the UAV/Drone (it can fly autonomously or via remote control) from the last AUVSI competition. We needed to be able to get high resolution photos of the rainforest in order to be able to generate a 3-D map of the area we flew over, so the team installed a new payload containing more batteries, room for the camera, and an infrared trigger to start the camera. The antenna used to update the information about the drone’s had a range of about 5 miles, however the autopilot could fly without making contact with the homebase and the drone had a maximum flight time of just over an hour. The picture above is from our last flight in Shartamensa, home to some of the Achuar tribe.

We left for Ecuador in early November, leaving early in the morning we took a fifteen hour flight from Munich to Quito where we met with our guide Mascha Kauka.



After another day of traveling we finally made it to Shartamensa. We had chosen November because it is the dry season for the region that we were mapping. We were able to use the village’s empty hospital as a staging area for the assembly, it took a day to get everything setup. The second day in Shartamensa we started to doing test flights, we found that after about 2pm the rainstorms roll in which makes flying impossible. The third day I joined the Geoinformatics team on a trek into the rainforest to the big tree which stood at about 60 meters tall. RainforestWe pushed through a swamp and had to hack through the underbrush to get there but the tree was absolutely incredible to see. The tree was about the size of a car and towered well above the normal canopy. The Geoinformatics laid out a gps points that made the mapping for the area accurate down to a few inches. We managed to get back to the village just before sun down and prepped for our second trip the following day.

Sacred waterfall

Image by Christoph Oberndorfer, a student at Hochschule München

 On the second day of exploration we left quite a bit earlier and so we actually had lunch at a temporary camp that was set up just off the river. The flights went really well, we only had a couple of hard landings but the damage wasn’t too bad. The stay was actually incredible pleasant, we got to see a lot of the Achuar culture, including a lunch on the river, demonstration of their formal greetings, and we got to try a lot of local food. Some of the more unique food and drink was cauim (a traditional type of beer) and roasted grubs. We got to take a trip to a sacred waterfall which is visited anytime the village is struggling. They believe that washing your hands in the waterfall can cleanse your soul. On our last day we spent time with some of the locals playing volleyball and soccer and participated in a cultural exchange between the team and the village. Soccer in the villageAfter the week in the Amazon half of the team returned to Pujo while the second half remained in the Amazon to track down the aircraft after a failure occurred in the autopilot causing the UAV to go down 2 kilometers into the rainforest. Those of us who went back stayed in a city called Baños which is well known for its volcanic hot springs. We spent a day in Baños and waited for the other half of the group to join us before heading to the hot springs. We actually got the opportunity to see a small eruption as we headed away from Baños. We wrapped up the trip with a few days in Quito checking out the Equator, the Equator park, the crater, and the Basilica. The city was beautiful and I would love to go back. My understanding is that team might be going back map the Galapagos, and I encourage anyone who is going to Munich next year to try and join the team.

 -John Marbut


Study Abroad India 2015 – A Country of Stark Contrasts

My Trip to Nepal & India by Guest Blogger Brennan Carrington

India - ClassI haven’t done too much traveling around the world so far, but in my experiences I thought I would be prepared for what the Indian sub-continent had to offer because of learning in the classroom and watching YouTube videos. Actually these only prepare you for so much. The adventures and experiences I had on this trip were both unforgettable and humbling.



Before starting this course I honestly wasn’t too excited to visit these particular countries but I was excited for my opportunities to travel and add some visas to my passport. That changed.

This study abroad course included a class on campus that culminated in the trip. In the classroom portion, we had a lot of guest speakers come and tell us about their previous travels throughout India or Nepal. One that stood out to me explained how India is the country of stark contrasts, both physically and spiritually, which was very evident as we traveled throughout the political and spiritual capital of the country and some of the worlds biggest and oldest religions.











It was incredible to witness both the extreme beauty and poverty of both countries, especially in India. From a political standpoint, India is a super power and one of the most influential countries on the global stage. Most people wouldn’t think that after witnessing first hand the struggle that the average Indian citizen goes through for food or basic necessities. But as it was explained many different times, if the outside appears broken, their spirit is still strong and happy. India truly is still a land of wonder and excitement.

I would highly recommend looking into traveling around this country for anyone that has an interest in a culture and society that has given so much to the world and has so much that the world can still learn from it.


Lauren’s Study Abroad with Semester at Sea Jan 13, 2016 – Hawaii

semester at sea

SAS ship

Hi I’m Lauren and I’m a student at Embry-Riddle in Engineering. For 100 days I am traveling around the world in a study abroad program called Semester at Sea. I will be posting blogs, reflections and photos of my journey in this Embry-Riddle blog site. I hope you follow me on my journey! Check out my photos!

January 13, 2016

Location: 21 degrees 18 minutes N (Latitude), 157 degrees 51 minutes W (Longitude)


Port 1: Honolulu

Yesterday, was our first port. We docked in Honolulu, Hawaii early in the morning. My friends and I woke up to watch us dock but we were already docked!

Before we were allowed off the ship, everyone had to clear U.S. customs. The process only took two hours and then I was finally able to get off the ship! I had never been so excited for land. It was surreal to not be rocking for the first time after 7 days at sea! However, I am not looking forward to our 10 day crossing to Japan.

Once I was off the ship, I was whisked away to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. Before boarding the Navy boat to the memorial, we watched a short film about the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

It was hard to imagine that where I was standing 75 years ago was once a Navy base. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Japanese damaged all eight Navy battleships, three cruisers, and three destroyers. 2,403 men lost their lives and 1,178 others were wounded. This attack would led to the United States to enter WWII. The USS Arizona Memorial marks the resting place of the 1,102 sailors and Marines who were killed during the Japanese surprise attack.

I loved wandering through the museum and the memorial, but I was so moved by random strangers’ kindness towards a WWII veteran who was in our group. When he got off the boat first, he was escorted by two Navy sailors and everyone was clapping for him. Later, I noticed he was standing in front of the wall that the fallen sailors’ names were engraved in and he was kneeling and praying. People would come up to him, shake his hand and thank him for his service. I was so touched by
people’s appreciation for his courage to defend and protect us. I was so emotional that I had silent tears falling down my cheeks. I am forever grateful for all the men and women who have served our country and died protecting our freedom. God bless our military!

After the Memorial, my friends and I decided that we need to eat some “real food”. I really wanted good Italian food but I settled for an all American hot dog with chips and soda. But, most importantly I had ice cream! I savored every bit of it but I was so sad when I dropped some of it on the grass. The hot Hawaiian sun was melting it!

Afterwards we boarded the bus again and drove off to tour the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl Crater then went downtown Honolulu. Downtown we went to ʻIolani Palace which was the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The Palace had beautiful renaissance architecture. I could definitely live in ʻIolani Palace! Did you know that it had electricity and telephones even before the White House.

Lauren Hawaii

Across the street is Hawaii 5-0’s headquarters. The building used in the TV show is actually Aliʻiōlani Hale, home of the Hawaii State Supreme Court. I got my picture taken with Kamehameha the Great, the famed gold leaf statue. Now I have pictures in front of both statutes! The original stands near the legendary king’s birthplace in Kapaʻau in Kohala, on the island of Hawaii.

Since we still had an hour and a half until we needed to be back on the ship, our bus driver took us to Wikki and Diamond Head. I desperately wanted to get off the bus and go play in the crystal clear blue waters of Wikki Beach but we just drove on by.

SAS Hawaii

I ended my brief Hawaiian adventure shopping at Walmart for everything that I forgot to bring. Although my mom accused me of being a Princess for needing a memory foam pillow, I bought it and slept soundly last night while I was cocooned in my new, soft gigantic blanket too.

I had a fantastic time in Hawaii. I wish I had more time in port but I will just have to come back another day!

Love Lauren

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Lauren’s Study Abroad with Semester at Sea Jan 24, 2016 – Japan

Lauren to Japan

In case you missed it…

Hi I’m Lauren and I’m a student at Embry-Riddle in Engineering. For 100 days I am traveling around the world in a study abroad program called Semester at Sea. I will be posting blogs, reflections and photos of my journey under this Embry-Riddle blog site, profile “Study Abroad”. I hope you follow me on my journey! Check out my photos!

January 24, 2016

(I am 17 hours ahead from the West Coast.)

Location: 28 degrees 9 minutes N (Latitude), 146 degrees 44 minutes E (Longitude)

SAS JapanOnly one more day until Japan! It takes 10 days to cross the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii. It seems as if these days have been the longest days of my life. I am so excited to be on land tomorrow and to eat sushi!

Although my classes keep me busy, ship life can be very mundane especially during this very, very long crossing. However, there are many clubs and activities to help pass the time.

A few days ago, at the Free Thinkers club meeting, the topic of discussion that night was our increasing dependence on technology. This topic seemed very apt. On Semester at Sea, we have limited access to the outside world. We have no cell phone service and very limited internet. We are almost completely isolated from the real world. We live in our own separate reality. I do not miss being connected nor tethered to the outside.

The first few days of our voyage was strange. Everyone carried their phones but eventually people stopped as they served no purpose. Without our phones to shield us from having to be social, we were forced to get to know one another as we are trapped on the ship for 100 days together! At mealtimes, we would have meaningful conversations. People would smile in the hallways and would ask you how you are doing. When I was hanging out with my friends, we were all present and in the moment. We were distraction free.

It was astonishing to see how much time I saved by being disconnected. I was not constantly checking my phone for new texts, emails, or social media updates. At first it was frustrating that I could not text or call. When I was looking for my friends on the ship, I could not text them to ask where they are. Instead, I had to actually look for them!

However, I did not fully realize how dependent we are on technology until we arrived at our first port, Honolulu, Hawaii. That morning, all you could see were people’s faces being lit up by the glare of their phones. Everyone was reconnecting to the outside world again. Checking and posting on social media and texting and calling friends and family.

However as we are becoming increasingly dependent on technology, are we connected but alone? Online we find easy company but are exhausted by the pressures of performance. We enjoy continual connection but rarely have each other’s full attention. We like that the web knows us, but this is only possible because we compromise our privacy, leaving electronic bread crumbs that can be easily exploited. We can work from home, but our work bleeds into our private lives until we can barely discern the boundaries between them. We like being able to reach each other instantaneously but we have to hide our phones to force ourselves to take a quiet moment. We go online because we are busy but end up spending more time with technology and less with each other. We defend connectivity as a way to be close, even as we hide from each other.

We are at a tipping point. I believe we have reached a point where we can see the costs and start to take action. We will begin with very simple things. Talk to a colleagues down the hall, no cell phones at dinner, in the car, or in company. We are so dependent on our devices that we cannot sit still for a lecture or a play. We know that our brains are rewired every time we use our phone to search or surf or multitask. As we try to reclaim our concentration, we are at war with ourselves. Yet, no matter how difficult, it is time to look again toward the virtues of solitude, deliberateness, and living fully in the moment.

We deserve better. When we remind ourselves that it is we who decide how to keep technology busy, we shall have better.

Lauren JapanLauren Kimono

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