This blog has been created to share the College of Staten Island (CSI) students’ experiences around the world. Dolphins across the Seven Seas provides the opportunity for CSI students, staff, faculty and beyond to gain insight into the study abroad experience. Additionally, Study Abroad Peer Advisors provide reflections upon their experiences as well as advice to potential study abroad participants. CSI is the single senior college of the City University of New York (CUNY), located in the borough of Staten Island.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Summer Snowfall in Morocco ~Joseph Perillo, Ifrane, Morocco

Going to Morocco for the summer was definitely the most significant, life-changing thing to happen to me, and I truly mean that. I didn’t even think that I would like traveling, but once you get a taste for it, you get the travel bug and you want to explore the world. The program I ended up choosing wasn’t actually one that CSI ran specifically, it was part of the College Consortium of International Studies (CCIS). It sounds complicated but the process was really simple. There’s this book of countries all over the world, and study abroad programs in each of them that you can participate in for a multitude of projects. I opened up the book, came across Morocco, and I was settled. For a short time I thought that the Thessaloniki program that CSI offers was for me, but Morocco seemed so interesting and foreign, and the thought of learning Arabic and having that under my belt was just too tempting to pass up.

Morocco itself was an amazing country. Al-Akhawayn, the university I studied and lived at for two months, was a fantastic place. Everyone in program was bunked up with a Moroccan student taking summer classes, and I had the pleasure of having the son of the program director as my roommate. We were as thick as thieves and hung out a lot in the local city of Ifrane, which is actually in the hinterlands of the Atlas Mountains, and it actually snowed when I was there in the middle of the summer. The program scheduled us two field trips, one to Marrakech, the famous historical city in Morocco with winding alleyways in its Old Medina, and the other to Merzouga, which was an oasis in the middle of the Sahara desert. While those two trips were indeed fun, I had my more memorable experiences on the weekend trips I planned with the friends I made there. Chefchauen, the blue city, was by far my favorite place there. I enjoyed it so much that I went twice with two different groups of people just because it was such a fascinating place.

One of the most intimidating prospects of studying abroad is getting into a program and funding it, but there are plenty of opportunities for one to get grants or scholarships. The CSI Center for International Service has plenty of scholarships and grants available to students for the programs they host; however, there are plenty of other funding opportunities outside of the CUNY system that they can get information for you on and assist you in applying to. The Gilman International Scholarship is one in particular because it is the one that I was awarded and allowed me to participate in this adventure. The application process was very straightforward; if you're a Pell Grant recipient, fill out a few pieces of information about yourself and write relatively short essays about why you think you should be awarded the grant to study abroad and your proposed follow-on project. 

Studying abroad changed my life, so much so that I have not stopped spreading the news about it since I came back. In fact, during the 2014 fall semester, I helped a classmate get information on studying abroad as well as do research for scholarships and grants, and she is currently studying abroad in Paris, France for the 2015 spring semester. Studying abroad is something every student should have the opportunity to do, and when in doubt on whether or not this is for you, remember that you only live once, so you might as well make it interesting.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Don’t Fret, You Haven’t Left Yet ~Study Abroad Peer Advisors, 2014-2015

Taking this trip you won’t regret, here are a few things you shouldn’t forget. Fear not, family and friends will be there for they love you most. Anticipate making new memories and friends along the coast! Whether it’s Italy, China or Ecuador, remember when packing – less is more! Be prepared before you go, you’ll never know if it’s rain or snow.

Soon enough you will leave, now we are en route overseas! It is time to go on a long flight, be comfy when you go, wear something light! Things will be different, from language to people – and keep in mind the currency will not be equal.  Learning from a different perspective is major; study, work hard & good grades you will savor.

Do your work & it will pay off, travel with friends on your day off.  From the Eiffel Tower to the Great Wall, to the Royal Guards that stand tall – the sky is the limit, you can see it all! Be aware of your surroundings and you’ll be fine, don’t put yourself in danger because you’ve drank too much wine. Moderation is key to having a good time, stay with your friends, don’t get lost in sublime. Taking this trip will change your life, take the leap, don’t think twice. If you’ve read this far, you’re certainly wiser - Bon Voyage from the peer advisors!

Steven Arriaga, Paris, France (summer 2014)
Thomas Giordano, Thessaloniki, Greece (spring 2014)
Amanda Ramos, Florence, Italy (winter 2014)
Alexis Rizzica, Florence, Italy (fall 2013)
Jessica Schoberl, Florence, Italy (winter 2014)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Teeming Streets of Rome ~Katherine McSherry, Study Abroad Peer Advisor, London, England and Rome, Italy

Since my first study abroad program to London, England I have been unable to stop the constant desire to travel.  I set my sights on my next trip only three days after returning to the United States.  I decide to visit the birthplace of most European cities, Rome, Italy.  Rome has become a city that I will never truly leave.  I went to Rome during the summer of 2013 and studied for four weeks at the American University of Rome.  I took an anthropology class - what better way to see the historic city of Rome than with a professor who knows about every piece of history?  Through my class I was able to tour the city and explore ruins and sights that I would have never seen on my own, and I would have never discovered so much about Rome and its past without this class.  I was able to become immersed in two time periods, the Roman Empire and the Renaissance.  There was a stark contrast between the city’s ancient rulers, the roman emperor, and the early modern rulers, the popes.  These contrasts between the time periods became blurred when it came to art and architecture the city, which mixed old gods with the new and reformed the great buildings of the past into structures of the present. Rome became an ever evolving city of beauty and grandeur, behind each ruin was a story and behind each masterpiece was a ruin.  

Combing through museums, ruins, fountains, historical sights, piazzas, and churches, I was able to see the underbelly of Rome and discover the hidden mysteries of this ancient city. Places and sights I had only read about were suddenly standing in front of me as tall and real as the day.  Icons such as the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and Spanish Steps were suddenly right in front of me.  I went beyond the usual tourist spots to find my most beautiful artwork in obscure galleries and tiny alleyway churches.  Rome is a city that provides constant entertainment, I could have walked down the same street one thousand times and still have found something new to discover and gawk at. 

Rome can be a leaping off point to other cities around Italy.  While in Rome, I was able to take trips every weekend to a new city: Mt. Vesuvius, Pompeii, Siena, Florence, Venice, Capri, and Sorrento.  I used the most of my free time so that I would be able to explore a new city within the walls of a fascinating country.  Italy is a country that is so diverse because it was, at one point, broken up into many city states each wanting to outshine the others through art and prestige.  Now these city states are cities with their own diverse history and culture to offer to visitors.  Places that almost ooze with the unimaginable, paintings so real that the images seem to almost move with their own hidden life and sculpture so alive it is like watching a play as you stare at their life like movements frozen in time. 

The people of Rome are the most helpful and gracious; most importantly they were always willing to give directions.  The city’s population is only paled by the amazing friends I made while on this program.  These people let me drag them around the city from one museum to another with pit stops at tiny shops and restaurants, and we did it all while sweating more than I imagined to be humanly possible, but laughing the entire way.  These are people who are truly wonderful and I am thankful to have met so many people who share the same passions as me.

While I have long since left Rome, there is not a day that goes by where I don’t remember walking through the teeming streets of Rome looking for adventure and beauty at every turn.  Rome is the eternal city with moments of time pressed between its pages I am glad to be a part of the city’s memory.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Small Gem in South America ~Patricia Bauer, Guayaquil, Ecuador

After going back and forth I finally decided on Guayaquil, Ecuador for my study abroad program - this proved to be the best decision for me. Spanish has always been a passion of mine, and I have taken several classes at CSI, but wanted to become more fluent in speaking the Spanish language. Nothing can compare to being immersed in the language and culture. Within my first week I was amazed to see how much more I understood and how well I could speak with the local people.
The University Cátolica, where I took my classes, is a wonderful experience. The professors are so friendly and from day one they make you feel very welcome and comfortable. The program is well organized and the faculty involved work together to help you with any needs or concerns you may have.  The classes are small and are designed to get you to improve your Spanish speaking skills. This is done with a great variety of different activities that are split between class time, trips, and films. The first day after class we went to lunch with the team from the University, which enabled us to get to know our professors and classmates a lot better.  One of the trips that the University organized was a trip to El Mercado the local market where we met local indigenous people and learned about their culture, native dress and customs, and then we were able to buy clothes and souvenirs.
Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America. It lies on both the Northern and Southern hemispheres and is divided by the Equator, giving the name of the country. Ecuador has very well developed tourism, and it uses the US dollar as the currency, making it easy to plan trips and excursions independently. Anything from hiking to rainforest expeditions are all within a few hours travel. On the weekends my classmates and I had many spectacular adventures at a very reasonable price.  
Our first weekend we travelled to Salinas with its beautiful beaches, which was a quick ride by bus or van. We all enjoyed two days of relaxation at a very reasonable price.  Our second adventure was to Baños a small town situated among lush green hills with waterfalls; this is a popular destination with Ecuadorians and foreign tourists alike. We all stopped at a local restaurant (which was included in the price of the excursion) for a delicious home cooked meal. Here we met local people and really got to use the Spanish we learned.  In the evening we relaxed in the natural thermal baths that gave the town its name “Baños.”
Traveling up through the Andes over 9,000 feet to reach the quaint elegant town of Cuenca is a fabulous way to see the countryside and mountain scenery. Cuenca’s captivating city has colonial architecture, glorious churches and cathedrals. Cuenca is known for its delicious bread, which we had to buy a few times in the two days we were there. At 15 to 20 cents a roll it was a good bargain! We saw Panama hats being made in the local factory, walked the narrow streets and had refreshments at several local bars and restaurants.
The experience will stay with me forever; I get to look back on not only my school life, but also traveling to places with the wonderful friends I made at school. I was a little unsure about staying with a host family at first but it was a fabulous experience.  Sonia, the lady I stayed with included me in everything, I felt as though I was her daughter. Whether we were watching TV, eating, or just hanging outside I was always very comfortable with her, she introduced me to her extended family and they even had a party for me to show me how to make empanadas.  I have made many friendships that I will have in my life long after the experience in Guayaquil Ecuador. I am constantly speaking with the friends from Israel and California that I made while studying abroad, and I know that I have developed a strong and wonderful friendship with them thanks to this experience. Studying abroad is something everyone should experience; trust me it will be one of the best experiences of your college life! I am already thinking of doing another program abroad…

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Part of the Family ~Ledys Janett Perez, San Jose, Costa Rica

Going to Costa Rica with the College of Staten Island on the Transcultural Nursing and Global Health Program is an amazing experience that is made to immerse students in a different culture and to allow them to take what they learn and use it in their health care practices. One way in which the program does this is by placing the students in the care of host families throughout the stay.
A host family is given to each student after being evaluated by the University Iberoamericana (UNIBE, the host institution). This is an excellent measure that is taken in order to ensure the safety of the students and something I feel that helps to place students in families that are compatible with their personalities, eating and lifestyle preferences. Host families are also conveniently located within walking distance from the school, supermarkets, restaurants and more.
I was placed in a host family with a host mom called Inés, her two sons Sergio and Eugenio, and another student from Spain named Ricardo. At first, I was a bit worried that I might not get along with those in the house or that I might not like the living arrangements or the food that my host mom would prepare for me. However, once I got to my new host home, everyone was immediately welcoming and accepting of me. The environment was so relaxed and started to feel like home quickly.
Though Inés was only responsible for a couple of things, including cooking and laundry, she went above and beyond those things by taking me to San Jose to tour me around, taking me to two different malls and an artesian market within the first weekend there. I was always asked how my day was by her and the her sons, and she made sure to prepare food ahead of time to have it ready for whenever I was hungry. Upon speaking to the other students that participated in the program, it is a valid assumption to say that all the host families know what they are doing in the kitchen and prepare great meals. Clothes are washed frequently and the house is cleaned daily. She also did my nails whenever the class went on a trip or excursion and invited me to her room to watch “spanish novelas” with her. Though I already speak Spanish, I feel as though I have improved my Spanish a lot and also learned so much from just speaking more Spanish than I do in New York.
Within the first week of being there, I had already felt closer to my host brothers and would look forward to spending time with them and speaking to them after I would return home from school. We would all sit together watching TV, playing video games or we would go out. I would also exercise with them whenever we had the chance to.

Even though I was only there a few weeks, I honestly consider these people family, and I miss them greatly. The question now is not “if” I will ever see them again, but when. I’ve made so many contacts and learned so much from them that I will forever be grateful for the wonderful experience that they were essential in creating during my stay in Costa Rica. All of the students in the program had similar experiences with their host families and miss them very much. Personally, I don’t feel there’s a better way to immerse oneself in a culture than to be living it daily through the interactions with the family, the food and rituals. To anyone that is thinking about taking part in this program, I would say it is an experience of a lifetime that they will never regret.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Corfu Island: A Little Piece of Paradise ~Alyssa Olivo, Thessaloniki, Greece

(Here I am enjoying the view and the wind.)

For a mere three days I visited Corfu Island. I’m pretty sure Corfu really means paradise in Greek because as we traveled by ferry (first, a four hour hellish bus ride) to reach the island I felt like I was in paradise.

The wind was blowing, the sun was shining and the water looked blue. If you haven’t visited New York before let me tell you a secret–the water isn’t blue, don’t go in the water, just don’t do it.

Seeing clean blue water is a big deal to me. The only time I go to the beach is when I’m in Puerto Rico and the strong waves make standing a workout.

(Do you see how blue the water is? No filter people. This is unedited beauty right here.)

(A view of Corfu Island while on the ferry.)

Everyone was excited to visit the island (it was practically a vacation within a vacation) but after four hours on a bus and an hour and a half on a ferry (then a thirty minute bus ride to our hotel) we were all hungry, grumpy and hot.

(A closer view of Corfu Island. The picture doesn’t do it any justice.)

I’m not entirely sure how we survived the weekend. No one wanted to waste any time so the moment we got to the hotel we left about two hours later to check out the town.

Let me tell you something about Corfu that’s really unfortunate. Though beautiful, the downside is that it’s really expensive. We had gotten used to paying 8 euro at most for a taxi in Thessaloniki. On the island it cost my roommate and I 35 euro just to get back from the beach.

But the cost doesn’t matter much when you’re there because you have to experience and see as much as you can. According to my roommate’s Greek friend, Tassos, in three days you can only get a “smell” of the island, a small “taste.” Considering it’s the second largest of the Ionian Islands he’s right.

Embrace the smell and the small taste, ask yourself if sleep is really that important for a three day trip and when will you ever be in Greece again.

Here, I’ll help you with your answers:

Sleep isn’t important. Just get yourself a frappe.

Maybe never, so why waste another minute?

Learn more about Alyssa's experience in Greece at her personal blog - From New York to Greece.