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Thursday, June 30, 2011

From our Newsletter: Spring 2012 Cultural Celebrations and Festivals

Our Spring 2012 programs coincide with some outstanding cultural celebrations and festivals. 

Here are our recommendations for events you should attend during your study abroad program in the following destinations:

Paris, France 
Paris Marathon - April 15th, 2012
The famous yearly marathon in Paris attracts an average of 35,000 runners each year.  The marathon's distance meets the standard Olympic Marathon length of 42.195km.  The race passes by many historic sites including Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Place de la Concorde, the Louvre, Pont Neuf, Place de la Bastille, Eiffel Tower, Seine river. The celebrations surrounding this athletic event are not to be missed.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente (BAFICI) - Early to Mid-April, 2012
For twelve days in April, Buenos Aires teams with independent film makers from across the globe.  The city celebrates BAFICI with film screenings and cultural activitiesOver 400 movies will be shown during the festival.

Barcelona, Spain
San Miguel Primavera Sound - late May, 2012
This large-scale music festival takes place in Barcelona within the Parc del Fòrum.  The exciting event features a wide variety of musical genres such as alternative, indieelectronic, dance, pop, hip hop, folk, jazz, metal, and experimental music.

London, England
Spring Cheese and Wine Festival - daily in March, 2012 
An eclectic mix of cheeses, wines, and their vendors make their way to the Southbank Centre Square in London for a true gourmet experience.  Besides food and drink sales, attendees can participate in tutored tastings and watch chef demonstrations of recipes with wine and cheese.

Florence, Italy
Carnevale in Venice - Late February to early March
During the ten days preceding Ash Wednesday, masked figures crowd the streets of Venice for the massive cultural celebration. Carnevale-goers enjoy outdoor concerts, street performances, parades, masquerade balls, and parties. Anything goes at Carnevale!

Questions? Call us today at 1(866) 756-2443 (toll free) or email us at

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How to prepare for “ The Square Mile”: Tips on Conquering London

GSE Summer 2011 Blogger Alex Newgard shares some experienced advice on preparing for a study abroad program.  Alex is studying in London, England for Summer 2011 during sessions 1 & 2 at University of Westminster.  

This is Alex's second study abroad program with GSE!

Hello all, it’s the middle of June and my London departure date of the 24th is quickly approaching. With my orientation packet recently received, program participants contacted, currency exchanged, passport photos copied, and suitcases packed, needless to say, I am ready to leave suburban Encinitas, California and enter the largest urban city in the European Union. It may appear that I am on top of my game, however, I assure you that is far from true. I, like most of you am very nervous for what will be a six-week abroad experience. Yet, having gone abroad for a summer once before, I promise you that nerves are nothing other than a natural part of excitement. With this said, allow me to offer my insight and personal commentary on how to best prepare for time spent overseas.

Carry a copy of your passport
with you, not the real deal.

First, although it may sound corny, trust me, researching the country of your destination is critical to the success of your stay. For example, no one wants to be the kid that brings Euros instead of British Pounds and expects them to be accepted by vendors in London. This of course wouldn’t be a life threatening situation, however, my point is knowing facts such as currency exchange and little things like Britain’s colonization of India might serve useful, especially when wondering why Indian food is so prevalent in London. Likewise, knowing that London was the first city in the world to have the underground railway is important to know in order to better appreciate the sense of history and culture behind the city itself. Perhaps, however, more important than historical knowledge is the importance of familiarizing yourself with weather patterns, transportation, and cultural customs. Little things like this will increase your enjoyment and help with assimilation into your new home away from home

Research, purchase, and pack
a converter ahead of time.
Next tip and often times one that goes overlooked, pack smart. Be aware that being in a different country generally means different outlets, so bring converters. Likewise, as mentioned above look into the weather and cultural norms to best prepare yourself for packing appropriate attire. As silly as the kid who brought Euros to London appears, the girl wearing the summer dress in the rain may be equally embarrassed. London tends to be a very “trendy” city so a few nice pairs of slacks and jackets for guys, along with an umbrella, probably would suffice. As for girls, I have no clue; this is probably where the above research suggestion would come in handy. Point being, be aware, and you will be fine. Now, in addition to knowing what clothing to pack, it’s equally, if not more important to know what documents to have on you at all times. It’s imperative to carry with you copies of your passport, local and significant contact numbers, and the correct currency. With this understood, you will be fine. Now, lets put aside the physical preparation of packing and get to the more interesting topic, battling the nerves of traveling.

"No one wants to be the kid that
brings Euros instead of British Pounds"
As I mentioned above, when traveling you must tell yourself that nerves are nothing other than a part of your excitement. Through observations, a big concern is that participants typically don’t know one another prior to departing. However, I bring you all back to your first year in college, more specifically to those who lived in dorms. The communal/ group living accommodations by nature require people to interact and serve as primary meeting grounds for relationships. Remember, everyone is in the same boat and most likely all have the same concerns. This commonality in itself tends to bring participants together and once the initial questions are asked and information is shared confidence is gained, security is obtained, comfort is balanced, and friendships are instantly formed. I can easily and honestly say to this day that the people I met abroad last summer through GSE are my closest friends. Simply put, there is something about living together and traveling with one another that forms long, lasting relationships.

On a concluding note, if you can get anything out of this blog, just remember to be safe and have fun. Don’t over think things and remember you're traveling abroad for an experience. Good, bad, or indifferent, I promise you will grow as a result of your trip and I look forward to updating you on mine.

Best of luck,
Alex Newgard


GSE Summer 2011 - London, England
University of Westminster

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Join other interested participants for the GSE Study Abroad General Interest Webinar on June 15th

GSE Study Abroad General Interest Webinar

Join us for a Webinar on June 15

Have you ever thought about studying abroad?

By living in a foreign country, you will constantly challenge yourself and gain a level of independence you never knew you had.  Studying abroad will expose you to diverse people and viewpoints.  While immersed in the language, culture, and people of your host country, you will get to experience life as a resident, not as a mere tourist.  All these things can be achieved while also earning credit towards your current degree. 

Join GSE as we help you find a study abroad program best catered to your academic goals and personal needs.  We will walk you through everything from picking a location and narrowing down classes to using financial aid and transferring credits to your home university.

Join us and experience life beyond your borders!
Title: GSE Study Abroad General Interest Webinar
Date: Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Time: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM PDT
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

System Requirements

PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Macintosh®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.4.11 (Tiger®) or newer

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

Barcelona, at last!

Arc de Triumf
by Skye McGinnis
After an exhausting long day of traveling I had finally arrived in Barcelona on May 28th.  I took a short train ride to the hotel where I would meet the rest of the students I would be spending the next six weeks with!  As I stepped out of the train station I took a deep breath in and felt a sense of immediate relief.  I had made it and was ready for my summer in Barcelona to begin!

I later met the rest of the group in the hotel lobby where we were informed about our program and upcoming schedule.  I immediately felt at ease with everyone in the group.  Our group was only 16 people large so I knew we would all be great friends by the end of the six weeks.

The next morning we got to know one another over breakfast then had the program orientation downstairs.  The orientation lasted a couple of hours but was, surprisingly, not boring at all because we were all so fascinated by what we would be doing for the next month and a half.

Celebrations festivities for
Barcelona's futbol win!

Inma and Lizz, the program directors, told us about our schedules, our housing assignments and rules, our excursions and day trips and anything else we needed to know about.  I found out that I was assigned to live with three girls that I got along with perfectly.  We would be living in the Marina apartment in the most ideal neighborhood that was walking distance from the beach, all the best clubs and the center of the city.  All I could think about was how excited I was to move into my new apartment!

The next day my roommates and I met the rest of the group for a bike tour of the city.  It lasted over three hours and we covered an enormous part of the city.  Our tour guide, Jordan, was extremely informative and entertaining.  He helped us understand the history and culture behind all of the different sights we saw.  By the end I felt like I had seen so much of the city and discovered so many new places I wanted to return to.  

Parc Cituadella
We saw the Arc de Triumf, el Parque de la Cituadela, Barceloneta, and also became more acquainted with the neighborhood surrounding our apartment.

By the end of the day we were all completely exhausted and ready to return home to our new apartments.  It was so nice to be able to come back to our own place with our own rooms and kitchen instead of returning to some unfamiliar hotel room.

I couldn’t wait for the next day to come so I could wander back to all the places I had seen on the tour!

Besos y Abrazos,
Skye McGinnis


GSE Summer 2011 - Barcelona, Spain

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Meet Inma, GSE Onsite Program Director in Barcelona, Spain

Onsite Program Director Inma Lopez Jimenez has been with GSE for many years now.  She loves to travel and especially enjoys showing GSE participants her much-loved home, Barcelona, Spain.

We asked Inma some questions about herself and her take on the exciting life and culture of España:

Describe yourself in three Spanish words.

Just with three A's: Alegre, Activa, Aventurera.

What is your favorite Barcelona meal? Which nearby restaurant do you go to for the dish?

My favorite Catalan tapa is Patatas Bravas. Every place has its own special 'spicy' sauce but the one I like the most is a local restaurant in my neighborhood in Sants, in CalaMaria.

If you could take one class at either the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona or Universitat de Barcelona, what would it be?

I would definitely take any Art and Culture class.

Where do students most often study around the city besides their apartments or university campus?

Both universities have very good facilities such as study rooms or libraries. There are also public libraries around the city where the students have access with their student cards.

Which Barcelona museum is your favorite?

CosmoCaixa, Museo de la Ciencia. The exhibits are distributed throughout various rooms, including the Amazon Forest, the Geological Wall, Planetarium. Visitors are invited to interact with many of the scientific experiments, making the whole experience richer and more entertaining. The temporary exhibitions are usually related to Climate Change (recycling), Cosmos, Dinosaurs, etc.

Where is your favorite vacation spot in Spain?

It depends on the season, but since I am from the south of Spain I love spending my free time in Andalucía, where the food, the people and environment are the best in the world.

Which GSE Excursion is your favorite?

It's hard to decide, but I love going to Granada, Salamanca and the winery tour! 

Which beach do you usually recommend to GSE students?

I recommend that students discover Bogatell or Mar Bella (with sport facilities) and stay away from the popular Barceloneta beach which is crowded by tourists. Also, the beaches in Costa Dorada or Costa Brava (just 30 minutes away by train) are beautiful spots to spend the day on the beach.

Inma at Costa Brava, Spain
What is your favorite night-time location nearby either university campus?

The best bars are located in the Eixample area (Aribau, Balmes) or in the Born district, which is not close to any of the university campuses.

What is the most common cultural hurdle that students encounter when they come to live in Barcelona, Spain?

They find very confusing the fact that Catalan is the official language and not Spanish, (even though everyone is bilingual) and all the signs are written in Catalan. Also they find it difficult to meet locals in the city. This may be because they live with their fellow Americans and may not be ambitious enough to meet new people.

If you could give students one bit of advice on studying abroad in Barcelona, what would it be?

Take your experience as something that is part of growing up and enjoy this opportunity to the fullest because this chance may only happen once in your lifetime.
Inma at Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain

What do you like best about the GSE Barcelona program?

What I like the best about running the GSE Barcelona program is meeting so many amazing people from different places that at the end of the program I can say will be my friends and I will definitely keep in touch. Also I like the idea that I am contributing to the best experience in their lifetimes and they will always remember me because of that.

Learn more about Inma here.

Questions? Call us today at 1(866) 756-2443 (toll free) or email us at

Monday, June 6, 2011

Waiting Is The Hardest Part

GSE Summer 2011 Blogger Skye McGinnis shares her anticipation and excitement for her Barcelona, Spain Summer 2011 program at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona:

I had always known I wanted to study abroad in Spain at some point in my life.  I had spent over a year of my life living in Barcelona when I was thirteen years old and had only the fondest memories of the city.  I remembered how kind and accepting the people were of me and my family, I remembered the long siestas during which the entire city would shut down from the hours of 2-5 pm., and, of course, I remembered the delicious Spanish food and how late the meals were served in comparison to the states. 

Looking back at all my memories of the city and all of the experiences I had, I imagined what it would be like to live there again as a college student.  The more I thought about it, Barcelona seemed like the perfect option for a study abroad program.  The city offered everything I could possibly want and more: nightlife, amazing food, friendly people, beautiful beaches, and a cosmopolitan city with beautiful architecture.  There is so much to do in Barcelona that a normal vacation simply wouldn’t suffice!  I could hardly wait to wander aimlessly around the city discovering new things each day and meeting interesting people along the way. 

View of the city's beautiful coast from Mont Juic!
View of the city's beautiful coast from Mont Juic!
The only thing left for me to decide was which program to use for my study abroad experience. I wanted a reliable and responsible staff that would be readily available to assist me with whatever I needed.  It was also important to me that the program was well organized yet still gave us enough freedom and independence to become fully immersed in the city.  Also, I needed to receive credit from my school, University of Miami, for the courses I would be taking at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. 

When I first started looking into different study abroad programs there seemed to be a lot of really reputable companies, however, as I started to narrow down my options Global Student Experience consistently met each of my most important requirements.  Soon enough I had booked my trip and was talking to Wallace, one of the GSE employees, on the phone to ask any questions I had regarding the upcoming trip.  Everything was finally in order and I was set to go!  Next came the hard part… the countdown to the trip!

Besos y Abrazos,
Skye McGinnis


GSE Summer 2011 - Barcelona, Spain