Go ahead and do it. Studying abroad teaches you how to juggle social life and work. It challenges you to critically evaluate the world. You can always take a vacation to a certain country, but you won’t get the opportunity to learn in a foreign environment that often. Take a chance!

My visit to Westminster Hall: The Home of Great Britain’s Government (Mohammed – London)

In our first excursion to see the city of London, we went on what they call around here the “Hop-On-Hop-Off” bus tour. On the top of the double decker bus with a live commentator narrating the history of this old city and its magnificent architecture, we drove around the streets of London for hours, stopping at very historic buildings and sites occasionally.

Among the sites, we stopped so the tourists could get a wider glimpse at Westminster Hall. A gigantic, archaic building in the heart of London that houses both the House of the Commons and the House of Lords of the British Government. Numerous books have been written about the history of this building and it’s not something that I can share in only a few paragraphs but here are some interesting facts about the building. 

“Hop-On-Hop-Off” Bus Tour

The Beginning:

The building was first built in 1090 under King William the Second, the son of William the Conqueror. Although it wasn’t as big as it is today, it was considered as one of the largest buildings in the western hemisphere. In its early years, the building served as symbol of power and majesty of the king, but a few hundreds later, it became a permanent base of the Kings administration under King John.

The Trials:

After becoming a home to the parliament and some of the courts, the Westminster Hall hosted the Trial of King Charles I. For the first time, the King of Great Britain appeared in front of court charged with tyranny and treason. Seven days after the charges were brought against the King, the death sentence was rendered to him and then the execution was carried out. However, after a couple years, many of the judges and the people who were behind the decision were also executed and, for some time, heads were stuck on poles in the Halls of Westminster for all to see. This building also hosted the longest trial in the history of Britain. The former Colonial Governor of Bengal, back then known as East India, was brought to the hall and was charged with 16 charges of corruption. After seven years, and 142 hearings, Warring Hasting was cleared of all the charges. The trial remained to be the longest until it was recently replaced by another corruption charges against a British couple.

The part where the Queen can’t enter:

The Queen of England or any other British monarch is not allowed to enter the House of Commons, which is the  part of the Westminster hall due to parliamentarian rule dating back to 1642 when King Charles I stormed the building and tried to arrest five parliament members. To this day, neither the queen nor her replacement, is allowed to enter the building. During the anticipated Queen speech where she talks to both of the houses, the House of Commons moves to the House of Lords to attend the Queen’s speech.

Big Ben: located on the north end of the Palace of Westminster.

Top 10 reasons to work/study abroad, you won’t believe #5 (Brussels – Jack)

Working or studying abroad is something just about every young, gallivanting college student wants to experience. An exotic location with a different language and new friends is something to look forward to. The benefits to working or studying abroad are innumerous but I’ve chosen 10 (in no particular order) that I think best embody why you should head over the border, overseas or across the pond to broaden your horizon.

  1. Connections- The painfully old adage says, “It’s not what you know it’s who you know.” As much as I cringe every time I hear this, often dripping with nepotism, that doesn’t make it any less true. You need to get yourself in front of as many people as possible. This will not only put a face to a name for future applications, information or references but it will also allow you to fully shape your own thoughts about where you would like to go in the future. The Earth is a big place I’m told and the more people you know, in more places, means more opportunities. Or, at the very least, more places to visit friends.
  2. Difference- Science says experiencing new stuff is good for your brain. Going to a new place, seeing new sights, hearing new languages, and eating new food all expand your ability to think.
  3. Food- You’re going to eat some amazingly wonderful food that you can’t get wherever you live now. You are also going to eat some things that will make you a bit uneasy. You will also eat McDonalds to feel home again. Embrace it all.

    I met people from this organization at a talk on renewable energy and now we are partnering with them on our new report!
  4. Independence- When it’s 1:00 am and you have to get back to your flat and you’re by yourself, it’s up to you to find your route, ask for help and trust yourself with your own industriousness. You can do it, and you’ll do it more once you’re forced to do it.
  5. Appreciation- All the things you hate and love about back home will be put into perspective. You can begin to appreciate how and why you’ve embraced or pushed away from the normalcy of your daily life. You may even buy cowboy boots and Levis to try and feel like your back in Nebraska again.
  6. Extrovertednessism- You can lay on your bed and watch Netflix all day every day, or you can meet new people. Especially when you travel alone, you are forced to make connections you may not have otherwise. It feels good to form these connections and will improve your social skills. Plus, Netflix will always be there. Pro tip: get a VPN so you can watch whatever shows you want.
  7. Functional skills- Buzzwords. Employers want people who can do things. By studying and working abroad, you learn the skills your organization teaches you, working with different cultures and the ability to function in stressful environments.

    Brick roadways, buildings older than the United States, people parking on the sidewalks! Things are different, and that’s cool.
  8. Resume- Work or study abroad looks great on resumes! It’s exotic and people love to talk about traveling, whether you’ve been to the same place as them or if they make a completely unrelated note so they can expound on their own travels. You know what I’m talking about.
  9. Local culture- It’s different. It’s beautiful. And it may not be here for very long. Soak it in.
  10. Mini-trips- Turn your one trip into many trips and use this as a multiplier for the 9 reasons listed above!

Study or work abroad. Do it. Please. Then tell all your friends about it when you get back.

Advice for Choosing a Study Abroad Program (Lauren – Bavaria & Lombardia)

Ever since attending Indiana University Bloomington I have dreamed about being able to study abroad. I was always envious of the people that did and figured I would never be able to get lucky enough to go. Each year when it came time to apply I would fill out the applications yet never submit them, deadline after deadline passed and finally it approached my summer going into senior year. This was my last chance to get to experience life abroad and I finally decided I would put all my effort into making sure this could happen for me. It shocks me still to this day how much SPEA and IU really do want you to be able to experience this as well, and they’re beyond willing to help make it happen. I am forever grateful to attend a school that cares so deeply for their student’s education and even beyond that, personal growth. Now being here in Augsburg, Germany I feel like I am living my dream each and every second I get the chance to be here.

The citizens in Germany are some of the nicest people I have ever encountered

My first big piece of advice is, of course, GO!!

The cathedrals in Europe have the most intricate ceilings I have ever seen

Plan ahead and make sure to do everything you can to make it happen for yourself, you won’t regret it. As cheesy as it sounds, it truly does change your life.

When choosing to study abroad through SPEA you may become overwhelmed by the number of places you can choose to travel to. There are different places, different class topics, varying time frames and credit hours, and different atmospheres everywhere you go. For most people this will be the only chance they get to be abroad, especially for such an extended period of time. Personally I knew I wanted to stick to a 3-week trip somewhere in Europe. Even that doesn’t narrow it down to one or two choices; there are still many decisions to be made.

Came across the most breathtaking architecture on the guided tour of the city

I spoke to professors, went to the abroad office, read previous student blogs, and talked to fellow classmates that went on some of the programs in previous years. Everyone has different preferences but it was helpful to set the groundwork to decide what would be the best fit for me so that I still had an amazing time but did not break the bank. I knew the Bavaria and Lombardia program was the right one for me because I was going to get the most out of my experience by studying in both Germany and Italy.

My advice simply is to choose the program that best fits your personality, if you want to experience life in a developing country go with a program like Uganda. If you want to spend time at the Great Barrier Reef choose Australia, there are so many options to choose from that if you put in the time to truly think about it I know you will have the best time of your life studying abroad through SPEA!

Reflection (Lauren – Bavaria and Lombardia)

Student enjoying Bergamo city tour

My study abroad program was the Bavaria and Lombardia program that took place in Augsburg, Germany and Bergamo, Italy.  We stayed in Augsburg for two weeks and Bergamo for one, and it was the perfect amount of time to be away without getting overwhelmingly homesick. In my opinion, experiencing my program in two locations really kept it interesting and the “wow” factor of being abroad never went away since it felt like I was constantly seeing something new.

During the duration of my trip, we had multiple company visits and listened to a handful of guest speakers, both which I felt made the educational part of the trip more enjoyable rather than the standard lectures we regularly attend in the states. It kept things interesting and allowed us to see first hand how these companies conducted their business in their own ways. It is very different than what we are used to doing. The individuals we listened to had different points of view that really inspired us, American students, to broaden our horizons and open our minds. One of the guest lecturers was Irish and his culture made it so that he had a different view of the issues surrounding the EU currently. It was refreshing to be so exposed to multiple cultures.

Amazing authentic Italian stairs from outside University doors

The German and Italian students in the program were hands down some of the best and most genuine people I have ever encountered. They were so willing to help us adjust to their customs that we were not familiar with. I honestly did not ever think that I would become such great friends with the individuals in my group project as much as I did. These are relationships I will remember and treasure forever because they gave me some of the best memories I could ever imagine. I especially loved how curious they were to learn about the things we do back in the states as well. This truly helped make with making the best out of the whole experience.

Looking back, I am so grateful to have the opportunity to encounter two completely different cultures and languages, and got to see how different they can be even if they are only a few hours apart. Another amazing aspect was the cities SPEA chose were not the big time “tourist” locations and was instead very authentic in their societies. Now, I already cannot wait to go back to Europe, travel more, and recommend to every student at IU or any university to study abroad because it really does change your life.

Beautiful skies shining bright over Augsburg city center

…And Now That I am Back! (Mariah – Ireland)

Being away from the States is something I’ve always dreamed of doing. When the opportunity presented it, I had many thoughts about what it was going to be like. I believed a lot of things were going to be different. Now that I am back, I’m glad things weren’t the way I had always thoughts.

Watch Tower overlooking graveyard in Ireland.

I thought that people would be ruder.

Coming from a small town in Indiana, everyone is always the sweetest. They were always there with open arms, willing to help their neighbor at any time. Anytime I would leave good ole’ Indiana, I realized that people who live in cities lived a very different lifestyle. The faster-paced lifestyle may come off as rude in most cases. I assumed the same considering Dublin is a well-known, popular city. I WAS VERY WRONG. The Irish are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Someone told me a story about how this couple was at the airport and realized they had forgotten to buy their son a certain shirt after seeing a guy walk around wearing it. They asked the guy where he got it from and explained the situation. The Irish man told them they wouldn’t be able to find a similar one in the airport but took off the shirt and gave it to them. The people couldn’t believe. The Irish would literally give the shirts off their backs for anyone.

I thought I would never want to go home.

I knew I would fall in love with the country, but I didn’t know that it would make me love the United States more. During any conversation, the Irish will immediately call you out for being from the States. They would tell you about their adventures and how they wish they could live there. Just talking to someone who wants something you already have makes you really appreciate where you come from. I have not stopped feeling the American pride those conversations made me feel. And coming home and celebrating Independence Day will never be the same again.

The youngest sheep in the heard. The sheep was a miracle because she was born out of regular birthing season.

I thought I would be scared.

I was nervous about traveling, but besides that, I never felt uncomfortable. The Irish hospitality is amazing and I felt comfortable talking to everyone. I thought it would be scarier because of many factors. For starters, if you haven’t watched Taken before you leave, you aren’t ready to leave. Then, parents think they can scare you to death before you leave. They are just concerned and want you to be safe while abroad. In actuality, being scared before you go means you don’t have to be scared when you are there. You have been coached on how to be abroad and you don’t need to stress. All that prep makes the trip a million times better.

Even though these were all just thoughts, I am glad things went differently. I like to be surprised and everything I found was a great surprise!

How to Get the Most Out of Study Abroad (Lauren – Bavaria and Lombardia)


Students enjoying view on a beautiful morning in Bergamo, Italy

My abroad trip to Germany and Italy completely changed my life. It changed my views, my appreciation for the small things, and what I want out of my future. As cliché, as it may be, studying abroad is the best decision you can make in your college career. It is one of those things where it really is a “you never know until you try” situation.

My biggest suggestion is to break through the barrier of fear and visit less well-known cities or countries. Most people feel more comfortable going to places that they have heard of or know other people who have visited. But it was so rewarding for me to go to destinations I have never even heard of because I felt like it meant I was getting the most out of the local culture. Instead of every downtown having mostly tourist places or even American shops, I went to native boutiques and shops that sold homemade soaps, clothing, bakery items, instead of ones that sold key chains and logo shirts.

The scenery is so beautiful and each and every street you walk down is different. I encourage you to put an effort towards leaving earlier so you can get the chance to walk rather than always taking public transportation. This will allow you to closely observe the architecture, people, and the city from a different view than a bus window. This way, you have a better chance of discovering new places to return to!

My next suggestion is to try the local food even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone. Even if you hate it, isn’t it cooler to say you did something like eat snails in Paris? I mean what is more cultured than that!? There were multiple occasions where I ordered something I would normally never like and ended up ordering it again at other restaurants because it was so good. It is even fun to order something you can’t read because of the language barrier. Don’t let this lead you away! If the menu is not in English, take a chance, order something new, and the workers will be more than willing to help you out.

Augsburg, Germany was always full of fresh markets like this throughout town

Last but not least, put in an effort to make friends with the classmates from the home country in your program. Our program consisted of German, Italian, and American students. At first, I was hesitant to make an effort to attempt to make conversation, but it was by far the best choice I made on my trip. The German girls in my project group became some of the best and most genuine friends I have ever had. They were so helpful, caring, and they are people I will never forget for the rest of my life. Study abroad was the best thing to ever happen to me, and I am so lucky to have had such amazing individuals to share it with.

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