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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

¡Adios Amigos!

Back home in La Jolla,
California for my first sunset with the family
by Elise Carlson


¡Hola guapos!


I am finally home! The journey was quite long but arriving with my sisters holding a sign and cheering for me was, well, a bit cheesy, but the best feeling ever! The whole last week I felt as if I was just watching my life from outside... like a dream. It was so surreal knowing that everything was “my last”. I know that I will be returning to Spain sometime, so it doesn’t phase me too much. What was strange to me was realizing how close I was to my classmates. We all had this unbelievable experience that is going to be impossible to explain to our friends in the sates. It’s like we are the only ones who actually will be able to understand each other’s growth.


My 2 best friends in our last walk through the park


Finals were a lot easier for me than I thought they would be, which was quite relieving. After I finished finals we had to start preparing to leave in 3 days. I spent my first free day going to our favorite cafe, Milk, with my roommates, and then to the world photo exhibit that was displayed at a nearby museum. That night we all brainstormed how to use up all our food in the kitchen to create this … interesting… lentil rice cake. I don’t recommend it.


Eric and Christina with the crew at
our good-bye dinner
The following day we all packed and were so excited for our farewell dinner with GSE. We all know how amazing these meals are, and I know I have discussed them so much throughout my blogs, but that’s only proof! Everyone dressed so elegantly for our last dinner and the room was filled with such warmth and excitement. We all were sad to be leaving but at the same time excited to start another chapter of our lives. The meal was perfect with traditional classics of croquettes, salad, fish, steak, sangria, and the Catalan Creme.


I am not the best with good byes. I kinda feel like there is no point in being too emotional about them, because they are going to happen no matter what. It was so touching though to see how many people really cared about meeting me and I realized how odd it is that we all could become this close and easily never see each other again. Only fate will decide. I became the closest with my roommates and I was so happy I had one last night with them after this dinner. Although, I must say our onsite GSE staff, Inma and Patricia will stick with me forever. They were so impressive the entire time with all our travels and felt like my family. I am pretty sure they’ll still be there when I come back to Spain, which is happening!


Our Barcelona onsite director Inma Lopez with lovely Karen saying good bye


Our last night out was just as epic as usual! We went to this underground DJ show at Macerena with this intimate dance floor that holds maybe 30 people. We danced all night and walked home through the city as the sun rose. I looked at the pink fluffy European clouds and just smiled. I have truly had the best year of my life. Now, I get to go home and celebrate Christmas and New Years! What a life!


Muchas gracias amigos,
Elise Carlson

---



GSE Fall 2011 - Barcelona, Spain
Autonomous University of Barcelona

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I’ll Remember it Forever, Even When I’m Old and Toothless

The Farewell Dinner
by William Laundon


My last week in Barcelona can only be described as hectic. Not only did I need to study for final exams, write papers etc, I also had to contemplate leaving! I had to pack, make a few last visits to places I hadn’t seen in Barcelona, and enjoy the little time I had left with all of the friends that I’ve made over the course of the semester.


I can remember one day where I was reading for my History of the Mediterranean class on the metro, while on the way to see the Picasso Museum. As a side note, if you like art, go see the Picasso Museum in Barcelona before your last week in Barcelona. It’s a pretty cool place and we were kind of rushed.


This all came to a head of course at our final farewell dinner at a great little Spanish restaurant near our apartment. It was fun, but very strange. You realize that a lot of these people you’ve met, you may never see again. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a way to visit or see the friends that I became closest to. However, I do have friends all over the U.S. now and if I’m ever traveling, particularly on the West Coast, I’ll have people who I can call up. Luckily, in this technological age of Facebook and cell phones, it’s extremely easy to keep in touch.


Dessert
I’m back home in the U.S. now. I’ve had time to relax, unpack, and see my friends and family from home. It’s really nice to be back. You don’t realize when you’re abroad how much you miss things like your favorite local restaurants, (I missed barbeque so much), and even your bed.


While I loved Barcelona, the United States will always be my home. I think I appreciate that more though from having spent so much time abroad. I’ll continue to visit Europe though, as well as other places all around the world. I am still reveling in being back home, but I’ve already started talking about a trip to Argentina and Brazil with my friends before we graduate. I’m going to start saving up money very soon to make it happen.


Our Apartment's Christmas Tree
There’s nothing more exciting and fun than traveling somewhere completely new and having experiences that you could never have at home. It’s hard to find the time and resources to take a several month trip to a foreign nation, especially as a young, twentyish, college student. This happens to be one of the best times to travel in your life though. A summer or semester abroad has got to be one of the best ways to have this opportunity and GSE was one of the best programs. It was one of the smallest and most personalized programs out of the Barcelona study abroad opportunities. We also had some of the best housing, living in apartments rather than dorms like many other study abroad students.


The Ceiling in our Apartment Building
I’ll close my last post with this. Studying abroad was one of the highlights of my life. I’ll remember it forever, even when I’m old and toothless.


Adios mis Amigos,
Will Laundon


---


GSE Fall 2011 - Barcelona, Spain
Autonomous University of Barcelona

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hai il mio cuore

My friends and me at the Farewell Dinner.
It was probably one of my favorite meals in Florence,
 even though I was tearing up all night!
by Erin Engstrom
It’s currently 6 AM and I am wide awake, and have been for almost two hours. Thank you, jet lag. Thirty-six hours ago I was sitting on my bed in Florence. Now here I am, back in California, my head spinning from the reverse culture shock that is slowly sinking in. How can it possibly be over already? No more accents, deciphering others’ broken English or attempting my own broken Italian. No more bargaining for produce, or ignoring the street vendors while they try to convince me to buy their leather. No more fresh pasta and no more “Ciao Bella!” when I walk down the street. No more Firenze.


On my last night in Florence, my friends and I
walked around the city and enjoyed
 the beautiful Christmas decorations.
This made leaving even harder to do!
My last couple weeks in Florence are a giant blur. Between studying for final exams and trying to absorb every last detail of the city, I rarely slept. I created a Florence bucket-list and crossed off all of the museums, sights and restaurants I had wanted to try all semester. I took pictures of every little thing, from my walk to class to my apartment keys. I hate to think that I will eventually forget these little details, so it was important to me to capture each one that I could.


Our final farewell dinner with the group was incredibly emotional for me. I tried to block the sadness away from my mind as much as possible, but when the dinner was over, reality struck: it was time to say goodbye. This was the first time I had to say goodbye to anyone. Fortunately, many of my friends in GSE live in California and I know that I will see them around, but knowing that we will never call each other up for pizza at Gusta, or book a quick weekend trip up to Austria makes it seem like something will be missing. I just wanted to pause time in that moment and not think about how different life will be at home. It didn’t help that Chiara was in tears as she hugged us goodbye!


Chiara, Sam and me just before saying goodbye.
I can't thank Chiara enough for how much she has helped us this semester.
She was the best part about GSE!
How do I even begin to describe my experience abroad? I know that it is cliché, but the only words I can form in my currently jet-lagged, groggy state are that it was the best four months of my life. I feel so incredibly lucky for how smoothly my entire experience went, with no major hiccups or disasters. Sure, I almost missed a flight to Budapest and spent fifty euro on a taxi ride at Oktoberfest, but I don’t look at these things negatively; they just add to the many crazy adventures I have experienced.


A few of us stayed an extra night after the
GSE program ended, and this was
officially my last meal in Florence.
 I am so greatful I got to spend it with this group!
When I think about who I was before this experience, I realize how small of a world I lived in. Though I tried to educate myself on other cultures and keep up on international news, I truly believe that understanding the world can only be done through experience. I look back on that shy, timid girl who had never traveled anywhere without her parents and think about who I am now. I know that I can count on myself now, and the world just doesn’t seem so scary anymore. I think comparing this blog to my very first one back in August proves that I have changed and grown immensely over the past semester.


If you have the slightest inclination to study abroad, do not hesitate; just do it. It is honestly the best decision I have made in my life. It doesn’t matter which country, or if you stay for a summer, a semester or a full year, studying abroad is the ultimate life changing experience. Experience the world and you will learn so much about yourself.


Thank you to everyone who read this blog. I hope that my experiences have inspired others to do what I’ve done, and I am so glad that I have been able to share it with everyone. Firenze, hai il mio cuore!


Ciao Ciao!
Erin Engstrom


---


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

Find out why so many students Study Abroad!

GSE Study Abroad General Interest Webinar


Join us for a Webinar on December 20

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, December 20, 2011
Time: 11:00 AM - 11:45 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:
https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/657662486



Friday, December 16, 2011

Learn About the Basics of Study Abroad

GSE Study Abroad General Interest Webinar


Join us for a Webinar on December 16

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: Friday, December 16, 2011
Time: 1:00 PM - 1:45 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

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/643204174



Thursday, December 15, 2011

La Peine de Mon Âme de Parisienne

Sorbonne Grads
By Lilly Baik


There’s only one way to describe it. It feels as if I’ve just woken up from the best dream I could ever have.


I’m back in California now, and I’m telling you kids, “reverse culture shock” is real and it is happening to me. It’s currently five in the morning and I’m sitting here wondering how absolutely disappointed I’m going to be when I search the town for a baguette de tradition only to come up empty-handed, or worse, with a sad excuse of a baguette from the grocery store.


GSE Pact
When I lived in Paris, I loved buying fresh baguettes from the boulangerie on my street that has been around since the 1800s. I’ve noticed that it’s all of the little things about Paris that I’m going to miss. Anyone can fawn over the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, and Notre Dame, but those are not the places I think about when I think of Paris. I think of the Saint-Michel metro entrance that I went through a hundred times to go to class or meet the group. I think of the Christmas lights on my street. I think of my favorite stop for crêpes and the fat guy who made them.


Goodbye Dinner with My French Class
Most of all, when I think of Paris, I think about the people I shared this experience with. The people I met through GSE became friends that I will cherish without end. We couldn’t have asked for a better program director than Raymond, either. This guy made us laugh for three months straight. Molly, Andie, Lynsie, Edrick, Mike, Chelsea, and Raymond made my time in Paris into what I will always remember as the best time of my life.


GSE Farewell Dinner

We had a final get-together with the whole group a couple nights before I had to leave. We went to a restaurant called Chez Papa, ate some traditional French cuisine and had an awesome waitress that didn’t hesitate to give us her opinion on what we ordered. We reminisced on all of our great times, and then decided it was time to stop being so sad and have a party!


The next morning, we who were students at the Sorbonne had our graduation ceremony. We wore caps and gowns and everything! I was sad to say goodbye to my awesome French professor, who made our class really enjoyable and brought all of us students together even though we had people from all over the world, like Sweden, Hong Kong, Ireland, Canada, Brazil, Norway, China, Columbia, and the United States. I’m truly going to miss all of my classmates as well.
Andie, Molly, Our Professor Eric, and I
Looking back now, I honestly can’t believe that I ever thought that three and a half months would be a long time. It breaks my heart to leave my friends that I met through GSE, my adorable cozy apartment, and the city that I love and grew to know more intimately than ever. I’m already trying to think of ways I can get back to Paris, a city that is now full of unforgettable memories I will hold onto forever.


Adieu,
Lilly Baik


---


GSE Fall 2011 - Paris, France
University of Paris Sorbonne

Find out how to apply Financial Aid to your Study Abroad program!



GSE Using Financial Aid to Study Abroad Webinar


Join us for a Webinar on December 15

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:Thursday, December 15, 2011
Time:10:00 AM - 10:30 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:
https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/258865422



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Back to Barca Baby

Erica, Jackie with Louy (tour guide) and me on steps
by Elise Carlson


¡Hola, estoy aquí!


I realized how much I love Barcelona when I was flying home from freezing Amsterdam Saturday morning. I took the advantage of the December holidays to travel for the last week and a half in Paris and Amsterdam. It was really cool that in both cities we happened to know people studying or visiting there. We ended up having a tour guide from my school show us all around Paris for 4 days. We went to all the key spots including Versailles, and even the Shakespeare book store! In Amsterdam we stayed at the famous Flying Pig Hostel which honestly was one of the coolest places in Amsterdam where all 150 guests from around the world stayed and explored the city together. The coldness of Paris and Amsterdam was somewhat a rude realization of what Seattle is going to be like when I return. I wore honestly half the clothes I brought and was still cold! I was so excited to return to the 50/60 degree sunny weather of Barcelona.
Fighting the freezing winds in Paris
The plane ride home was not as smooth as I thought. I realized the next time I would be flying will be next week, when I go home to the states. I tried to explain how I felt in my journal and could not figure it out. It’s like I am so close to feeling finally accustomed to this city yet have to leave before I feel completely comfortable. It took so much time to learn the streets, appreciate and understand the locals, and not to mention learn a complete new language (which is my biggest obstacle in feeling acclimated).


Freezing on a bench in Amsterdam
The guy next to me on the plane was visiting Barcelona for his first time. At first, I just told him how much he would love it, then sat for a while contemplating whether I should give him advice or not. This is another weird dilemma I have come across. I usually spend my life making sure everyone around me is just as happy as I am. But, for some reason I felt weary about offering the names of my favorite sites. One reason was I felt that he didn’t deserve to know all these tips because I am the one who had to deal with getting lost, researching, meeting new people, and finding them. Another reason is I found the spots in Barcelona that I liked best, and this east coast guy might be searching for the experiences I deliberately pushed away.


the artist's square near Sacré Cœur
So after my internal debacle, I realized how much better my visits to Paris, Amsterdam and even part of Barcelona were because I had friends tell me where to go and what to do. I realized I can at least give this guy a head start and let him know which Gaudi buildings to see, what museum to get an audio tour and some fun venues to go to. I realize he may not understand the culture and respect the locals as much as he should, but that happens with anyone who visits a new place. This city has so much depth to it, that even after living her for four months I find secret hot spots that I don’t know about, but with time those who stay get the privilege of finding “their” places. Why not help him out?


I understand city life and resentment toward tourists. Although, I really appreciate those who are generous enough to share their city and show its true beauty to those visiting. Here are a couple websites that lead me to great concerts and local events. Check them out and see what’s going on right now in Barcelona!


http://barcelona.unlike.net/ (an all event guide of art, concerts, festivals, and great recommendations of bars and restaurants)
http://myworldmyplayground.com/ (another guide to events and shows going on)


Walls inside of the Flying Pig Hostel in Amsterdam
P.S. Traveling and getting to know the in and outs of this city make me really excited to go back to school in Seattle, to get out of my university bubble, and explore the city and culture there. Sometimes it’s so easy to just stay around the campus, and going abroad makes me realize how many activities and new people surround you no matter what city you’re in. You just need the energy and desire to explore.


Ok I will quit now on my rambling and see you next week for my final blog!


Audios Guapos,
Elise Carlson


---


GSE Fall 2011 - Barcelona, Spain
Autonomous University of Barcelona

Monday, December 12, 2011

Interested in Studying Abroad in Barcelona, Spain?

GSE Barcelona Interest Webinar


Join us for a Webinar on December 12

Have you considered studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain?  The fascinating, historic city is sure to keep you on your toes as you explore exciting new places and uncover the past of the enchanting city.

Barcelona is rich in adventure, culture, and history. Visit the magnificent Palau Güell, a Gaudí architectural masterpiece. Meander through the Museu Picasso, one of the most famous Picasso collections. Get to know the Spaniards at their core by cheering alongside them for Barcelona's world-class fútbol team, El Barça, at the next soccer tournament.

Barcelona boasts a rich tradition of delicious cuisine. The Spanish have a deep love for their exquisite fare and enjoy sharing their favorite dishes with new friends. While in Spain be sure to sample the paella, cocido, arroz con leche, and trufas de chocolate!

Enjoy all that Barcelona has to offer while still earning credits towards your degree!
Title: GSE Barcelona Interest Webinar
Date: Monday, December 12, 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


Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/285550422



Friday, December 9, 2011

Learn about Studying Abroad in London, England with GSE Abroad

GSE London Interest Webinar


Join us for a Webinar on December 9

Thinking about studying abroad in London?

As one of the world's leading economic and cultural centers, London provides countless opportunities for exciting and diverse experiences. Enjoy the spectacular art collections at the National Gallery or the Tate Modern. Take in a Shakespearean play the way the Elizabethans did at the rebuilt Globe Theater.  See the city's iconic landmarks such as Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral, or the Tower Bridge first hand.  GSE programs provide the opportunity to experience these unique London sites while immersing oneself in British culture.

In addition to this, students on our GSE London program experience cultural events and excursions to such places as Bath, Edinburgh, Salisbury & Stonehenge, and Brighton.
Title: GSE London Interest Webinar
Date: Friday, December 9, 2011
Time: 2:00 PM - 2:30 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

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/695779950



Thursday, December 8, 2011

Roma and the Beginning of the End

by Erin Engstrom


Christmas Tree in Rome!
Two weeks from today, I will be back at home in California. This is so hard to believe. How has the time gone by so quickly? It’s an insanely bittersweet feeling; of course, I miss my family and friends and am excited about being home for the holidays, but I can’t face the fact that this chapter of my life is actually nearing its end. I like to drown my sorrows in apple strudel and sausages from the Christmas market that recently opened up in Piazza Santa Croce…


As part of the “beginning of the end”, our GSE group went on one last excursion together to the eternal city of Rome. We started off the trip with a tour of Vatican City. Though I have been to Rome with my family several years before, I am still fascinated by the Vatican. I can add it on my list of visited countries, because it’s the smallest country in the world! It was nice going in a tour group, because we get to pass up the ticket line that can last for hours, and I can laugh at all the people who stood outside in the rain...
My friends and on the Spanish Steps.


Our tour guide took us through the Sistine Chapel, which I think is the kind of place you have to see in person to fully appreciate. Though I have seen it before, the height of the ceiling and the overall grandeur of the chapel is truly astounding. Our tour guide gave us some very interesting information, such as the controversy surrounding the presence of nudity in a holy place. Supposedly, Michelangelo was given full creative freedom by Pope Sixtus IV, but one cardinal in charge of censorship never ceased his criticism. As an act of revenge, Michelangelo included this cardinal’s nude portrait being eaten by a snake in The Final Judgment. Now that is the kind of information I like to learn.


One of my many attempts to capture a picture
of me throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain.
After finishing the tour at St. Peter’s Basilica, we were given a free afternoon to roam around Rome (see what I did there?). A group of my friends and I went to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. We tried to get those cute pictures of us throwing coins into the fountain, but I ended up throwing more money than I intended with the amount of retakes we had. On the bright side, I got to make more wishes!


That night we had a group dinner at this amazing little restaurant near the Spanish Steps. Chiara warned us that we should show up very hungry, and I’m glad she did because it was another one of those nights when I ate until I nearly exploded. The only vegetables offered were fritti misti, which means fried and completely devoid of nutritional value. I’m not complaining though, it was delicious! Even though I was completely full, I had to keep eating because I couldn’t stand the thought of any of this food being thrown away. Thank goodness we were only there for one night, otherwise I might have gained twenty pounds.


After dinner, we decided not to take the metro back to the hotel. Instead, we slowly walked back and enjoyed all of the Christmas decorations throughout the city. I think we took a picture at every Christmas tree we saw (see first picture above for an example)!


The next day, we had another tour of the Coliseum, the Forum and the Pantheon. It rained the entire time, which of course we spent almost completely outdoors. If you know me, then you know I despise the rain, but for once I didn’t mind it too much. How could I be upset when I am looking at one of the most iconic landmarks in the world? Afterwards we had another afternoon of free time, so we tried to fit in as many other landmarks as we could. One of my friends is an art history major, so she knew all of the interesting statues and obelisks of Rome, which of course, is all of them. We basically walked around the entire city seeing every landmark we possibly could. We did so much walking that we all immediately passed out of exhaustion on the train ride home.
The Colloseum is still awesome, even when it rains!


I had a moment walking off the train where I thought “this is my last train ride in Italy”. I am refusing to let myself think like that, however. Instead, I’ve made my Florence bucket list with all of the sights, restaurants and activities I still need to do before I leave. Balancing all of this with final exams coming up will be tricky, but I am determined to make these last two weeks the best possible!


Ciao Ciao!
Erin Engstrom


---


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

Curious about Studying Abroad?

GSE Study Abroad General Interest Webinar


Join us for a Webinar on December 8

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: Thursday, December 8, 2011
Time: 3:00 PM - 3:45 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
Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/442343710