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Joe Bagazinski, 2014-15 New Zealand and Sydney Sustainable Business student blogger, writes:

DSCN0740After hearing about the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes I was not sure what to expect when visiting the city, but it turned out to be one of the strangest feelings I’ve ever had. I never knew the old Christchurch, but as I walked through the shadows of what the city used to be, I felt a mixture of despair and hope. From the city blocks and infrastructure, you could tell there was so much tradition and life within the city that had moved away. Many parks and public spaces still remain, but almost everything else vanished followed the natural disaster. Blocks and blocks of buildings were destroyed in the earthquakes and gravel lots now stand in their place.

DSCN0726After initially seeing only the destruction, it was after having been in the city for a few days that I realized that Christchurch is as special as it ever was. Sure, many of the buildings have been reduced to piles of rubble, but the effort and drive of the residents is clear. Christchurch is a city rebuilding, and there is no hiding that fact, but it’s also one of the most unique cities I have ever visited. Everywhere you look, there is a pop-up organization or shopping place, such as Re:START, doing good to help the city. As a group, we visited a makeshift dance floor in the middle of the city, a few urban farms, and volunteered pulling weeds in gardens where buildings once stood.

Dec 24 1071During our time in Christchurch, I realized that a city is not made up of buildings and physical structures. A city is made up of individuals and spirit, and no matter what happens to the buildings, the spirit of Christchurch is evident in the heart of the city.

Christchurch is an extremely special city, and with the influx of new innovators and young people willing to put many thankless hours into improving Christchurch, there’s no doubt in my mind that it will be one of the most unique places on the face of the earth.

I never knew the old Christchurch, but I cannot wait to get to know the new one.

Dec 24 1074

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Victoria Robertson, 2014-15 Fiji International Tourism for Development student blogger, writes:

Ever need to get away? To prove to yourself you can be independent in an environment foreign to you? Ever want to immerse yourself in a new culture completely?

I know I had all of these feelings when I first applied to study abroad in Fiji. And if I’m being completely honest, all I knew about Fiji was that it tends to be a fairly popular vacation destination. Oh, and it hosted Survivor one year.

Photo Source: Wikimedia

But in further research and multiple excited reviews of my program’s itinerary, I learned that it is so much more than that. Fiji offers an abundance of plant and animal life to be explored, the undeniable beauty of the South Pacific Ocean to absorb, and diverse customs and culture foreign to my own from which to learn.

Yasawa Islands, Fiji

I can’t wait until I can take pictures this beautiful of my own!

And hey, isn’t that exactly what studying abroad is all about?

When I first submitted my study abroad application, I didn’t think I had a chance. I didn’t think an English major belonged on a program focused on studying tourism and its impacts. I couldn’t have been more wrong and am thrilled that I ignored this thought and applied anyway.

The bottom line: study abroad is all about taking in something new. You step out of your comfort zone and experience what the world has to offer as you never have before. And that’s exactly what I plan on doing.

Xuanyan Ouyang, 2014-15 Fiji International Tourism for Development student blogger, writes:

 

QingdaoFor me, to travel is to discover something new, something that will surprise me about myself. During each journey I find out who and what I am. My name is Xuanyan, and I am from a city named Foshan in Southern China.

My feet have stepped into 20 cities in China and since choosing to study abroad in the United States, I have had many more opportunities and visited 12 cities across the U.S. I have often traveled with my friends and family, but the first time I traveled on my own was to Qingdao. In another experience in Orlando I was able to live with a host family for the first time and experience a real Christmas.

 

 

IMG_8497When I was little I think my mom and dad always let me walk by myself and pretended not to care and that’s why I love exploring now. I imagine this kid walking farther and farther, but his parents are always watching him behind. They are my home, where I can go back and have a rest during my journey in this world.

 

 

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During my study abroad trip to South Africa, I expanded my horizons. As the only international student in our group, I found out what it was like to experience culture shock and realized that I could survive. On our way to a football game, I took photos of these lovers with a South African flag. It was just a short moment, but it made me see that love is always amazing.

 

 

 

 

DunhuangWith a career goal of being a visual media producer, I want to continue to tell stories by taking advantage of the power of multimedia. My next stop is Fiji, a paradise for winter break. Want to see awesome photos of scenery, food and people? Then don’t forget to check out the AUIP student blog. Want to know more stories behind the images of Fiji? Follow my blogs; let’s begin the show!

 

 

Courtney Roth, the Hokies Abroad marketing intern, writes:

During our study abroad in North Queensland, we learned about the pernicious human impact on the environment. Upon my return to the U.S., I made a conscious effort to live a more sustainable and environmentally friendly life.

With 2015 right around the corner, many of you may be having a difficult time deciding what your New Year’s resolution should be. If this is the case, fear no more, here are three easy-to-keep lifestyle changes that can help you to live a greener life and decrease your carbon footprint.

  1. Instate Meatless Mondays: Research has shown that meat consumption can be damaging to the environment, requiring mass amounts of water and gas for production and transportation. Going without meat one day a week may help prevent overconsumption. Furthermore, there is data to support that decreasing meat intake may decrease your chances of getting cardiovascular disease or cancer.
  1. Plant a tree: Everyone knows that trees are good for the environment; they offset carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and provide shelter for wildlife. An easy way to decrease your own carbon footprint is to plant a tree sapling in your yard. Better yet, make a fun day of it and encourage your friends to get together and plant trees together. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did. Planting trees does not require a huge lifestyle change but does create a long-lasting positive environmental impact.
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Virginia Tech students look out over a reforestation project in the Daintree Rainforest

 

  1. Utilize energy efficient light bulbs: Replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with halogen incandescent can decrease energy consumption by 25 to 80 percent. Furthermore, eco-friendly light bulbs can last up to 25 times longer than traditional light bulbs, actually saving you money! If you like saving money, helping the environment, and hate replacing light bulbs all the time, then buying halogen light bulbs may be the best decision you make in the New Year! For more information about eco-friendly light bulbs, visit: energy.gov.

Adam Carron, the Buckeyes Abroad marketing intern, writes:

Figuring out how to avoid breaking the bank while studying abroad can be a difficult task, especially when it comes to food! However, I found that there are some strategies to limit this expense and put that money toward something much more interesting, such as a Shotover Jet ride in Queenstown!  Here are a few tips to keep you on track:

  1. Pack convenient snacks from home: Consider your staple foods that you have at home that would be beneficial to have while overseas. For example, think about granola bars and crackers that make easy, convenient snacks. Ensure you check local customs regulations for importing food. In particular, Australian and New Zealand customs regulations can be quite strict and you always need to declare any food items. After checking policies, then pack as many of these items as you can because they typically cost more, especially in Australia and New Zealand, but make delicious and cheap snacks that can substitute for lunches.
  1. Plan your meals in advance: Throughout your program, make sure to plan your meals to avoid impulse purchases that are simply convenient. Decide where you will be going for lunch or dinner and give yourself a budget so that you do not settle on a more expensive meal than you planned.

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  1. Head to the grocery store: Find time to visit to a local grocery store and purchase food with the intention of making your own meals whenever they aren’t provided with the group. For lunch, you can buy cheap sandwich makings that last several days and can still be delicious with a little bit of preparation. Making your own lunch provides flexibility when you are out hiking for the day and is much cheaper than a local café. For dinner, basic meals like pasta or burgers are inexpensive yet filling options. Plus, cooking dinner with your classmates can provide a unique bonding experience.

By following these simple and economical steps you should be able to save money overall or simply save up for a fancy dinner with friends or an adventurous activity on your free day! Utilizing some of these suggestions will help you stay under your food budget and prevent unnecessary stress when you are enjoying your study abroad experience.

Caroline Gilmore, the Richmond Down Under marketing intern, writes:

 

When I arrived in Townsville for the North Queensland, Australia program last summer, I knew little about Aboriginal Australian culture. The little I remembered from high school was certainly not enough. Fortunately while in Australia, we were given the opportunity to connect with the indigenous community, forever changing my perspective.

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The day we spent at Mungalla Station, an area operated by the Nywagi people, allowed our group time to explore and understand Aboriginal culture in a hands-on way. We had the opportunity to learn how to throw a boomerang, make ochre and watch one of our guides, Buddy, play the didgeridoo. I embarrassed myself trying to throw the boomerang – it’s more difficult than it looks – while others were able to show off their athletic talents.

We also worked alongside Big Jake, another of our guides, to help restore the wetlands area, which has been overrun with hymenachne, an invasive plant species. As we worked, Big Jake explained to us the unique relationship between Aboriginal people and the land. He described the environment as a pharmacy, where each plant traditionally had a specific use within the tribe.

He emphasized that his family places a priority on living their lives in harmony with the environment.  After everything we had been learning about sustainability, the visibly strong connection that Big Jake’s family had with the land was extremely insightful. While I already knew a little about the Aboriginal lifestyle, nothing compared to speaking with Buddy and Big Jake, hearing their stories, and being able to truly interact with pieces of their culture.

Carly Kubly, the Eagles Abroad marketing intern, writes:

 

Usually the first thing that comes to mind when you imagine a vineyard is row upon row of grapes. Having grown up in a farm town in Minnesota, I have seen my fair share of crops and so was not particularly thrilled to be taking a tour of a vineyard while in New Zealand. Little did I know I was about to fall in love with the winery.

 

Yealands Winery, although it obviously has many rows of grapes, also has a much more complex environment. The landscape at Yealands, located in Seddon, New Zealand, contains many different wetland areas, trees and flowers. Native birds and sheep also call the vineyard home. This biodiversity has set Yealands apart from other vineyards.

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One of Yealands’ utmost priorities is sustainability, which is backed by the fact that their winery was the first in the world to be certified as carboNZeroCert™. It is their goal to become the most sustainable winery in the world, and they are well on their way, particularly having engineered the world’s first vine pruning burners as a major energy source. One of their more innovative tactics is to play classical music to the grapes. Yealands powers stereos with solar energy in order to help the grapes grow faster – certainly not something I would ever have thought of.

 

While I learned a lot about sustainability at Yealands, I also learned the importance of keeping an open mind when visiting a new place. For me an activity I was not as excited about ended up being one of the most interesting parts of my program. It is easy to make assumptions, but I challenge anyone studying abroad or even just visiting some place new to have an open mind – you never know what you will find!