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.

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.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nothing Short of Exceptional ~Vahid Sula, Galapagos Islands and Quito, Ecuador

During the winter intersession of 2013, I traveled to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. A group of fellow CSI Macaulay students, myself, and other Macaulay students from CUNY’s other campuses enjoyed three weeks in Ecuador. It was an adventure I won’t soon forget. The places we visited, the friendships we forged, and the memories we created will stay with me long after I graduate from the College of Staten Island.

My original decision to travel to the Galapagos was based on my interest in Biology. Having just enrolled in a semester of BIO 170 with Professor Mitra, I was hooked on the concepts and theories behind the study of life. Traveling to the Galapagos Islands seemed like the perfect fit. Adventuring on the Islands where Darwin, himself, once stood suddenly became an opportunity I could not pass up. After a few weeks of paperwork, I was packing my bags for Ecuador. As much as I attempted to inform myself of all the precautions I would have to take, my thoughts were just too distracting. Just the multitude of ideas filled my head. There were some nights I just couldn’t sleep because of the anticipation.  I would dream of eventually waking up one day and standing on the equator, snorkeling with sharks ten feet below me and tanning on beaches with sea lions at play next to me. Yet, no thoughts can capture the intensity of the moment when it is truly happening right in front of you.
 

I could just go on YouTube and watch a video of sea lions, finches, or turtles. I could just search Google for images of each and every one of the islands within the Galapagos. Yet, the best part of studying abroad is that none of that compares. The best camera or the highest quality image can’t capture the moment like you can if you’re living it. Among the best moments of the entire trip happened early on. Waking up early one morning, we traveled to Frigate bird Hill.

“Hill” was truly an understatement; this was an extensive hike and as we increased our elevation, our sights decreased with mists filling in and blocking every detail. At best, most of us could only see thirty or forty feet ahead. As our sights lessened, everything became only more intense as Frigate birds would come in swooping down and past us. As we trekked through a blinding mist and muddy paths (of which nearly everyone on the trip slipped and fell into), the best moment came when we ventured into a short passage.

We had reached one of the higher regions of the “hill” and our professor guided our sights to what looked like a small cave. Thick moss and vines scattered around the entrance created this sense that this was no longer my reality. I thought I had ventured into a prehistoric period as we trudged into the cave, ducking, and swooping to dodge the viscous water droplets (which were icy cold) and ingrown roots that made the cave passage more of a physical and visual splendor. I felt like a kid again, letting my imagination run free and flourishing just as the environment around me was doing. The best part was that this was just the beginning.
 

Whether I look back and think about playing on the beaches of San Cristobal with sea lions (sometimes more than with my friends), snorkeling at Kicker Rock effortlessly as the current pushed my through the rocks giving me ample opportunity to take in the sights underneath me as hammerhead sharks and sting rays swarmed around, diving ten or fifteen feet below to spot ray-finned sharks sleeping beneath coral and giving a dear friend a handshake all underwater, going out at nights to enjoy meals with old friends and making new ones, or just taking a photo with a live chicken at the local airport bay before we took flight, all these moments and countless others have come to now define me. My study abroad experience was nothing short of exceptional. Now all I can do is count the days until my next adventure.
 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Returning to Spain ~John Rose, Santander and Granada, Spain


Studying abroad was always an option in the schools I’ve attended, and I figure everyone that is in college is aware what studying abroad is in some sense. Ever since high school I knew I would devote my life to studying languages. In my sophomore year I was really interested in studying abroad but had never lived away from home, so I decided to test it out and go away for the summer to Spain; a country I have always been interested in but never experienced. In high school I did a foreign exchange to Italy and have traveled within the states, so I had an idea of how things would go down.

I studied at the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo (UIMP), in Santander, Spain. I literally lived alongside a beach and walked to school. I made two friends who happened to attend CSI and whom I still hang out with today (if we happen to be in the same country at the same time, that is). Many other students from other countries were there, and, surprisingly, spoke perfect English. Finding out that Europeans (in general) know more languages than Americans only made me want to work harder at learning about other cultures. Between preparing 8 pounds of guacamole for students who had no clue what it was or how to pronounce it, to making up stories in my grammar class in order to practice new verb tenses, I had a blast. Everyone says culture shock can scare people and make it difficult to enjoy yourself in a foreign country. For me and the other people I studied with, we seemed to adapt pretty well. As long as one is open to different things, it shouldn’t be hard. The issue I had was the reverse culture shock, which is not mentioned as much. When I came home I would criticize things in America and found it a bit odd being back home. Once I got over the fact I wasn’t in Spain and accepted the differences, I decided I needed to go back.

In Santander I got to experience life away from the states and the dorm life, something that I don’t get here. However, it was only a month, and I didn’t get to meet as many locals as I wanted nor did I have a full sense of freedom in the dorms…I needed more. Two friends and I looked all over for study abroad programs. Some were cheap but didn’t count for college credits. After searching I found the CEA study abroad program. It was a good price and would get me classes that will help towards my major. It even had a business class for my friend to take, either in English or Spanish depending on a student’s level.

While in Granada (a city located in the very south of Spain), I lived in an apartment with my friends and another American. I learned to live on my own, and, surprisingly,  I’m not too bad at cooking. This experience helped me think of things in a positive light, something I haven’t always done in the past. This time I was able to interact with more Spaniards and really become immersed in the culture. Living alone I had the true “typical” college experience of going to parties and being responsible for everything without my parents advice; even though they were just a phone call away. Only it wasn’t so typical for the fact that I was in a different country, experiencing things my friends upstate would never see. A month before leaving to go home me and a bunch of other students were worrying; we didn’t want to leave. To be honest, it’s hard to say exactly what I loved about Spain or studying abroad so much, but studying abroad creates this new feeling, this new high that you can’t compare to anything else in life except maybe love.
 
I laugh to myself because as I write this at 2 AM, normally when a Spaniard goes out to the discoteca, I am instead making sure I have everything ready to go back for the second semester; a decision I made on Christmas. This time it won’t be as planned as I’m without a program to guide me. For most of my life I figured I would teach Spanish in my old high school doing what I love. After my experiences in Spain, I can’t tell where I’m going to end up or what I’ll be doing and I’m learning to be okay with that. My new goal this semester is to speak only Spanish (maybe some Italian) and visit some other countries across Europe. In my mind there’s no reason or excuse not to study abroad; trust me, I’ve thought it through thoroughly and still can’t think of one.