Intern Highlight: Hannah Boehlert

Hannah Boehlert is an intern with the Education Abroad team at the International Studies Office here at UVA. Last spring semester, she studied on the UVA in Valencia program to finish our her 2nd year, on which she has shared a brief reflection!

From my study abroad experience, I really learned a lot about myself. This sounds extremely cliché, but this is one of the first times of my life where after a certain experience, I can pinpoint specific things that I really developed, or things that I discovered about myself that I never knew. For example, I love spending time with friends, but study abroad really taught me how much I value and need alone time. I like being pushed out of my comfort zone, but I usually won’t do it myself, so I value having friends who are a bit more adventurous than me! I’m more of a night owl than a morning person, I’m more of a leader than a follower, and I’m not at all go-with-the-flow. These may seem like minor discoveries, but they have already begun to shape how I’m living my last two years at UVA. I’ve been inspired to meet friends, take the lead on projects, and join new clubs — all of which I know wouldn’t have happened without my four months in Valencia.

I really didn’t feel too sad during my first few weeks back in the U.S. I had missed my friends and family a lot, so I was enjoying my time with them and the freedom/relaxed nature of summer. It wasn’t until the summer students arrived in Valencia that I started to feel sentimental and sad. I typed up a huge list of advice and recommendations for two friends studying there, and I went through my photos of the whole semester, and then my nostalgia set in. I’m still happy to be home with my family and friends, but I am now able to realize how much my study abroad experience meant to me. I still get a bit wistful whenever I see photos of the students who are now in Valencia, but I’ve overcome these feelings by interning in the ISO. It’s really been great to encourage students to have the same incredible experiences that I did! I love putting my passion about Valencia by answering questions from prospective students and helping them along their study abroad journey.


Intern Highlight: Alicia Zheng

Alicia Zheng is an intern with the Education Abroad team at the International Studies Office here at UVA. Last spring semester, she studied with DIS Copenhagen in Denmark. Read some of her thoughts below on what she learned while abroad and what it was like for her after she returned to the states and UVA.

One of the best things about returning from studying abroad was seeing how my new habits from living in Copenhagen fit into my life at UVa and at home. I picked up some healthier habits, like eating the right food to fuel my renewed love for exercise. I also think that the culture encouraged me to be more honest and self-reflective. What are my personal goals, regardless of what people around me are striving to achieve? What do I think will help me achieve happiness, despite what others are expecting of me? Overall, I’m deeply grateful for the experience I had and can’t wait to visit Copenhagen again.

It wasn’t too bad coming back from Denmark to the US. I’ve done quite a bit of travelling with my family before, so reverse culture shock isn’t a new experience to me. However, since I studied abroad in the spring, coming back to UVa after 8 months away was pretty difficult to adjust back to. My host country felt much more reserved and relaxed compared to the hectic, stressful environment at UVa. It was strange to constantly have to be around a lot of different people again. My free time was lessened by a tenfold. I was exhausted by just having to interact with so many people for the first few weeks. I found that, even now, taking a day or two completely to myself is absolutely necessary for my own benefit. It’s okay to take a little time to recharge every once in a while – personally, it keeps me sane.

Exploring Amsterdam

Anh-Thu Vo is a 4th year Global Security & Justice and African & African American Studies double major. She studied last fall semester at the University of Amsterdam and learned a lot about its culture and history during her time there. Take a look at some of the photos she has shared!

This is a street in Haarlem located very close to the Haarlem train station. This walk way is quite unique because of the colors. Typically, Dutch sidewalks are made of cobble stone and various shades of brown and red. In this case the side walk is painted the colors of the rainbow bring color even on the rainiest of days.

This is a photo of Gouda cheese in a cheese shop in Amsterdam. Gouda cheese is the most popular cheese within the Netherlands. Although the name of the cheese is Gouda, the cheese is actually not produced in this city but in the surrounding area. It is called Gouda because this cheese was traditionally sold in the market in Gouda.

This photo is taken in the Johan Cruijff ArenA. Johan Cruijff ArenA is home to AFC Ajax, Amsterdam’s soccer team. This is the largest stadium in the Netherlands. Not only is it home to AFC Ajax, this arena is also home to the Dutch national soccer team. Furthermore, this arena is transformed during the off season into a concert venue where many artist have performed.

Within Zaandam [a city right by Amsterdam], you can find Zaanse Schans which looks like a 18th and 19th century Dutch town. There are historic windmills here.

This is a photo of raw herring (right) and smoked eel (left). One of the most famous Dutch dishes is raw herring. Dutch often complement the raw herring with pickles and onions. Smoked eel is a specialty in Volendam, which is where this photo was taken.

This is a photo of Muiden Castle in Muiderslot, which is a 15 minute drive from Amsterdam. This castle was built in the 13th century by Count Floris V and was along the trade route between Utrecht and Amsterdam. One of the most notable owners of Muiden was P.C. Hooft, one of the most important Dutch scholars.

This is a photo of the front of Oudemanhuispoort, which is the old law faculty at the University of Amsterdam. In the center of the courtyard is the bust of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, law, and justice.

This is a photo of the metro in Amsterdam. In the Netherlands, all Dutch students can travel by public transit for free while they are in school. Despite this fact, many students that live within biking distance still travel by bike.

This is a photo of my bike in Amsterdam. Biking is the primary mode of transit in Amsterdam. There are more bikes in the city than people.

This is a night photo of a canal near Negen Straatjes, which is a boutique shopping area in Western Amsterdam.


Chinese New Year Festivities

Renae Laurice Meana is a 3rd year Global Studies major studying at Yale-NUS College in Singapore this semester. As many of you know, Chinese New Year was a few weeks ago. As we begin the Year of the Pig, read what Renae experienced in Singapore to learn more about some of the holiday traditions around the world!

It’s the beginning of February, which means it’s holiday season in Singapore. Chinese Singaporeans are the largest ethnic group, accounting for almost ¾ of the total Singaporean population. Although the holidays may be considered over in the U.S., it feels as if it’s just beginning here. I can feel it and see it all around me.

Outside of MRT stations there are stands selling so many Chinese New Year related items. With Chinese music playing in the background of the stalls, there are red and gold decorations being sold alongside cute plush pigs since it is the year of the pig. Malls are decorated with displays of red lanterns, pigs, tangerines, and oranges (as this fruit signifies wealth and luck for the upcoming year). Booths selling goodies such as dried fruits and traditional cookies are found everywhere in the mall. At most malls, there are huge displays with all the different fortunes and predictions for the upcoming year for you, based on the year you were born. The fortunes include predictions on your health, career, love life, financial state, and more. It’s actually pretty funny how in depth they can be. For example, one of my roommates’ fortunes predicted pretty bad luck for a majority of the categories, but it did say she would find her life partner this year. The actual accuracy and validity of these fortunes is debatable. My roommates and I love reading them and seeing how they differ from mall to mall. Even the big transnational brands in the mall are targeting shoppers during the holiday season. Walking into H&M, all the advertisements feature Chinese models wearing red dresses, tops, sweaters, and suits. Beyond the shopping mall, what I love to scout out are the fast food chains and their special menu items for the New Year. McDonald’s has prosperity burgers and prosperity punch while KFC and Burger King sell New Year’s bundle meals.

Chinese New Year almost feels equivalent to Thanksgiving back in the U.S. I was able to enjoy a five-day weekend since my classes were cancelled on Monday for New Year’s Eve and Tuesday and Wednesday were considered public holidays in Singapore for the celebrations. The campus felt quite emptier, as most Singaporean students went back home to celebrate the holiday with their family. Only one dining hall was open to accommodate international students who would be staying on campus during the holiday. Speaking to some local students, many of them are exhausted from the festivities. For Chinese Singaporeans, Chinese New Year means visiting the houses of all their relatives, no matter how distant. However, what was really nice was that Yale-NUS’s president and his wife opened up their house for a Chinese New Year celebration for students that were on campus. It was a very welcoming event with a beautifully laid out table with many Chinese New Year treats and desserts. It was a really thoughtful event and a great way for international students to engage in the celebrations.

An incredible and unforgettable event that I went to with my suite was the Lunar New Year celebrations next to Marina Bay Sands. Being within a crowd of red and seeing the vibrancy of the celebrations with the music, food, and dance in the background was electric. Many families and couples were out and about to celebrate. There were so many beautiful lanterns that glowed throughout the night. Fireworks are actually illegal in Singapore so you won’t find individual households setting them off. However, the firework show put on by the Singaporean government made up for it. I have seen so many images and have watched live television broadcasts of fireworks shows during the New Year, but seeing it in person was an incredible experience.

It’s a couple weeks later and the celebrations are still going on strong. I am so glad to be in Singapore during such a festive time. The city is decorated beautifully in celebration of the New Year to bring in prosperity for the coming year. It truly feels as if the holiday season never really stopped after leaving the U.S.

Food Customs in Italy

Ariana Piacquadio is a 3rd year Italian and Global Environment and Sustainability double major. This spring 2019 semester, she is studying in Italy on the UVA in Italy: Siena program. Now that she has settled into her life in Italy, read what she has noticed and learned about food culture there.

A view of Siena, Italy from the top of the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo

There’s a reason Italy is famous for its food. Granted, it’s a bit of a stereotype to say that all Italians know how to cook and that all Italian food is amazing. However, I think I’ve eaten better food here in the past three weeks than I’ve had in my life, so maybe there’s something to it.

The standard Italian breakfast varies slightly depending on the region you live in. Here in Tuscany, most of my friends and I have experienced small and sweet breakfasts. Generally, you won’t be eating eggs or avocado toast to start your day in Italy. Most mornings, my lovely host mom leaves me cereal, Nutella, these toasted bread crackers that are kind of like big, unflavored croutons, and of course espresso. When I walk to school, I see crowded bars full of people eating pastries and coffee on their way to work. Apparently, it’s not entirely out of place order a glass of white wine with breakfast, as I witnessed someone do this just the other day.

Lunch is harder for me to pin down because I usually have to grab something quick between classes. I’m still not sure exactly what is customary. For me, I either eat focaccia from the Panificio close by, or a mix of cooked vegetables and bread from a local grocery store our group has nicknamed “fake whole foods”. If you go to a restaurant, most don’t serve lunch until 12:30 at the earliest.

My meal of trofie con pesto at Caposantachiara Ristorante in Genova, Italy

Finally, there’s dinner, which usually begins around 8:00 p.m. here. Back in the states, I’m used to a single, large meal, but Italians do this differently. The dinner begins with aperitivo, an appetizer. When I eat with my host family, we always skip this part of the meal, but I’ve noticed in restaurants that they’re very common. Next follows i primi piatti, which in my experience is almost always pasta or soup. My host mom waits until I finish this to bring out the next part of the meal, i secondi piatti. This is usually some kind of meat, but my host family is vegetarian like me so most nights we have a vegetable dish. The meal ends with dolci e caffe when I eat in a restaurant, but at home we eat fruit. Also at the restaurants, it’s very common to order a liter or two of red wine (unless you’re eating fish, in that case you drink white wine). Wine is a huge staple of the meal and living in the Chianti region makes it very easy for me to get on board with this custom.

Good food is one of the first things people associate with Italy and while there are so many layers to this place, it’s true that food is a huge part of the culture. I’m still learning the many nuances of the customs here and how they vary in every region. I feel lucky to live with a host family, where it’s easier for me to see how daily Tuscan families eat and live.

First Month in Valencia

Sarah Wartel is a 2nd year pre-Commerce student studying on the UVA in Valencia: Business program this semester. Though she has only been there for a little more than a month, she has already taken several intriguing photos in order to share what she has been seeing and learning on her education abroad experience so far.

This photo was taken Calle Colón in the commercial center of the city. Many orange trees line the streets of Valencia. The city is famous for producing oranges. (However, I would not recommend eating them directly from the tree as they are nearly inedible.)

This photo was taken in la Playa Malvarrosa. This beach is a 15-minute bus ride from the city center and is located in a fairly urban area. Many locals come to the beach to relax or exercise on the weekends. Valencia has a fairly mild climate, averaging around 60 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The people call it La Ciudad de Calor or “the City of Heat.”

This is a picture of the lobby of the apartment building of my host family. Almost everyone who lives in the city of Valencia, live in apartments like these. The buildings are narrow and tall and most people, even families, live in fairly small apartments. Very few have a large terrace.

The picture is of a butcher’s shop near the city center. Ham is one of, if not the most, popular foods in Spain. The country is famous around the world for its Iberian hams. It is very normal for people to buy the entire hams at grocery stores and local butcher stores. Sliced ham is on almost every food, especially “bocadillos” which are sandwiches with usually with thick bread and sliced meat.

The Mercado del Colon is a market located near the city center with many small cafés located on the upper level and restaurants below. Many people come to cafés before lunch for an “almuerzo” and after lunch for a “merienda.” Because there is so much time between meals, Spanish people often have a coffee or a pastry at a café to suppress their appetite until mealtime. Also, these “snacks” are a means of socializing and people will spend hours talking over coffee.

This photo was taken in my room in my host family’s apartment. Above my bed is a religious depiction of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. Spain is predominately Catholic dating back to Roman Catholicism and the Spanish Inquisition. Many of the people are still devout Catholics.

This photo, taken in a former church in the town of Xàtiva, depicts giant statues of Spanish historical figures. These figures, including a Moor and Isabella and Ferdinand, are put on stilts and people carry them in a parade during festivals in Xàtiva.

Taken on Calle Colón, near the city center, this photo features the Plaza de Toros de Valencia, a bullring. It was built between 1850 and 1859 and is inspired by Roman architecture. Bullfighting is a somewhat controversial tradition in Spain that still takes place today.

The above photo was taken in an area a little outside the center of the city. The areas surrounding the center are much less picturesque. Street art is very popular in these areas as depicted in this colorful skate park.

Semester at Sea: Photos from Around the World

Kalea Obermeyer, a 3rd year majoring in Youth and Social Innovation, studied this past fall semester on the Semester at Sea program. She went to several countries on various continents, enabling her to learn about different cultures and corners of the world. She took many pictures along the way!

East Side Gallery, Berlin, Germany. I took this photo of one of the more famed paintings on the recreation of the Berlin Wall. The East Side Gallery attempts to model the intense contrast on either side of the Berlin Wall when a divided Germany fought for common ground. The painted side of the wall was a means to communicate liberty and freedom of speech against the east side of communism and oppression.

Tema, Ghana. This photo of a casket was taken to show how differently Ghanaian funerals are conducted compared to the United States. In Ghana, a funeral isn’t so much a mourning ceremony as it is a celebration of someone’s life and an embodiment of the joy the deceased person carried in life. Mourners will often wear black or red to a funeral (white if they’re an elder and revered in the community), and rather than have just the family attend, the entire community will. The more people at someone’s funeral, the more they’re said to have brought positive change and impact to the community.

Nzulezu Stilt Village, Ghana. This is a photo of me (front) and the rest of my tour group kayaking up the Nzulezu River on our way back from the Nzulezu Stilt Village. Steven, our tour guide at the front of the kayak, was able to tell us all about how the village weathers storms, gets fresh water from non-profits and tour groups like ourselves, and makes the most of minimal resources to raise families and educate their children. I had the great fortune of seeing the local village children perform a cultural dance and hear from their head council member about their wonderful community.


Valencia, Spain. This photo was taken while on a tour in Spain, nestled between hidden valleys and hiking trails. My tour guide moved to Spain 20 years ago from Canada to follow his dream of working in hospitality and giving back to the local community. He chose to be a tour guide because after realizing his passion for the outdoors in Canada, he wanted to challenge himself to start a business in a completely different country. His biggest piece of advice? “Find what makes you most happy and turn your passion into a job.”

Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur, India. Monkeys could be found on every corner in Jaipur, even atop fort towers such as this one here at Nahargarh Fort. Nahargarh Fort overlooks the entirety of Jaipur, with bustling streets and homes far beneath the hilltop.

Kathakali Show, Kochi, India. In Kathakali shows, performers use facial expressions and hand movements to communicate different emotions rather than elaborate dance moves. The makeup used during these shows helps elaborate the smiles, frowns, and eye movements of the performance.

Mauritius’s coral reefs are some of the most magnificent in the world. However, they face impending endangerment because of the oxybenzone found in sunscreen. Whether locals or tourists use sunscreen in the ocean, or have it wash off their body in the shower, the chemicals find their way back to the sea and damage existing coral reefs. Now countries are taking a firmer stand to curb reef pollution.

Fairy Glen Game Reserve, South Africa. Fairy Glen is home to the “Big Five” animals (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and African buffalo), all kept on the reservation to evade harms way from poachers. Poachers in South Africa have decimated rhino and African elephant numbers in search of their ivory tusks. The rhino in this picture here is unfortunately a surviving victim. 

V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa. Now a bustling waterfront mall and tourist attraction, the V&A Waterfront is partially stationed on land formerly known as District 6. District 6 was a community primarily of people of color forced to relocate during Apartheid. 

Jinshanling, Great Wall of China, Beijing, China. We hiked 6 miles of the Great Wall in 4 hours. In the early morning, we were able to see the sun rise in a pink haze above the valleys surrounding the wall. The fog never dissipated as the hours drew on, but the view remained remarkable.

Osaka, Japan. Streets like this can be found throughout cities like Osaka and Tokyo, with advertisement for local foods, barber shops, toy stores, and more nestled in the alleyways of busy district corridors. This photo was taken right outside the hostel of where my group and I stayed for the duration of our time in Osaka.