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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Seville

Hercules is supposed to
have founded the city
by William Laundon


This weekend was a GSE sponsored trip to Seville in Southern Spain. Seville was really nice. Even in November it was seventy degrees Fahrenheit and sunny outside. We stayed in the old city, which has been around for several thousand years. Seville even claims the legendary Hercules as its founder. Julius Caesar was the governor of the city for two years.





The old city had a ton of Islamic architecture and decorations. A lot of people don’t know that the Moors from Africa invaded and conquered southern Spain. They attacked around 700 AD and were not completely expelled until almost 1500 AD. Seville itself was under Moorish rule for around five hundred years, which obviously has a huge influence on the culture.


Some of the tile work Seville is famous for
People who are into history will really enjoy Seville and our tour guide loved to talk about it. Seville has an inland port because of its river and it was the port that all ships to the New World had to leave from. Christopher Columbus set sail here and his remains are in the Cathedral. There is an entire museum for documents and maps from the discovery of the New World as well as all of the follow up journeys.


The Cathedral itself was amazing. It is the largest in the world and the third largest church in the world. It’s in the Gothic style and is really an amazing building. The inside is beautiful with tons of gold leaf and stained glass. The Cathedral was built on the site of an old Mosque, but it kept the Mosque’s courtyard and tower. The courtyard is full of fountains and orange trees. 


The Largest Cathedral in the World
The tower is called the Tower of Giralda and is the tallest building in the city. The whole thing is ramped because some King wanted to be able to ride his horse to the top of it.

The Tower of  Giralda
We also saw a Flamenco show while we were there which was really different. The closest thing to Flamenco would have to be tap dancing although there is much more arm movement. It’s also incredibly dramatic. The act consisted of a male and female dancer that performed together, along with a singer and guitar player. The four of them were telling a story about the man cheating on the woman.


There really is nothing similar to the Flamenco in the U.S. so it’s very interesting to watch. Seeing how Andalusia is the Flamenco capital of Spain, seeing a dance there is going to be good.
Inside the Palace of Real Acazar


Adios mis Amigos,
Will Laundon


---


GSE Fall 2011 Barcelona, Spain
Autonomous University of Barcelona

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Use Financial Aid for Your Study Abroad Program!


GSE Using Financial Aid to Study Abroad Webinar


Join us for a Webinar on November 29

Are you looking for ways to fund your study abroad experience?

You can transfer Financial Aid and Scholarships to your GSE program.  Join us for a webinar to learn how. Our advisors at GSE will be here to walk you through the entire process.

Let us help you experience life beyond your borders!
Title: GSE Using Financial Aid to Study Abroad Webinar
Date: Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Time: 11:00 AM - 11:30 AM PST
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 10.5 or newer

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Hills are Alive!

by Erin Engstrom


Last week, I was officially reunited with my big sister Emma. She studied abroad in Florence with GSE two years ago, and naturally got jealous of all the fun I’ve been having and decided to come out to Italy for a visit. We are very close as sisters, and I was so excited to get to show her what I have been up to these past few months!


My sister and I at the main
Christmas Market in front of the
Parliament building in Vienna
The poor thing hardly had any time to recover from her flight from LAX to Florence, because about 24 hours after she landed, my sister, three friends and I headed off to explore the Christmas markets in Austria. We chose to go with Bus2Alps, which is a travel company that takes study abroad students all over Europe on different weekend trips or day tours (Florence4Fun is another good one). The tour left Thursday evening for a ten hour bus ride to Vienna. Fortunately, I had my good friend Tylenol PM to get me through the night…


We arrived at our hostel in Vienna about 8 am, and after inhaling several cups of coffee, our trip leader took us on a quick tour of the city. Vienna reminded me a lot of Paris and Budapest; the streets are very clean, and the architecture is simple, yet regal. We saw several of the famous Christmas Markets, which open up mid November and last until the end of the year. Basically, the markets are a network of stands that sell everything from schnitzel to ornaments. My personal favorite stands are the ones that sell gluhwein, which is a hot, spiced red drink traditionally served around the holidays. So yummy and a great way to warm up! The holidays are my favorite time of year, so of course my friends and I developed a small high off of all the Christmas joy in this city.


I think we were trying to 'be regal' in front of Schonbrunn Palace.
We were successful, obviously.
The next day, we took a train outside for the city to Schonbrunn Palace, which was the summer home for the Hapsburg family who ruled the area for generations. Though we didn’t have time to tour the inside of the palace, my sister and I strolled through the palace gardens and the small Christmas market in front of the entrance. Clearly, the Hapsburg family did well for themselves. This palace is considered second to Versailles; it was incredible! What was more incredible were all the local Viennese casually passing through the palace gardens on their morning run or on their way to work. I don’t know how I could get used to such a beautiful landscape!


Hilary, Emma and I at the
Slazburg Christmas Market
After another bus ride, we arrived in Salzburg. Salzburg is much smaller than Vienna, but had just as much charm. We explored more Christmas markets and then the tour group had dinner at Augustiner Brau, which is a brewery that sits on top of a hill overlooking the city. 


This was a really interesting place; you get a giant beer stein from a shelf, dip it in freezing cold water, then have it filled up with the beer of your choice. If anyone reading this has been to Oktoberfest, then that is very similar to how this place worked. People sit together at large tables in the dining halls drinking their beer and eating traditional Austrian food for hours. This place was filled with locals, and they always know the best way to have fun!


Now, no one can go to Salzburg and not want to spin on the top of a hill singing “The Hills are Alive”; so how could I say no to The Sound of Music Tour? 


Just one of the many gorgeous views the Sound of Music tour showed us.
This is a viallge outside of Salzburg in the Lake district
Hilary and I twirled each other around while singing
 I am 16 Going on 17. We're so romantic!
On our last morning, we woke up early and boarded a bus with a giant Julie Andrews face plastered on the side of it. The tour took us to all of the places where the movie was filmed, such as the houses they used, the church where Maria and the Captain were married, and even the gazebo Leisl was twirled around in. The bus blasted the soundtrack and our tour guide demanded we sing along.


Even if you don’t like The Sound of Music, the sights make the entire tour worth the money. Salzburg is one of the most beautiful areas I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of places these past three months... I wish I had a few more days to explore, but I guess it means I will have to come back again later on in life!


Happy Thanksgiving to everyone back home!


Ciao Ciao!


Erin Engstrom
---
GSE Fall 2011 - Florence, Italy
Lorenzo de' Medici - Florence

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

¿Qué tal chicos? (What’s happening guys!)

Town center in Seville outside of the Cathedral 
by Elise Carlson


I am shocked that it is already mid November! October flew by, partly due to the consistent traveling I was fortunate enough to do. I started the month exploring the Arabic Sea and all the old ports in Croatia. Then, inspired by a gorgeous trip to The Berdié Winery, my friend Ellie and I spontaneously booked a trip to Italy to paint in the countryside of Tuscany and then explore the ruins of Rome. When I returned I finally got an entire weekend to relax in Barcelona.


Barcelona is powerful in the way it lures you into hidden adventures unexpectedly. For example, when wandering the gothic alleys, I stumbled upon the most colorful little art gallery tucked behind a small wooden door. Or for instance on the same day, I strolled a little further only to be captured by Palau Guell (one of Gaudi’s most outstanding masterpieces). I took a tour of the palace and decided it is now a top priority to enter each of his buildings before I leave; the outside is not “enough”. 


I am trying to prepare for my best friend Camille’s visit and am overwhelmed by trying to fit in all Barcelona has to offer in ten days. I haven’t even seen it all and it’s now been over two months!
Me standing in Plaza España


So as you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed my free weekend in Barcelona and was a little frustrated that I was leaving for Seville the following weekend. That attitude completely turned around after our first stop of the bus tour at Plaza España. This neo-mudejar plaza (19th century Spanish style architecture) is decorated with mosaic tile walls and bridges leading across the river to the enormous central fountain.


Guitarist and painter in the palace gardens
Our tour of the Royal Palace Alcazar was phenomenal. The tour guide was so knowledgeable and funny so it was very easy to learn about the unlimited history of Seville. The palace was huge and due to the multiple empires, it was a collaboration of Roman and Moorish architecture, exotic plants, and extravagant interior designs. I truly felt the typical Spanish scene walking by the orange stucco covered in ivy showcasing a cracked marble fountain with a Spanish guitar playing in the background. Many more of the moments came throughout the day which honestly is emotionally exhausting. A nap was definitely necessary before exploring the night life of Seville.


Later that night GSE planned one of my favorite events so far which was flamenco dancing, a night walking tour, and a Spanish feast, as always. Flamenco originated in Seville and perfectly demonstrates the passion and romance the city holds. It was a lot harder than I ever thought, but we all had a blast! The guys in our group really impressed me with their efforts to learn the dance moves with us. We learned that the flamenco dancer must have extreme confidence and dance as if they are the strongest and best. It took us awhile to achieve this persona but by the end we all successfully performed a small routine.
Panoramic view of Seville from the tower of the Seville Cathedral 


The night life in Seville was so unexpected. There was this street of bars in the city center with old brick buildings and a small plaza that was filled with at least a hundred locals and visitors. Exploring the different venues was fun, but the best part was being able to meet people and adopt the freedom and excitement of the culture. The following day I relaxed in the famous park, Maria Luisa, with some friends while reading and drawing.


One of the many sites in Park Maria Luisa


I honestly think visiting the parks of every city is the best way to reflect on the culture and experience the city’s nature in a relaxed cultural way. Seville has something for everyone and it makes sense it is one of Spain’s oldest jewels.


¡Adios chicos!
Elise Carlson


---


GSE Fall 2011 - Barcelona, Spain
Autonomous University of Barcelona

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Le Château de Versailles

Mom and I in Front of Versailles
by Lilly Baik


Today we went to Versailles, and by “we”, I mean the GSE group and I… and my mom! She arrived in Paris early this morning and got to join us on our excursion, which was great since Versailles was one of the few places we didn’t get a chance to see when the two of us came to Paris a couple of years ago.


In the 1600s, the Château de Versailles was the royal palace of Louis XIV, and well, it was definitely built for a king. The building is extravagant inside and out, and is absolutely beautiful with all of its ornate decorations and architectural designs.


Of course, one of my most favorite rooms was the famous Hall of Mirrors, which is a very long and grand hallway lined by mirrors on one side, and windows that overlook the gardens on the other side. The walls and ceilings are gilded with gold, and the entire ceiling is filled with majestic paintings, with numerous chandeliers that hang down from between them.
The Hall of Mirrors


The Queen's Bedroom
I also loved the extravagant bedroom of the queen, in which every inch of every object is detailed to perfection, from the walls to the ceiling to the bed with an incredibly high canopy. In this room we also saw the hidden doorway through which Marie Antoinette escaped the night Versailles was stormed by the mob.




After we walked through the inside of the palace, we headed out into the vast gardens, which seemed to go on forever! There is a large pond right in front of the palace that beautifully reflected it in its water. We also saw many interesting fountains during our walk, such as the one with statues of people morphing into frogs. We even found a little area that was full of cats! We counted about thirty in one small area.


Versailles
Further down into the gardens, there was a lake with boats available for renting, so we decided to get on the water. I got into a boat with my mom and a couple of friends, and quickly realized that I am totally incapable of rowing a boat. So is my mom.


The boat ride was amazing because for one, we were rowing boats on a lake in the gardens of the palace of Versailles, and secondly, the sun was beginning to set at the same time, making everything look even more beautiful. The numerous swans gracefully floating around didn’t hurt either.


Attempting to Row with Lynsie


Then, after our boat ride, we had the chance to watch one of the most gorgeous sunsets ever from the gardens of Versailles before we headed back home to Paris.


Au revoir,


Lilly
---

GSE Fall 2011 - Paris, France
University of Paris Sorbonne

Interested in learning about Study Abroad? Attend today's Webinar!

GSE Study Abroad General Interest Webinar


Join us for a Webinar on November 22

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: Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Time: 4:00 PM - 4:45 PM PST
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Monday, November 21, 2011

When the Moon Hits Your Eye…

I think I have about 20 different versions
 of this same picture... I couldn't help myself!
by Erin Engstrom


Another weekend of adventures has come and gone. This time, I got to enjoy probably the most stereotypical Italian weekend in Venice that I have had thus far. It was the whole packaged deal: gondolas, pasta, and “That’s Amore!” playing in the background.


Immediately after arriving in Venice, Chiara whisked us off for our gondola ride, which was a great introduction to the city. Though I have been to Venice before with my family several years ago, I am still mesmerized by its picturesque beauty. I’m no photographer, but even my simple camera couldn’t take a bad photo of the miles of serene canals twisting along the edges of bridges and buildings. Venetians waved out the window as we floated by and I half expected someone to start playing an accordion.

My friends and I on our gondola tour


After the gondola ride, we had a tour of San Marco Square and Basilica, followed by a glass blowing demonstration. The Basilica was predictably beautiful; I’ve never seen an ugly church in Italy. I was so sad I couldn’t take pictures. This one was classic Byzantine style with mosaics that our tour guide told us took over four hundred years to complete. I was very proud of myself for actually knowing the significance of Byzantine mosaics, since I’m in an Art History class at Lorenzo de Medici (see Mom and Dad? I AM studying in Florence!).


All you need to make a vase are some pliers,
 a giant straw and some molten hot glass.
Who knew?
The glass blowing demonstration was equally fascinating. Basically, a man takes red hot, melted glass out of an oven, rolls it around on a table then blows into a giant straw to make the glass inflate like a balloon. Then after a series of fancy movements with pliers and a few more puffs into the straw, a beautiful vase magically appears. I still don’t understand how anyone would think of this process, but a standard Venetian vase will cost somewhere around 200 euro or more. For a price like that, I’d say it was a pretty genius idea!


That night after another delicious dinner, the group went out to explore Venetian nightlife. My favorite parts about GSE trips are usually when we are all together. We probably make a bit of a scene when more than twenty of us show up at one place in one big clump, but we always seem to have a good time. To top it off, it was my roommate Karen’s birthday. How many people can say they celebrated their 21st birthday in Venice? We’re lucky, that’s for sure.


Sam and I in the Jewish district of Venice.
Supposedly it is the first Ghetto in the world.
The next day was a little less touristy; we went on a tour of the Jewish ghetto and saw some other parts of Venice that are less known and less visited. I especially liked this tour, because this area of the city was a thousand times less crowded, and we were actually among real Venetians.


Wandering aimlessly around Venice meant
we could escape the other tourists
We had the entire afternoon to fill before heading back to Florence, so while some people in the group went to the nearby islands of Burano and Murano, a small group of my friends and I decided to shop and wander around the city on our own. This is definitely the best way to go if you ever visit Venice, because taking just a couple turns away from Piazza San Marco can transport you to an entirely different Venice. It’s very easy to get lost here, but I didn’t mind so much because there is something interesting around every corner. We had a fun afternoon together taking pictures, eating gelato and soaking it all in.


Now I can’t wait to have another weekend like this one!


Ciao Ciao!


Erin Engstrom


---

GSE Fall 2011 - Florence, Italy
Lorenzo de' Medici - Florence

Curious about Fulfilling Degree Requirements Abroad?


GSE Transferring Credit from Abroad Webinar


Join us for a Webinar on November 21

Are you considering studying abroad to fulfill part of your degree requirements?

 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. 

Credit transfer can be a lengthy process, but GSE is here to help. Join us for a webinar covering all the details of credit transfer from start to finish. There are numerous options abroad for a variety of majors. Planning early can ensure that receiving course credit and fulfilling degree requirements do not become obstacles to your study abroad experience.

Join us and experience life beyond your borders!
Title: GSE Transferring Credit from Abroad Webinar
Date: Monday, November 21, 2011
Time: 3:00 PM - 3:30 PM PST
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Learn about Using Financial Aid for Your Study Abroad Program!


GSE Using Financial Aid to Study Abroad Webinar


Join us for a Webinar on November 18

Are you looking for ways to fund your study abroad experience?

You can transfer Financial Aid and Scholarships to your GSE program.  Join us for a webinar to learn how. Our advisors at GSE will be here to walk you through the entire process.

Let us help you experience life beyond your borders!
Title: GSE Using Financial Aid to Study Abroad Webinar
Date: Friday, November 18, 2011
Time: 1:00 PM - 1:30 PM PST
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 10.5 or newer

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Independent Travel: Renting a Car

The Labyrinth
by William Laundon


Sometimes you get so caught up in travel on weekends and school during the week that you forget to explore the city that you’ve been living in. While I explored Barcelona fairly extensively early in the semester, there’s still many parts of the city that I haven’t seen.


For the past several weeks I haven’t been making any effort to go out and see these areas. I finally decided to go check out Parc del Laberint d'Horta, which is a beautiful park with a hedge labyrinth. It was only about twenty minutes away by metro and we were able to spend half a day there. Walking back to our apartment also took us by a cool church that we had never seen before, as well as quite a few shops.


Castle at Carcassonne


A Statue Outside the Dali Museum
That weekend though, myself and two friends from the program drove through southern France. Having some experience with car rentals now, we drove from Barcelona to Figures, the home of the Dali Museum which I highly recommend. Even the outside of the building is something to see. From there we crossed into France and drove to Nimes and then to Nice. Nimes had a Roman coliseum that was really cool, but other than that, the town was surprisingly dead. There seemed to be very few people walking around.


The drive from Nimes to Nice was absolutely beautiful. Most major highways are covered with tollbooths so we decided to follow a smaller highway that hugged the coast. This turned out to be a great decision even though it took significantly longer. Not only did we save money, we got to see a huge part of the southern French coast.


Cinema Building in Cannes


The Nice Beach
We drove through Marseille, Toulon, and Cannes just to name the larger cities. You can’t see more of a country than through renting a car. You get to see multiple cities as well as a smaller towns and the countryside.


Nice had an amazing beach where we spent most of a day. Even in late October, it was really nice weather. The open market there had some of the best cheap food I have ever seen. There we stuffed ourselves to the point where lying on the beach was the only thing that we could do. It was tough to get back into the routine of class at the end of the semester.




Adios mis Amigos,
Will Laundon


---


GSE Fall 2011 - Barcelona, Spain
Autonomous University of Barcelona

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

To Return With Honor

A Night of Tango and Farewells
by John Elison


Well, this is it, folks. All my papers are done, my grades are in, and I am packed up and leaving Argentina. To finish things right, we got dressed up and went to Puerto Madero’s “Madero Tango.” This is a very fancy dinner show and not at all the humble good-bye I had back in my 20s when I left the first time. Yet it was. It was still a warm spring night full of bittersweet tears and moments of silence looking back. It was still a delicious meal shared with friends. It was the end of something special.


Nostalgia is a common theme in Argentina. It comes up casually; in conversation, in the music, it was even a major motif of Madero’s tango show. Therefore, in that spirit, let’s recap.


“Coming back and moving forward” was the theme of my first blog, a little over four months ago. Now, if I look back at all my previous blogs; what did I learn?
I learned that to be a world citizen you have to embrace the world. If you leave wherever you studied abroad and do not love that country’s people, I can guarantee that you’re doing it wrong.


This is Professor Sra. Saugy at the
National Institute of Anthropology
where I volunteered
I learned that paying attention to what things cost means more than monetary exchange. Whether it is how late you stay out, whether you walk to class or take the bus, or who you decide to spend your time with, all of these things cost something. We need to be aware of that and be sure we are getting what we paid for.


I learned that I like hillbilly jazz, social activist clowns, and parks. Although I found those things here, they exist back in the states, a fact I hope to take advantage of when I return.


I learned that art is all around in Buenos Aires. My favorite ended up being the graffiti. In Argentina, graffiti is not seen as the work of social deviants but rather the work of modern artists who want to give color back to their city. My largest school assigned project was to explore this very topic and I hope to learn more.


Learning to be flexible
I learned to be flexible.


I learned that success comes to those who pursue their dreams at whatever the cost, and that it often comes with unexpected results. A poor, young Benjamín Sisterna wanted to collect seashells, so he went to Mar del Plata, started a successful alfajor company, and traveled around the world twenty-six times. Now his collection, housed in a museum, is one of the most impressive ever. Some people will say that Sisterna’s multi-million dollar company was his success. I think it’s that he collected seashells.


I learned that no matter how soon I start packing my bags, I am bound to leave something behind. In the case of Argentina, this will be a part of me; quite literally. To be blunt, I was fat when I landed in Ezeiza and now I am leaving more than 60lbs lighter. This was no small feat and came with a lot of dedication in face of temptation. You have no idea how good the food is here. Trust me.


Memories of Cerri
More than that, I am leaving behind, once again, loved ones. The weekend before finals, after saving what money I could, I bought a ticket to Bahia Blanca. I lived in Bahia for almost a year when I was here last. When I went home I lost my address book, it was the time before internet and, sadly, I lost contact with many of the dear friends I made while there. I arrived early in the morning, grabbed the first bus to Cerri, the pueblo where I spent most of my time, and began knocking on doors. I found them all. It was wonderful and once emails were exchanged I came back to Buenos Aires happy and more whole.


Dreaming of Home
A new, yet no less dear, friend of mine gave me his father’s watch as a farewell gift. He took the face and hands out, leaving the gears exposed. He told me that he wanted me to realize that no matter how long it takes me to return, time will simply not be a factor to our friendship. We can always pick up where we left off.


Finally, I learned that I can live without my wife Meg, but I don’t ever want to. Next time I come to Argentina, I’m bringing my wife.


Until then, I'm headed back to her, because that's where I belong.


Con gusto y chau
~John Elison


---


GSE Fall 2011 - Buenos Aires, Argentina
University of Belgrano