COIL: Lakewood Meets Bhutan in the School of Business

by Dr. Khendum Choden, School of Business


This semester, my BU321: Electronic course here at GCU is working on a COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) project with Royal Thimphu College (RTC), located in the capital, Thimphu, in Bhutan. During my summer break in Bhutan, I met with the Dean of RTC, Dr. Shivaraj Bhattarai, Ms. Nawang Yangden, Program Leader and Mr. Jeroen Uittenbogaard, Senior Lecturer who teaches the EDP201- Theory and Practice of Entrepreneurship course at RTC.

The students in Prof. Jeroen’s course in Bhutan are working on a Business Opportunity Identification assignment this semester. The assignment requires students to pick one business idea to build their business plan. The students are divided into teams and each team is assigned to a team of students at GCU. The students in my Electronic Commerce course then start communicating with the students in Bhutan in order to  share knowledge, conduct collaborative research, and recommending a free website service while functioning as website design consultants.

Through collaboration with their peers abroad and at GCU, the students recommend various ways electronic commerce (social, local, mobile) can be used to market their business idea.






A Great Way to Commemorate

Dr. Michael Gross, Faculty Co-Advisor — World Wars/Holocaust Europe Study Abroad Trip

Because I was fortunate to have visited Amsterdam, Paris, Normandy and Dachau before this trip, the most memorable parts of the trip for me came from the new places or exhibits that I saw.  In Amsterdam, I enjoyed seeing a special exhibit at the Stedelijk Museum on how the museum’s collection of valuable art was moved to a special bunker built in a sand dune to protect it from possible bombing during World War II.  I was impressed at the incredible amount of planning and effort that went into the process of building and then moving the many pieces of artwork to the custom-made bunker.

In Belgium, from the Last Post Ceremony I’ll always remember the old French veteran (Henri Gevaert) who explained to us that he came to the ceremony in Ypres every year for the reunion of the “Para Commandos.”  He pointed out a British veteran who had parachuted in the D-Day landings.  At the end of the ceremony, he took a photo of our group, and then sent it to me the very next day.  From the tour of the battlefields the next day, seeing cemetery after cemetery of the British war dead drove home how much loss of life there was in the “Great War.”  Our guide explained that the British were buried on site due to government policy while the remains of soldiers of other nations were repatriated.   Both the In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres and the History of the Great War Museum in Peronne (France) gave a great overview of World War I from the Belgian and French perspectives.


In Caen, France, the Memorial museum did a great job of linking the WWI and WWII parts of the trip with its exhibit that started with the failed peace of WWI and continued through WWII and beyond.   An added benefit was encountering a young French university student in the train station.  She explained in French that she was selling magazines that she had helped write as part of a competition in her university (she was a business student).  It turns out she spoke perfect English, having lived in West Virginia for several years.  She was kind enough to talk to us in English for a little while.  Several of us bought copies of her magazines to help her team in their competition.

In Munich, seeing the building that housed Hitler’s former office and the places where he gave many speeches was interesting, but I particularly liked visiting the Monument to the White Rose Resistance Movement’s members in front of the Ludwig Maximilian University.  Here, several courageous young university students spoke out against Hitler’s regime and were then arrested and beheaded.  Their words are memorialized in the pavement in front of the university.  Our guide asked one of our students to re-read part of the speech of one of the student resistance members.   All in all this trip was a great way to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Great War and the 70th anniversary of World War II.

The Beautiful World Around Me

by Abigail Dill, Buenos Aires Dance Project Study Abroad Participant

I was among a few select dance majors chosen for a study abroad trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I had the time of my life touring the city, taking dance classes, watching performances and rehearsals, and making new Argentinian friends. Everyone in Argentina was so welcoming and friendly!


I am so thankful to have had this amazing opportunity to experience a new part of the world and to learn about a new culture. The best part was that I was able to experience all of this with some of my closest friends. Some highlights from the trip were seeing Edgar Degas paintings in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, walking around the beautiful Cementerio de la Recoleta, touring the Colon Theatre, and taking dance classes at the Universidad Nacional de San Martin. My favorite memory was Tango dancing at a Milonga and watching a champion couple perform. The pair danced together so beautifully that it brought me to tears.


There were so many unforgettable memories made on this trip and I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of them. In the future I hope to continue to follow my desire to travel and experience the beautiful world around me.




An American In Paris (And A Few Other Places)

by Amanda Earle, World Wars/Holocaust Europe Study Abroad Participant

Ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted to travel. Thanks to Georgian Court University I was finally able to experience Amsterdam, Ieper, Caen, Paris, and Munich. In Amsterdam, I visited the Anne Frank House, which had moved me to tears. Seeing the home that Anne had to hideout in during World War II was moving, because pictures do not do the home justice. I felt claustrophobic due to the small size of the rooms, yet I did not let that feeling overcome me because I had to keep in mind that Anne and the Frank family had to stay hidden in this small home for years. After Amsterdam, the group traveled to Ieper, Belgium.


In Ieper I learned about the multiple battles that took place in the town during World War I. It was astonishing to see how the town rebuilt itself, as I reflected on older photographs from directly after the war. After Ieper, we traveled to Caen, France where we visited the beaches of Normandy, more specifically, Omaha Beach. Recalling the Allie-Invasion during World War II, it was interesting to learn that the French use the beach as a summer resort place. Since there were so many lives lost on this beach, it is very mind-boggling to learn that the beach has not been turned into a memorial site.


In France, I was lucky enough to visit Paris for a day and a half. In Paris, I was able to visit the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louve. I found it incredible that I was able to see in person France’s more prominent symbol: the Eiffel Tower. It was surreal! I was also able to walk under the Arc de Triomphe, which brought back memories of photographs that I had seen of Nazi soldiers driving underneath the arch, during their occupation of France in World War II. France was all it had been cracked up to be: it was beautiful.


Our last stop on this trip was to Munich, Germany. In Munich our tour guide was one of the most fun and energetic people I have ever met! We visited the BMW headquarters, which was dreamlike in itself, and we also visited prominent historical locations from World War II. We saw many memorial sites, where Jews and other victims of the Nazi Regime had been murdered. The most moving location in Germany that we had visited was Dachau, a concentration camp site. At Dachau, we were able to observe still-standing gas chambers, ovens, and living-quarters. This location, like the Anne Frank House, brought us all to tears. It was very difficult to walk through Dachau, because it felt so surreal and unbelievable. As we walked, I felt an awful haunted feeling, due to all of the energy that the site produces. It was a bitter way to end a wonderful trip, but it truly was one of the most educational experiences I have ever had. This trip was life-changing and I am extremely grateful for the experience.


Soaring in the Clouds of Costa Rica

by Samantha Torinese, Costa Rica Tropical Ecology Study Abroad Participant

Being in Costa Rica was one of the most interesting and life changing experiences I have ever had the pleasure of participating in. I had never been to another country before, and to visit one that is so different from our own was very eye opening. This trip helped me reflect on myself and my lifestyle, and also make a few new friends along the way.

samt1  samt2

One of my favorite parts was when we learned about the different tribes that lived and still live in Costa Rica. Their culture and religions are so different than our own and sometimes we are so wrapped up in ourselves that we forget that other people have very different ways of life than our own.  Another part of this experience that taught me something was going zip lining for the very first time. As someone who is very afraid of heights, it took a lot of courage to be that high up in the mountains held up by a single wire. But I was flying through the clouds looking down on the forest though, all of my fears melted away. All I could think was of how beautiful the Earth was and how amazing life is and how much I would miss the Earth if it was gone.


It makes you open your eyes to what is really important in life and how essential the Earth is to all of us. When you really pay attention to the beauty of the Earth, you wonder how anyone could not see it in the first place.

A Week in Paradise

by Gabrielle Tull, Costa Rica Tropical Ecology Study Abroad Participant

This international experience was really a life changer and an eye-opening experience. I did things I would have never imagined and exceeded my personal self expectations. I zip-lined over the rainforest, hiked a 5 mile trail with steep terrain and navigated the Sarapiqui River rapids on a raft. The greatest take away from Costa Rica was the generosity and care the local people had towards us and towards nature. Costa Rica is such a diverse country and they really care about protecting what is left of their beautiful country.


In Costa Rica, we visited three different rainforest regions. We were high in the beautiful cloud forest of Monteverde, near the base of Arenal volcano and in the lowland rainforest La Selva. It was a surreal and tranquil experience to be as high as the clouds. Being in Monteverde, breathing the fresh air and seeing the lush vegetation was so much better than simply looking at pictures of the place. Also, seeing the plant and animal interactions in action has helped enhance my learning of ecology. The most interesting interaction was the leaf cutter ants and the fungus they feed leaves to eat. The ants are such strong creatures and it was incredible to see the ants carrying leaves 5 times larger than them.


The locals had a phase they used often, pura vida. “Pura Vida” was literally translated to pure life but was used as a greeting and is a motto for the country. The concept of pura vida and living life to its fullest has stayed with me and has become a part my lifestyle. I will always have a little bit of Costa Rican lifestyle with me.


Costa Rica … An Unforgettable Experience

by Lesly Escobar, Costa Rica Tropical Ecology Study Abroad Participant

For the spring semester of my senior year at Georgian Court University, I was given the opportunity to go to one of my dream places, Costa Rica. As part of my Tropical Ecology class this semester, the lab portion of the class was conducted at Costa Rica. When I heard of this class I was immediately interested in going but I knew the extra cost for the class was not something I could afford at the time. Fortunately, I was told there was a scholarship I could apply for; and thankfully with the awarded scholarship my dream of visiting Costa Rica came true.


As a student enrolled in the Tropical Ecology class, I was required to conduct a group research study of group choice, in Costa Rica. My research partners Samantha Kuntz, and Meredith Hoffman, and I studied at Costa Rica, the floral color preference of pollinators. In Costa Rica we visited three different locations in which we did our studies: Monteverde, Arenal, and La Selva. In our study, we focused on pollinators and floral species. Our experiment was able to be conducted successfully in all three locations.

escobar1 escobar3

Before going to Costa Rica I never would’ve imagined how truly amazing Costa Rica is. The diversity of flower and animal species is breathtaking. I have learned about the ecosystems and vast biodiversity of species in my Ecology class this semester, but being able to go to Costa Rica and see its beauty in person, was the best experience I’ve had at this point in my life. I was able to experience zip lining through the Cloud Forest of Monteverde, climb up to the mountain top and touch clouds, and experience the overall magnificence of Costa Rica. I was also able to experience the relaxing volcanic hot springs of Arenal, white water raft in the rivers of Costa Rica,and be able to get closer to a group of amazing girls that I can consider my friends now.


Costa Rica for me, felt like home. I felt as that is where I belonged in my heart. Costa Rica reminds me very much of my families country El Salvador. In a way Costa Rica felt so close to home that it made me love the country even more. At La Selva, I felt as if that is where I belonged, in the jungle rain forests of Costa Rica. I am truly grateful I was able to experience the culture, diversity, and great country of Costa Rica. It is an unforgettable experience that I am always going to remember and reminisce of the amazingness of Costa Rica.

Thank you Georgian Court and its caring and loving staff, and donor that made more than one of my dreams come true by this trip.

Experiencing Buenos Aires: An Artful Encounter

by Mackenzie Morris, Buenos Aires Dance Project Study Abroad Participant

Prior to my experience in Argentina I had never traveled outside of the country. Needless to say I experienced quite the culture shock. Having read up on the culture of Argentina (specifically in the area of Buenos Aires) as well as reviewing customs and language differences learned in previous Spanish courses, I was prepared for many of the cultural changes such as greeting with a kiss on the cheek, the food differences, etc. I was ready to approach the cultural shift with an open mind. Even so, reading and researching a culture is very different than actually experiencing it first hand. I knew that the people of Argentina were relatively intimate but I had no idea to what extent. Not only were people more publicly affectionate but the physical space between people was closer, more proximate; personal space (which is typically highly valued in American society) did not seem to be an issue or even noticed at all, especially when on the road. As well, there seemed to be a more communal, sharing atmosphere in general.

On a more somber note, the disparity between wealth and poverty was quite distressing. We were warned that the political climate of the area was particularly unstable, fluctuation in monetary value was commonplace, and that we would experience begging and homelessness throughout the city. Despite knowing this prior, it was, as I mentioned before, distressing and frankly sad to see and experience first hand not only homeless adults, but young children as well. There were also a great deal of stray dogs and cats that would roam around as well. One other, slightly less disparaging aspect of this trip which shocked me greatly and that I was not prepared for was just how influenced by American culture they are. Many of the people we encountered could speak english and translate with ease and most restaurants had two menus, one in Spanish and one in english. Even more, almost all of the music we heard was the same as we would here in the U.S. and there was a plethora of McDonald’s, Starbucks, and ads for American companies and brands generally written in english. Even the people, specifically a group of dancers we met, know more about American politics than most of us in the group do.

Aside from the culture shock, I was also in complete awe over all of the beautiful art and architecture we saw. We first visited a church, Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar, which had the most beautiful and colorful displays and tiles inside. From there we visited La Recoleta Cemetery, one of the highlights of the trip due to its stunning, intricately detailed monuments. We also visited two museums, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and Palais de Glace. We were also fortunate enough to be invited to see many rehearsals and lighting/dance installations such as a ballet rehearsal being held in our directors old studio as well as sit in on a incredible rehearsal of one of her old student’s work (one of my favorite parts of the trip because most of the piece dealt with floor work which is an area of dance I enjoy most). The lighting/dance installations were also incredible: the first used computer software to project images of space with dancers seeming to defy gravity onto very unique surfaces; the second was a live performance which utilized lasers and light beams reflecting off of or through different surfaces such as hole drilled into construction paper, broken cd’s, and mirrors.

Walking through La Recoleta Cemetery


Towards the end of our stay in Buenos Aires, we were finally able to take some classes at the Universidad National de San Martin or UNSAM, under the direction of Oscar Ariaz. We took a Graham modern class the first day then ballet on the second while also participating in a choreography class and one of Oscar’s company’s rehearsals. Within the choreography class, taught by our director, we talked about our choreography projects and some of us (myself included) had the chance to teach parts of our choreography to the participating students. It was interesting and genuinely fun experience to see that, even through a language barrier, the students were able to pick up the choreography easily and even perform it at the end of the class. It was a wonderful experience to see my own choreography set on these students particularly because you could see their willingness to learn, explore, and play with the movement and the ideas behind it. I even had two girls approach me after class to tell me that they were very interested in my movement exploration and we ended up exchanging information, another highlight of the trip.

Sitting in on Oscar’s company rehearsal at UNSAM


We were also fortunate enough to sit and and eventually participate in Oscar’s company rehearsal, which was an inspiring experience. The company members were so dedicated, hard working, and passionate about their work and the movement set on them, often times repeating the same movement over and over until they could perform it almost like it was second nature and without prompt from the director. Not only were they amazing dancers but they were also gracious and welcoming, inviting us out to eat on our last night. The entire experience of dancing with them, seeing them perform, and then later talking with them (although it was difficult to get past the language barrier) I felt inspired and motivated to take what I had seen and gained from this experience and apply it not only to what is left of my academic career here at GCU but also to my future experiences, wherever they may be. I cannot express how grateful I am to have had this once in a lifetime opportunity and experience all that I did; I may have left a piece of myself in Argentina, but I have gained so much in return.

Our last night: Spent with some of the lovely dancers from UNSAM


An amazing mural in La Boca


A New Way of Learning

by Gabrielle Vella, Buenos Aires Dance Project Study Abroad Participant

I never thought in my college career that I would have been asked to experience life in another country. When I was offered a scholarship to go to Argentina; I was shocked. It didn’t hit me until we were on a 10 and a half hour plane ride that I was up for the best experience of my life. It was then that I started to reflect on my college career and how it has led me to this opportunity; all of the struggles and battles became the most valuable moments for me because it was those moments that led to success, which was being offered to dance in Argentina. This experience taught me valuable life lessons, as well as opened my eyes to a much more important factor: dance is what I strive to do.

The most interesting part of the trip was developing ways to comprehend the language as well as communicate, since they speak Spanish. Luckily, I knew many of the basic terms and phrases to help me get by. It was a challenge when ordering food or purchasing souvenirs, to say the least. However, I tried my best in respect for their language and country, and I actually found myself very engaged with the culture when I did try to use the language. Their culture is very uplifting, not only are they very religious, they are motivated, appreciative, and spiritual. Tango is a form of dance that keeps their culture alive, since they express the true meaning of love and romanticism. It was amazing that these individuals would tango in the streets and play music, it made the city feel so alive and welcoming. The liveliness rubbed off on me and made me inspired and motivated, an overall extravagant feeling.

The most valuable part of the trip was attending UNSAM, or Universidad Nacional de San Martín, where I was able to take class, teach my choreography, and watch the professional company rehearse. The experience of taking class, in another language nonetheless, was unbelievable. The classes were so well executed and the students were knowledgeable and talented. I worked hard to pay attention to the movement as well as fully embody it, which was difficult yet motivating. My favorite class was the composition class where I was able to teach my choreography to the students. It was a difficult task, since many of them did not speak English, although I may add that quite a few did know it well enough to communicate briefly with me. I had a group of ten students, where I was able to teach them the beginning of my senior choreography since it incorporates partnering. I also taught them two other phrases from my work. I was absolutely astonished by these students; their interest to learn my choreography made me feel accomplished and welcomed. They would try their hardest to ask me questions about the quality, speed, and direction of the movement. I was able to break down the movement with one of the girls that performed my piece, so the students had a visual of what the movement should look like. I continuously showed the movement and the students followed along with full engagement. It made me want to work harder and made me feel very professional, as well as comfortable. At any given moment I would perform the movement with them and then they would ask me not to perform it with them to make sure they knew the material on their own. They never gave up and that gave me extreme amounts of appreciation and motivation.

Overall, I brought this work tactic back home with me. I always have the urge to dance, but now I see dance at another level. I continuously try to experiment with unknown movement so my body can inhibit the material. This process makes me work harder and dig in deep to truly find the motion and intent of the movement. I feel as though me teaching my work to the students actually taught me more than I ever expected. I never thought my level of dedication could increase so rapidly and make my love of dance stay alive.

Furthermore, watching the professional company of UNSAM was by far my favorite experience of the entire trip. Oscar Araiz is an absolute genius and his choreography never left a dull moment for the eyes to watch. These dancers were physically built so beautifully and it was shown through their dancing. The continuous engagement to the characters the pieces required was so intriguing and made the pieces that much more interesting to watch. They were extremely well rounded in technique, I never seen them make a mistake. They were always on the side fully embodying the movement of the next piece they were going to work on, they never stopped moving; and when they did not have a piece to work on next they were doing push ups or sit ups. I was so inspired. I could not help but to think I want to be them. Their drive was so contagious and it was then I realized again that I want to be part of a company like this. Their work ethic was at such a high level it was amazing to see the behind the scenes of a professional company. We were able to learn a short section of one of the pieces and dance it with the company dancers. They were so welcoming and helpful, I never seen them not smile. The littlest things stood out to me the most, and I could not help my jaw from hitting the floor with their knowledge and talent.

Here is a picture of the 16 company dancers performing one of Oscar’s pieces:


On the other hand, visiting the most exquisite sites of Buenos Aires taught me a lot about their culture, history, and art. I visited the Colón Theatre, The Pink House, La Boca, Palermo Viejo, La Recoleta Church and Cemetery, and many museums. I constantly felt inspired and motivated. That was my overall feeling of the trip; I cannot use those words enough. I was able to incorporate this experience to the art form of dance. I found a parallel between the locations and my major: that beauty and meaning can be expressed in many different ways. I found the culture fascinating, as well as the historical sites. One of my most favorite locations was La Recoleta Cemetery, where the tombs were “buried” above ground in these beautiful tiled, old mini buildings. It surprised me that their way of burial was so different compared to where we live. However, it was amazing how the structure of the cemetery was in relation to its age and meaning.

Here is an overhead view of La Recoleta Cemetery:


La Boca was another amazing site to see. It was like we saved the best for last since we went on the day we were flying back home. This was an area that many tourists attended- it was funny to hear so many people speaking English as opposed to Spanish. These beautiful buildings are painted bright colors and are historical sites where the immigrants used to live. There is a rich history that lies within this small village. However, there are many stores, restaurants, and markets outside. La Boca reminded me of a revamped version of Little Italy, but brighter. I gained more appreciation for Buenos Aries because of the long timeline of history and meaning; they never let their culture die and that is truly inspiring.

Here’s a picture of La Boca:


Overall, Argentina was the most motivating and inspiring time of my life. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity. I wish I could express how this has changed my outlook on many different things; there is a personal meaning that lies within me that is nearly unexplainable. I felt so alive, like I was living every moment to its greatest extent. I have always been a visual learner, so traveling was always in my interest. Yet, this trip I did not expect to have such a drastic, positive outcome. I really engaged in all of the activities and moments, and feel as though it could have not been any better…unless we had stayed longer!




Finding My Way in Costa Rica

by Rachel Kowal, Costa Rica Tropical Ecology Study Abroad Participant

There are many things I could say about Costa Rica.  However I will pick a few experiences to talk about. I believe your experiences are what define you in life, and this experience has definitely altered how I look at the world. There was so much about the culture there that I didn’t know about, but I learned quickly. Especially at Monte Verde. This is where in my mind our group became like family. We opened up and explored into town, ate the food of the locals and just bonded. I became close with people I would have never otherwise. The culture there is so unlike our own that you sometimes need to take a step back and remember, this is no weird this is just different from what I’m used to. There were a lot of times I had to do that.


One of the things I will never forget was white water rafting. I am terrified of heights so I had a panic attack and couldn’t do the zip line. I however did do the rafting. This was so much fun and not as scary as I thought it was going to be. Although jumping off a cliff was still terrifying because of my fear of heights. But I did it, I jumped off the cliff into the slightly cold water and swam to the rafts and got in. This was the beginning of the long journey down the river. I think the thing I will remember the most about this is our raft guide, Daniel. He really made the trip what it was. He and the other raft guide Luis would try to knock each other’s rafts in. It was so funny when they would push someone into the water. Well until it’s you then it’s not as funny. I cannot wait to go white water rafting again. This experience taught me I can’t let my fears hold me back and I just need to take baby steps until I overcome them. Maybe next time I will go zip lining.

I think the thing that surprised me the most is how well they have protected their lands and not destroyed as much as we have for industry. Their country is beautiful because of all the biodiversity and nature. I have never seen so many bird species in my life, the amount of hummingbirds alone was incredible. This trip just makes me want to strive harder to protect what little nature we have left here in America. One day I will open my own rescue just like the owner of the Toucan Rescue did. I will do my part to conserve what we have left and educate people. I might not have baby sloths like she does to influence people but I do have a lot of gained knowledge from this experience and I have my passion to guide me.

kowal2  kowal3

I think this trip really told me that this is what I need to be doing with my life. Trying to make the world a better place for the nature that we still have remaining. I know that I will be able to use this experience for years to come in order to achieve my goals. However, none of this would have been possible without the help of my scholarship. So thank you to everyone who made it possible to have this wonderful experience. I will forever be grateful.

Take That Chance and Run With It!

by Meredith Hoffman, Costa Rica Tropical Ecology Study Abroad Participant

As a student- athlete here at Georgian Court, there was always one thing I wanted to experience before I graduated college, and that was to study abroad. With the help and encouragement from fellow colleagues and passionate professors, my dream came true. I never knew if I would have the opportunity to travel abroad while being so busy with my academics and sports team. This Easter Break [2015] I traveled to Costa Rica with fourteen colleagues and two professors to study Tropical Rainforest Ecology.


There were so many mixed emotions flowing through my body; from anxiety, stress, and of course, excitement! My brother traveled to Peru for six months while in college as a student-athlete as well, and hearing amazing stories about his experience and journey in a different country really pushed me to go through with this journey. I never dreamed that I would ever gain the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica to experience a new culture, new surroundings, new people, and new studies, and to finally share my memories and new experiences with my family and friends. Being able to have the roles reversed and share the amazing opportunity was absolutely amazing!

Hoffman2   Hoffman3

While in Costa Rica, my fellow colleagues and I were assigned a research project for our Tropical Ecology course. Samantha, Lesly, and I chose to study the different types of flowers and pollinators attracted to each flower species. Although the hard work and thought put into the research proposal was stressful, doing the research with Samantha and Lesly was amazing. One amazing experience I gained from this trip was the new knowledge and insight from different perspectives of my fellow classmates, especially these two young women.

Some say, “you don’t actually experience the beauty of nature until you are one with nature.” After hiking through several rain forests and walking over every suspension bridge, I believe that I have finally experienced the beauty of nature. Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but there is no other way to experience the beauty of nature than being apart of it. Traveling to three different parts of Costa Rica [Monte Verde, Arenal, and La Selva] has opened a new door in my future to travel and experience nature in other parts of the world.

Another unforgettable memory of this trip was flying over the canopies of the trees in the rain forest of Monte Verde and seeing the world from a different perspective, a perspective I never thought I would ever see the world from, zip lining in the clouds. There was apart of me that never felt so happy I was so high in the sky where I put all the problems away for a minute and just enjoyed the beauty of the world from on top!

I always have adrenaline running through my body while experiencing something new for the first time, but the adrenaline rushing through my body before zip lining was almost unbearable. That unbearable adrenaline rush was probably the first and last time such a feeling can be life changing! To say this opportunity to travel abroad and experience amazing places, people, culture and nature were life changing is probably an extreme understatement. Life moves too quickly and if an opportunity of a “lifetime” comes available, take that chance and run with it!


Pura Vida

by Devan DeSilva, Costa Rica Tropical Ecology Study Abroad Participant

This Easter break I was blessed with the privilege of being able to travel to one of the most amazing places I have ever been to, Costa Rica. The main focus of this trip was to be able to help assist a group of researchers to study the pollinators on the plants of Costa Rica but it offered so much more. The first night we arrived we stayed at a cute little hotel called Hotel Bougainbillea where we were greeted with one of the horrifying spiders I have ever seen.

Devan1 Devan2

During the next 11 days myself and a group of 13 girls and 2 professors traveled to Monteverde, Arenal, La Selva and San Jose. These were some of the most exhausting days I have ever experienced in my whole entire life. We had an itinerary that was jam packed everyday. Every morning started a 6:30 with about 4 hours of research and then we usually went on some kind of adventure such as white water rafting, on boat rides to the volcano, a culture tour, hiking, zip lining over top of the jungle, go to cloud forest and many other things. The only free time that we did have was our nights which we mostly spent bonding as a group. The food was very different from what I am use to. Every meal consisted of a side of rice and beans and some kind of fish or meat dish. While we were in Monteverde the food was made homemade for us, they treated and fed us like family. I must admit though there was only one place that the food was not good but other than that, I would rather the food from Costa Rica over American food any day.

Devan3 Devan4

In between eating, researching and doing activities, we spend a lot of time traveling. During most of our travels to the next location it would take a few hours. We spent a ton of time on our bus it was basically our home. To be honest though I didn’t really mind. The sights were breath taking. The stops were always really cool that we would take also. We would stop for coffee or at fruit stands on the side of the road and experience Costa Rica in a not so touristy way.

The people we met on every adventure were all special in a way that is actually pretty hard to explain. Our bus driver didn’t speak much English but some how we all managed to have a significant bond with him. For instance, when my 3 roommates and I got locked out of our room in the middle of the night and he came to our rescue! Left us all in tears while saying goodbye. Our tour guide, Edwin, was amazing. The knowledge of Costa Rica whether it was about the jungle, plants, animals, culture, you name it he knew it. On top of being an open book, he was humble and shared with us about growing up on a farm with his brothers and other personal stories that we could relate to. My guide for white water rafting, Luis, was fantastic. By the time we met him it was day 11 and the group of us were getting slightly home sick and were a bit cranky. The least I can say is that by the end of that rafting trip we all couldn’t stop smiling. He was so energetic and enthusiastic about life and adventure. We all joked and told stories as we went down the river. Of course this was all in between the billions of times I was tossed into the water and everyone got a great laugh out of that too. Of course there were many other people we met but these three specifically will always have a place in my heart forever.


This trip not only taught me a lot about Costa Rica and its culture, food, and people, it taught me about the people who I actually go to school with everyday, the students and professors. I became very close with some of the girls who I wasn’t before this trip. The late night conversations about our similar life goals and the struggles that we have all been though to get to the spot we are in today were honestly the best thing that I experienced there. Defeating our fears of height, bridges, water, whatever it was, we did it as a group. We pushed each other to our limits and it was absolutely exhilarating.  There were nights we would laugh until our stomachs hurt and other nights we would cry together. It has made me look forward to new chapters in my life with some of these ladies right by my side during them. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. Even the bad parts, looking back were some of the best parts.

Hello from Seville (and Morocco)

 by Jorge Rivera, GCU Business Major — Studying Abroad at Pablo de Olavide University, Seville, Spain

I am just writing to say hi and to tell you that everything is great here. Two weeks ago was my Spring Break and Grecia Gavira (GCU graduate student studying abroad at the University of Seville, Spain) and I got the opportunity to travel around Europe. It was amazing. I also went to Morocco last weekend. Sadly, in a month my program is over, but I can not complain. It’s been amazing!

Jorge1  Jorge3


Put Out Something Beautiful, Increase in Return

 by Nicole Hoagland — Costa Rica Tropical Ecology Study Abroad Participant

There was a lot to gain while on the Tropical Ecology trip to Costa Rica. From the beginning to the end God spoke to me the whole time assuring me that I was in the right place at the right time. I felt like there were some things he wanted to show me. This trip left me feeling more in tune with who I am and also a different outlook on life. The language barrier between the people of Costa Rica and myself was very evident, but the beautiful thing about it was that I created unforgettable relationships with them. This lead me to reflect on the quote, “A warm smile is a universal language we all speak” by William Arthur Ward. Nothing was phony about the love experienced on this journey.


On the trip I was most impressed with the metaphors that came to mind when studying the ecology. For instance, there was a species called the stranger fig. This tree would grow extremely high and sometimes block the other trees around it from getting sun light. At first it seemed a little weary, but the instructor explained that the tree puts out beautiful and tasty fruits for the other species around it to enjoy. The other species would then get rid of the seeds in a new location and increasing the odds of a newly developed strangler fig. This made me look at life in a reassuring way. In a world where being anti-social and bitter is starting to be the norm, it was reassuring to study this tree. This made me realize that putting out something beautiful into the world and letting others use it will increase my productivity. Putting out positive would attract others to me making them want a part of that happiness.

Hoagland1 Hoagland3

I thought it was beautiful to be able to gain a message out of something that may be overlooked often times. I think being in nature allows us to realize things that we do not always get to realize or see in action. Living in New Jersey, life can get busy, but Costa Rica allowed me to step away from all of the ruckus. The Costa Rican people seemed so much happier and their lives were simpler. In the beginning, the tour guide explained to us that they live by the term Pura Vida, meaning pure living. It was not until I saw all the locals screaming Pura Vida while cliff jumping into a beautiful river that I realize a people could be so in tune with who they are. This shocked me because that happiness is lacked in the area that I live in where video games and technology strip us from real life interactions.

Hoagland4 Hoagland5

Outside of the beautiful culture the Costa Rican’s care for the Earth was truly admirable. Almost every hotel we went to explained to throw all toilet paper in the garbage instead of flushing it down the toilet. It may sound like a TMI (too much information) topic, but that may be because American’s would rather have their water systems contaminated. The Costa Ricans only flush biodegradables keeping their water systems natural. More than it may have shocked me to do this, it showed me the extent as to what they will do to show their land that they appreciate it. This showed me that there are some people who actually believe life does not start and end with mankind and that the world is to be shared with many other species.

All in all, I received a great gift from this experience. I learned to look at the deeper picture behind everything. I learned to stay true to myself and maybe bring some of that happiness back to those around me. I want that happiness to be contagious and spread through the states again. This experience reminded me to always put out something beautiful despite what is going on around me. As I left the tour guides and in tears, I realized a smile is truly a language we all speak despite language barriers and that no one can get in the way of the lessons God wants us to gain.

Reflections on Global Travel, an irregular journey!

by Dr. Robert Louden, Criminal Justice


Although I vacationed in Puerto Rico in 1967 and attended an academic conference in Canada in 1989, I did not really travel internationally until @ 23 years ago, at age 47. Following an active 21 year NYPD career I was working at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC. The College President, Gerald W. Lynch, asked me to accompany him and a small group of colleagues on a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia. This was a very exciting time to be in Russia. Just four months earlier, in December 1991, the Cold War ended, the Soviet Union (USSR) ceased to exist and fifteen separate countries came into being or re-asserted themselves.  The purpose of our trip was to plan for an international academic conference to be held that June.

I will come back to the April and June 1992 trips, but first some additional information about my overall Global experiences. Although I did not leave the continental United States during my time with the NYPD, 1966-1987, I did benefit from multiple international experiences! Criminal Justice related professionals from throughout the world look forward to visiting NYC for its culture, tourism and law enforcement related experiences. Sometimes the briefings that I conducted or took part in were requested by a particular country; other times by the US Government: Department of State; Defense; Justice; FBI; CIA; Army CID; NCIS. And occasionally by the United Nations.

So, back to my first time. The April 1992 experience is especially memorable. Touring the beautiful and historically rich City of St. Petersburg in juxtaposition with the reality of the nature of the recently ended Cold War and viewing the stark nature of life for the average citizen of St. Petersburg when viewed against the privileged life of the powers that be! More about perks later. There was little stock on the food store shelves; automobile wind shield wiper blades were is such short supply that motorists removed them from their car when they parked overnight; trolley cars appeared to be of the vintage that one would view in an early 1950’s movie; university faculty had not been paid in months. Items that had been discussed long distance prior to our arrival that were slated to be free now had a dollar value attached. When asked why, the one word answer was capitalism. One quick memory the planning trip dealt with was around transportation for conference attendees from the hotel to the primary meeting location. The discussion with our Russian counterparts was something like this: we do not know if we can get sufficient buses; if we do get the busses, we do not know if we can get drivers; if we get drivers, we do not know if they will be sober! What had been anticipated as a put the finishing touches on the logistics of the conference plan was developing into a series of problem solving exercises, all through interpreters.

More next time!




Yoga and Meditation in Guatemala

by Bianca Valentini   

Sudha Allit: Meditation for Life — Service Learning Essay    

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing” (Henry Miller).

And then suddenly I was immersed into a different country that speaks a different language, about to teach yoga and meditation to a group of children who don’t understand where I came from and why my Spanish isn’t so great…

I have to be honest here, I never had expectations. I had hopes and a couple of visions of what I may experience, but for me there’s a difference between hopes and expectations. I feel like expecting things is always a trap; things are never as they seem. I went to Guatemala with an open and pure heart full of hopes and knowledge that anything can change and anything is possible. Guatemala is an amazing country but it isn’t the safest place and there was a lot to get used to for me, but that comes with any new space and place. What I found at Vida (life in Spanish) is not only my own heart, but a love for all of the hearts involved.

Asociacion de Vida is a very special school that takes care of the children in their city, San Miguel Duenas. It isn’t just a school. It is a program of educational and life tools that keep children craving life and wanting to come back. And they do. School is optional for the children, and they always come back. The most amazing thing is that they don’t turn anyone away. Special needs or not, everyone is in the same program sharing different experiences together. San Miguel Duenas is a very poor and under-privileged town and another thing that the school does is go into the homes of the children and assess their living situation and needs. Once they do this, they go into the home and provide space for proper living to accommodate the needs of each family. Vida is a safe place and a place of hope for those who don’t have much.


When I first walked in, my eyes filled with tears for the love and sadness I felt all at once. Sadness because these kids don’t have much, but happiness and love because they do have a love of life and that’s something many people in the States don’t have. They call it “sindrom de amor” (love syndrome) and they said I caught it early, within the first few seconds. They don’t have a cure and I don’t ever want or need one. My hopes never touched these feelings and what I thought I wanted to experience. This is something far bigger than all of us and it’s so amazing because it’s happening and it’s real and we are all doing it. I knew this work would be tough for me because my Spanish is not the best and it certainly was tough. It was frustrating because I wanted the children to experience a class full of adventure and wild animals and noises and music and fun and instead they had quieter animals and fun but were in a more tranquil environment of hearing me and mimicking me and each other. And the teachers were a great help for me; I am so thankful for them. This is especially powerful because there was a communication there that had to be so specific and challenging and it’s yoga. It’s all yoga and they got it, no matter what type of class it was.

Teaching yoga to children has never been more of a challenge and an honor to me. I thought I’d just teach and show students that they have access to a part of themselves that they may not have known existed. I didn’t think I’d show them that there’s something more for them or that they have access to the peace they need to stay off the streets. And I certainly didn’t think I’d never want to leave. It’s a beautiful thing. Most of us probably know the Jimi Hendrix quote “When the power of love overcomes the love of power,  the world will know peace.” I don’t know how many of us have had the privilege to see such a powerful saying in action but I do know I have and wow. Anything is possible.

Biancha5  Biancha6

When I got to Guatemala, I knew a small amount of Spanish. I was shaking in my shoes trying to figure out how I was going to share yoga with children who don’t understand that I don’t speak their language. Children are interesting in that way, they only know what they have and only believe that exists, and for them it is true. For all of us, really. So, coming into a new space looking like I came from another planet (I saw about 5 other people with blonde hair the entire time I was there. Gringa doesn’t even begin to define what I was there. Ha-ha!) And attempting to teach this thing called yoga had me praying and meditating more times than I ever had. My classes in the U.S.A are full of music and stories and adventure and animals. In Guatemala, I just had to present in a basic way but still make it appealing. When I released my fear and allowed myself to come from the purest space in my heart, the classes just flowed and came out and were fun and became creative in their own way.

One example: The kids like their egos and find fun in knowing that they know the poses so I loved to shout out random poses and see that they knew them, and they did. It was fun to see them quickly change poses and laugh about it staring at me to call the next. I have found little ways and roads to take to make it interesting and keep it interesting. I went to Guatemala with lesson plans ready to translate and ideas ready to explode with potential. When I entered the school, I froze. There were 15+ kids in the first class and I forgot everything I wanted to do. I started in a huge circle and we shook all of our sillies out. I then had all of the children run into the center of the circle and yell “VIDA!”

We transitioned to the ground and stretched out. I demonstrated some animals and repeated time after time to breathe through our noses and out through our noses. Upon losing focus, given that it was a huge group, I would bang my hands on the ground and we would start a rainstorm which was followed by deep breathing. I always stressed the breath and to keep the attention, we moved from the ground to standing often. We danced and sung and squeezed our hands really tight to yell “NO!” and then opened our hands and yelled “SI!” They loved this, and loved to laugh. All of my lesson plans didn’t follow through completely because the energy each day was different so I mostly went with my intuition with what each child needed and what we could benefit from as a group.

Many of the classes were similar but different order and different games at the end. There were days when the kids were crazy and there were just too many, and there were days when we split them up into smaller groups and I would teach twice in one day. Each class ended with the children lying on their backs and looking at the sky, saying what animals and images they saw. They then closed their eyes and I would go around and swing their feet and press their third eye. They loved this and always giggled. The most amazing thing to me was that no matter how much crazy energy they had, they always quieted down for Savasana. For a couple of minutes every single day, the children were able to lie down and breathe without worrying. When we gently awoke from our brief meditations we would Om, then shake it out and play a game- Duck, Duck Goose and Indian Chief were always the favorites. After the game we would Namaste and class would be over.

After the first class, I had the privilege of explaining yoga in English and the director translated for me in Spanish. He explained to the children that it is difficult to try to teach to them with little language but with their full attention and help we could make it happen. We told the children that yoga is the unification of the mind, body, spirit, breath and heart. We explained how compassion and love and breathing are the most important things and that we can use all we learn in yoga, even if it is just breath, in any given situation- especially difficult ones. I always told the children they can even use the breath before and after a test or a class. Some other classes began with a ball that I would throw to each child and say “Como te sientes?” which means how do you feel? We would go around and set the tone for the class, and I always told them that it was okay for them to not feel good or happy but it is what we do with those feelings that matters. Sometimes after class I held an exercise where I played drum music and took one child at a time and had them close their eyes and breathe. After a couple of minutes I would ask them to tell me what they see. Almost always, the response was waterfalls, butterflies, animals, trees, the sky, or flying. I was fascinated and intrigued at how quickly the children fell into meditation and how quickly they created visuals without thoughts rolling through their heads. They absolutely loved to do this meditation and I loved to hold the space for them to do it.

I ended a couple of classes with a Metta meditation during Savasana. I spoke to the children telling them to close their eyes and feel their hearts, I continued to tell them to say to themselves one at a time “may I be happy, healthy, and safe.” Then we continued one at a time with each intention to all of the people in our lives. The people we love, those we are indifferent to, and those that bother us. They enjoyed this one as well. We sang songs and danced and they loved to do the “Sa, Ta, Na, Ma” meditation with their mudras. Each day was different and each day was intuitive. It wasn’t in my plan for it to be that way, but I felt more comfortable going with the flow rather than being concerned with what I didn’t get to. Of course, I stayed within the realm of what I wanted to accomplish but it was always random and usually worked out. We practiced on cardboard and that was enough. It was a whole new world of teaching and I am forever thankful for it. I would love to return and bring yoga mats with me one day!

I made a poster for the children and the school about the 8 limbs of yoga. My original plan was to have a class on each limb, but I found that explaining before each class what the limb was and then reminding the children again at the end of the class fit better. Yoga is so new to these children and I found that the more time I spent talking, the more they wanted to practice. I left the poster at the school with a hope that they would refer to it often. I explained to the children in the best way that I could to get them to understand each one. Some were really short and simple and others were more in depth. The picture below is what I created.

Bianca1 Bianca3


I have learned that although my Spanish has certainly improved, the language isn’t necessary to understand what is being presented. Love and laughter are the same in every language and that’s all we need. I have also learned that although I look different, I am the same. And I am welcomed and loved just the same as well. Like I said, love and laughter are the same in every language. This has been the hardest thing I’ve done thus far, but the most rewarding challenge. Because I didn’t give up and believed in the power of love, I found peace.

Teaching yoga and meditation is only as meaningful as I have presented it to be. If I came in with a sour face and no desire to teach, yoga would mean nothing. Because I came in with a smile and an excitement to share, yoga means fun and yoga means a lot to the kids. Every time they saw me, they would yell “YOGA!” I even had a class where I asked each child to be the teacher for a couple of poses. They did awesome. Because of the willingness and readiness to participate, and because of the laughter and the calm I see on their faces when they breathe, that’s all I need to know that it’s meaningful. They tell me I made a contribution they’ve never seen before. They say “Colocha (means curly– I have the curliest of heads) before you came, the children and us- we don’t know yoga- after, we know yoga. Thank you.” I feel like I shared what I know and what I feel and I am so thankful that what I have shared has resonated. I can only hope it sticks. I have created a poster which hangs in the school and taught the teachers how to continue to at least allow the children to use their breath in any moment, especially difficult ones. It is my vision that it stays with them. If it doesn’t, at least it did for a little while and that’s enough.

I have found a friend in each and every teacher and student and child in this program. I have found a lesson and I have found love and light from each being. The welcoming energy and revved up engines for their program and life and giving back is close to my own heart. I find a like mind in the mission here and even if I never see them again, I have forever friends. They don’t care so much about where I came from or that I don’t look like them. They just know there is work to be done and in the process friendship is made. There is extreme bonding in like minded people, extreme bonding in knowing our hearts are all connected and we share similar desires. There is extreme bond in having 15+ children hug and kiss you because they want to. Because they feel connected. I am thankful for them all because I am them and they are me.

I didn’t have goals. I had hopes going to Guatemala. I hoped to bring yoga and I hoped to touch some hearts and spread some light and love. Yoga has been brought to me, and my heart has been touched and I am full of the light and love of every single person I have come across. I’d say the tables have turned and I’m not the slightest bit upset about it. It’s all so bittersweet. I ate chocolate and bread and potatoes and rice and all of the things I am not used to, and allowing myself to do so has been liberating and sweet, oh so sweet. But without the bitter, the sweet isn’t as sweet and I’ve had to face some of my own bitter stuff that feels so sweet to let go of. I could have stayed in Guatemala for another year, and I hope to return, but for now I have enough memories to keep me warm through this winter and a lifetime of love to share with others.



Welcome to Armchair. Pull up a seat.


GCU Armchair Traveler is an online blog of new poetry, creative nonfiction and fiction, short stories, essays, art and photography with a travel or global orientation. Our goal is to feature work that transports us.

GCU Armchair Traveler was created for Georgian Court University faculty, staff, students and alums who travel or dream of traveling. It’s our virtual “sit around the campfire”; a place where we can share our global experiences — the international encounters that have challenged us; the geography that has encouraged us to shift; and the surprising moments here or abroad that have helped shape who we are. It’s our hope that you will find a globally-minded community in Armchair Traveler.

Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis.

Submit work electronically to Jennifer Summerhays, Director of Global Education Programs

‘La Ville-Lumiére’ (The City of Lights)

by Danielle Acconzo


Photo 1: On the morning that we arrived, we headed to Notre Dame.  The moment that I saw Notre Dame from the famous love lock bridge, tears streamed down my face in disbelief that I had arrived in Paris for this experience.  When I walked in the breathtaking landmark of literature, I became immediately inspired that I was a part of something much bigger than I ever anticipated.  The tears lasted through the entire cathedral as I became connected in a different way with each step and looked at life with different point of view.


Photo 2: This literary experience was the first time that I would travel with others that I did not know personally.  Dr. Rader was a professor of mine, but the other five students, I only met once before traveling to another country with.  Ernest Hemingway gave the wise advice, “Never go on trips with anyone that you do not love.”  It was a first time for me to go on a trip, more of a journey, with people that I did not love, and Hemingway’s advice made me feel anxious.  We visited Hemingway’s residence from 1921-1925, pictured here, and I fell in love.  I fell in love with the experience, the journey, the landmarks, and the people.  I admire every word that has come out of his mouth, but I disagree with this quote. On this trip, I found a journey with much to love.


Photo 3:  On the streets of Paris, I found out a lot about myself and the type of person that I am and desire to become.


Photo 4: Dr. Rader was a professor of mine for the first time in 2008.  Since then, she has become a mentor of mine in regards to our shared passion towards literature and careers in education.  The literary experience of a lifetime was executed perfectly through her knowledge, affection, and inspiration of the literary backgrounds of Paris. No tour guide could have ever taken us on the journey that Dr. Rader took us on.  I am forever appreciative that I was blessed with this opportunity.


Photo 5:  Every literature lover needs to allow Paris to inspire their heart and their minds.  The street vendors are filled with words and phrases that will impact your life.


Photo 6: “America is my country and Paris is my hometown,” stated Gertrude Stein.  Paris is not my hometown like it was and is for Stein who rests at Pere Lachaise Cemetery.  However, I had a connection to Paris that felt like the comfort of my home.  Now, at home, I have a piece of this experience that will inspire my mind and resonate in my heart forever.


Tomfoolery in Paris

By Thomas P. Vincent

This trip marked my first ever travel abroad experience. Prior to this I had barely left New Jersey, only being on a plane one other time for a trip to Florida. I had reservations about being on a plane for seven hours, but the trip was severely outweighed by my overexcitement about visiting the “City of Light,” as well as a plethora of in-flight movies. I had never before dreamed that I would ever gain an opportunity such as this, but thanks to the hard work of certain parties in the Global Education Department, and the fervent persuasive dedication (stubbornness) of one Professor (full) to my participation in the trip, I was able to go. To say this trip was life changing is a paragon of understatement. How many times have you seen entire movies, shows, novels etcetera based off of the City of Light, or even one area of it? To be able to now view, and read, films, and novels and be able to see a place where I can say “I was there” is an experience that is transcendent.


Some of these “places” visited include, but are not limited to, Notre Dame de Paris, The Louvre, the Musee D’Orsay, The Pantheon, Shakespeare & Company, and The Catacombs. I found out very early that my New Jersey jokester side was not overwhelmed by artistic passion, rather, it was facilitated by it! The charm of Paris put me in such a passionately ecstatic mood that I quickly turned each of its monuments into my own personal opportunities for fun. This applies to me turning the giant glass-pyramid entrance of the Louvre into a delivered pizza, whistling the x-files tune in The Catacombs for a particular member who was terrified of the “human wallpaper,” searching Van Gogh’s The Church at Auvers painting for the monster in the window featured in his Doctor Who episode and many more. The one moment, however, that will forever be with me occurred at The Pantheon, a mausoleum housing the most treasured National Heroes in France’s history. Upon entering I immediately went to the tombs to search for Victor Hugo’s burial place, one of my favorite authors, and possibly the most treasured novelist in France’s history. Once I arrived at the tomb I was overcome by the fact that I was looking at “The” Victor Hugo’s burial place. As a means of showing the immortalization of his famous Hunchback: Quasimodo, and for my own personal gratification, I stuffed my bag up the back of my hoodie and Hunchbacked. All participants laughed and I could feel Hugo’s ghost shaking his head with a “This is what my works have come to.”

Tom1 Tom3

This trip has provided me not with an opportunity to be a goof, but an opportunity to be myself on a field of experience that is truer than I have ever felt. Whether you are the serious artist, prankster, casual traveler, or what have you, Paris is a City of extremes. Georgian Court University gave me the chance to live on a dimension of extreme “selfness,” a magic which I can never forget.



My First Time Abroad

By Alexandria Graziosi

Having never traveled outside of the country before, I expected my experiences on the GCU Paris trip to be unforgettable. The city itself was breathtaking and the landmarks we visited were nothing short of the descriptions that the modernist writers provided me with. However, what made the trip so memorable weren’t the places that I saw or even the food that I ate (although for me the food was pretty unforgettable), but it was the people with whom I traveled.

Graz.1 Graz.2

On the first day of our trip, we stopped by Shakespeare and Company, Sylvia Beach’s famous bookstore that also served as a gathering place for modernist writers like Pound and Hemingway, and Dr. Rader commented on how rare it is to be traveling with so many people who enjoy the same things. The seven of us all shared similar interests but we also appreciated each other’s specific interests. On the trip, each of us had at least one thing we wanted to do or see before we left. Places like Victor Hugo’s home, Notre Dame, and even the catacombs were all on our agendas (although I could have done without walking miles through tunnels made of human remains).

While most of the group wanted to see these things as well, being able to see somebody else soaking up the energy of the home of their favorite author or the places they’ve only seen in their books was truly amazing. For me visiting Gertrude Stein’s grave was one of the highlights of the trip. While the graveyard of Père Lachaise she was buried in was a point of interest for everyone, seeing Stein’s grave specifically was a moment for me that I will never forget. Being a longtime fan of Stein and her work, the act of visiting her grave for me felt as if I was stopping by to see an old friend. On our walk back from the cemetery, I was explaining this feeling to my two roommates on the trip. While I was a little nervous on how they would receive it, they both shared with me how equally excited they were to visit the grave and how cool it was that I walked away with that experience.

GCU Literary Paris Trip 2015

By Megan Kelly

From the beginning of the planning process, there were so many things about our trip to Paris to look forward to. The opportunities to experience a new culture, visit famous national landmarks, and incorporate our love of literature into a city rich in literary history were plaguing our mind for months before the trip. However, once there we realized that the places, activities, and experiences we were all looking forward to became infinitely better because of the people we were with.

On one of the first days of the trip, Dr. Rader turned to us and said, “It’s so great to be walking around with you guys. If I want to stop in a random book shop, you will all want to as well.” Over the course of the five days we spent in Paris, this sentiment was proven to be true in a number of different contexts. From the pre-determined activities to the ones that we picked up along the way, everyone involved was equally enthusiastic about everything we wanted to do.

The national landmarks that we visited, such as the le Tour Eiffel,  l’Arc de Triomphe, and Notre Dame were magnificent for their sheer historical and cultural significance. Being able to experience the city from the top of each was purely breathtaking. But it was even more indescribable to be able to wander down a street past Ernest Hemmingway’s house or visit the graves of Gertrude Stein and Oscar Wilde. These experiences became so much more enriching because we were able to live them with people who appreciated them just as much.

red berets 2

Coming into the trip, I think everyone had one place or activity that they were looking forward to above the rest, for instance Ali was looking forward to Gertrude Stein’s house, while Tom wanted to see Victor Hugo’s. Personally, I was looking forward to visiting the catacombs, because of the rich history behind them and the influence they had over different writers such as Edgar Allen Poe. Once in the catacombs, it was easy to see how they have become so infamous in history, literature, and cinema alike. The sheer magnitude of the tunnels, the number of human bones, and the intricacy in which they were arranged was purely indescribable. While walking throughout the tunnels, you were instantly overcome with the realization that the remains of the humans surrounding you could have belonged to anyone and those people could have any story. This became ever too clear after seeing a skull that appeared to have a bullet hole going through its forehead.

Because of the nature of the individuals in our group, everyone really appreciated every aspect of it, not just the places they might have personally added to the itinerary.  For me, the cohesion between the members of our group was the best part of the trip. We could have been able to see all of these different places on our own, or with people who weren’t interested, but instead we were able to share our excitement. And, we were able to wander into some pretty great bookshops along the way too.

Group outside chez Verlaine and Hemingway

A Paris Adventure

By Caitlin Roman

Going to Paris with Dr. Rader and the rest of our little group was the most amazing experience. It was my very first trip outside of the country, and I was the first in my family to even get a passport. There are so many things about the trip that I can talk about; I could probably fill a book with all of my stories. When most people recount stories of their trips, they talk about the sites they visited or the food they ate, their favorite parts. One of my favorite things about the trip encapsulates all of that really, but it is not something people really mention when they talk about their trip. I’m talking about how we mainly got around the city- walking. We walked almost everywhere, and one day we covered about 16-18 miles just by walking. Walking gave us certain liberties that other modes of transportation, like the metro or a bus, would not. For one, when you are walking around a city, you are in the city, not underground like on the metro. You are allowed to walk down a street and stop to look at an interesting building because you are not confined to a certain route in an enclosed space like you are on a bus. In fact, this was how we stumbled upon some of the sites we did see. One day, we were walking over to the Right Bank to see la Madeleine and a few other sites when we found the house of 12th century writers Abelard and Heloise. We would never have seen that or learned about these two writers if we did not happen to walk past their residence that day. On that very same day, we were walking down one street and happened upon a candy store and bought some delicious French candy. Those are only two examples of our many accidental discoveries. When we returned to the U.S., Dr. Rader added everything that we did and saw to the itinerary she planned before the trip. The final document more than doubled in size! It was all because of our walking and discovering.

Besides all of the accidental discoveries, my favorite experience has to be climbing Notre Dame. That was our first stop after dropping our bags off at the hotel. When we first went to Notre Dame, I thought we would just be looking around inside and climbing a little ways up the cathedral. Dr. Rader had put in the itinerary that we would be climbing the tower, but in no way did I expect to be hanging out with the gargoyles on the almost tippy-top of the massive church. The view from the top of Notre Dame was incredible. The sky was a perfect blue, and you could really see for miles. Looking out over the city, it finally hit me that I am halfway across the world with some of my best friends. It did not seem like I was really in Paris until I saw the city stretched out before me. I was on an adventure of a lifetime and planned on enjoying every second of it, and I certainly did. Traveling to Paris was a truly remarkable experience, one that I hope to repeat many more times.

Roman2 Roman1



Riding the Paris Métro

By Chloe Grady

As I sat in the waiting room of my allergist, I was immediately taken back to Paris when I heard a man greet the desk assistant with a joyful, “Bonjour Madame!” During our spring break, I went on the literary trip to Paris, France with Dr. Rader and five other students, who were complete strangers to me but soon became close friends. Those five nights spent in Paris were truly the best experience of my life. The fact that I was actually in Paris did not truly hit me until we went to the Madeleine, a large Greek-styled cathedral. I was taken back as I sat down in one of the seats of the church. I was speachless. I couldn’t believe that I was actually in Paris and exploring such a beautiful city.


I learned a lot while in Paris. I learned that I have a true love for traveling and exploring new places. Also, that I am independent when I travel and that I can lead others with my sense of direction. While traveling on the métros (Paris subways), I learned about my great sense of direction. I don’t know what came over me, but I found myself leading the group through the metros with some help from Dr. Rader. The metros were beautiful; they were public art with unique mosaique tile works and clean metro cars. While traveling on the metros, I really got to learn about the Parisians and their lifestyle in Paris. I saw the perfect women’s fashion, which I would take back to my life in America. I also saw how the men of Paris were always meticulously dressed, with dress shoes and blazers. I got to hear the French langauge in full action. Even though I did not know exactly what they were saying, it was still enjoyable to listen to such a beautiful language. The metros showed the daily life of Parisians that we as visitors didn’t always get to see. There were a few times while on the metro that I imagined myself traveling or even living in Paris. It was on the metro where I feel in love with the city of Paris and the thrill of traveling.

GradyMetrowall   GradyMetrotrain


Caen, France

By Nicole Blazejewski, Steve Cancel, Amanda Earle, Ellen Fitzsimmons, Glisban Machado, Nicole Owenburg, and Allyson Talbot

March 30, 2015

Caen, France 

Our fifth day on the World Wars and Holocaust tour began by traveling from Belgium to Caen, France, by coach bus. We stopped 3 hours into our bus ride at the Historial de la Grande Guerre Museum, in Perrone, France. This museum was the result of a collaboration of a prominent French, German, and American historian of World War I. This museum showcased different time periods throughout World War I. We started our tour in the Music and World War I exhibit. After our stop, we continued our bus trip to Normandy, France. We started our tour in the American cemetery (the location of the ending scene in the famous film Saving Private Ryan). During our tour, we heard stories about fallen soldiers from battles in Normandy. Some of the stories included Medal of Honor recipients, heroic soldiers, and even four woman who were buried in the cemetery. Next, we traveled to Omaha beach. We were surprised to learn Omaha beach is still a prominent vacation spot for many Europeans. After the Normandy beaches, we went to La Pointe Du Hoc. This was the location of many German bunkers. The tour ended and we traveled back to our hotel in Caen. We then went to a nearby restaurant for dinner where we ate traditional French cuisine.





Last Post Ceremony

By Nicole Blazejewski, Steve Cancel, Amanda Earle, Ellen Fitzsimmons, Glisban Machado, Nicole Owenburg, and Allyson Talbot

Iepers, Belgium


From Amsterdam, we arrived in Iepers, Belgium, a gem of a city.  The city’s Gothic cathedral and Cloth Hall dominate the stone streets of this clean, classy city.  We sampled Belgian chocolate, coffee, and several fashion boutiques before observing the Ieper’s signature event—the Last Post Ceremony that honors those who died in the several World War I battles in the Ieper salient.  With hundreds of other people, we gathered at the Menin Gate (whose interior walls are inscribed with the names of the Allies who died in the Ieper’s salient).  We met friendly spectators from Belgium and elsewhere. Stirring musical laments were offered by bagpipes and a marching band.  Tonight’s extended ceremony also honored Belgian veterans and commandoes who fought in other wars, as well as a former World War II British paratrooper.  After, the powerful ceremony ended, we dined at Restaurant Ecurie, ending a memorial day with a nice meal.

Menin Gate -- Ieper Belgium

Menin Gate — Iepers, Belgium



Culture, Literacy, and those Andes

By Dr. Nancy Sardone, Professor of Education

Kristin Cislak, Laura Parker and I, along with a colleague and students from Rutgers arrived in the capital city, Quito (Ecuador) on January 2, 2015 after three airline flights and a long taxi ride that traversed the winding slopes of the magnificent Andes. Even in the darkness, I could feel the altitude difference of Quito, standing a majestic 10,000 feet above sea level compared to Lakewood, which is just about even with sea level!


The next day, we walked the narrow city streets and saw familiar sights: vendors selling wares in the Main Square, people socializing, and kids playing. But the terrain and steep grade of Quito was quite unfamiliar.  Literally, it took my breath away. Four mountains contain the valley, which run roughly north to south for miles. At the center of the valley, at its narrowest point lies Quito.

After two days touring Quito, we departed for Ambato located two hours south.  The Andes amazed and mesmerized us along the route. Our first day in Ambato, we observed the ESL teachers at the Atenas School. The next day, Laura and Kristin taught lessons to second, third, and fifth grade ESL students.

sardone2  sardone3

While in Ambato, we had the opportunity to visit the Monday Fruit and Vegetable market. This was a big event! Laura was impressed by the unique grains while I was intrigued by the traditional hats and beautiful Ecuadorian hair!

sardone4  sardone5

On Wednesday, we had the opportunity to meet 40+ students from the Universidad Tecnica De Ambato (UTA) studying to be ESL teachers. We had a whole group discussion about cultural stereotypes and then each American (8 of us in total) lead a small group discussion about topics of joint interest. I am sporting that Georgian Court University bag quite nicely, huh?

sardone6  sardone7

On Wednesday evening, we departed for Baños de Agua Santa (Spanish for “Baths of Holy Water”) named after the hot springs located around the city which have a reputation of having healing properties due to their content of various minerals. We had fun in Baños, located in the northern foothills of the Mt. Tungurahua volcano (last erupted 1999). Some of us visited the baths, others braved “the swing at the end of the world,” and we all laughed over the zip line!


Thursday was busy day for us as we visited an after-school program, Biblioteca Interactiva de Banos (short name, the “Bib”) dedicated to reading. We were thrilled at the opportunity to work with these eager students, reading books to them in Spanish and preparing an associated activity. We had three groups, each reading a different story. We feel fortunate to have been able to gift books to this program, in both English and Spanish. Program director, Karl Persechino (center, below) was appreciative of our gifts of books and time.

sardone10 sardone11

sardone12 sardone13

Friday, we took a public bus and travelled one hour to Meira. In Meira, we visited a first and fifth grade class at a Catholic school. We read to students, in Spanish, and gifted the first grade teachers with books for classroom use and gave every fifth grader their very own book.


The weekend was interspersed with fun and work, as we prepared lessons for Monday and Tuesday when we returned to the Atenas School in Ambato.

sardone17  sardone20








A Trip of “Firsts”

By Dr. Pam Rader, Department Chair — English

rader shakespeare cubby office (2)

Shakespeare Cubby Office, Paris — France

This GCU trip to Paris marks a series of firsts. No, it was not my first trip to Paris. Let me explain. When I did a study abroad in Avignon, I saved my francs (yes, it was before the Euro) for the train to Paris to visit my cousin who lived near the Catacombes in Denfert-Rochereau, marked by that imposing bronze leonine statue, Le Lion de Belfort.  The statue was free, so I saw it loads of times. It was the locale of an old city wall immortalized in Hugo’s Les Misérables as the Barrière d’Enfer (‘the barrier of hell’). If you like to pun in French, the name Denfert is pronounced just like d’enfer. But during my visits, never had we descended into this Parisian ‘hell’ of the catacombs. Never. Jamais. I had read my Poe: “Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris.” I blame “The Cask of the Amontillado” for deferring my descent for decades. (It is not hyperbole, to which I am prone, because I read Poe in elementary school.)  However, we descended into this ossuary on our last day.

That brings us to another first: Traveling with six other people. This concept took some getting used to because, somewhat introverted, I tend to favor solo rambles. If I am not alone, then maybe I would travel with companion whom I know well. An exception does come to mind. Years ago, when I was teaching at the Université de Bordeaux III, I met my parents in Paris to show them around over Easter weekend before driving to Germany to visit family. My dad, a linguaphile, could navigate the language, but for the most part they depended on me in a Paris that was still very French. There weren’t the ubiquitous bilingual menus you could find today.  After teaching English to French college students, I understood how proud the French were of their language, but how reticent they were to try out English. Parents are so often in the driver’s seat of our lives, but, here, we were: I was in charge of the communication, translation, and itinerary for two other people. Could I take on that role for six people who were not family members? I could. I did, and I had a wonderful time doing so.

Equipped with the basics, merci, s’il vous plait, pardon, and bonjour, these students acclimated quickly. Well, maybe they were thrown into it. Our first morning there, after a mostly sleepless flight, I walked them in to a pâtisserie on la rue Mouff. In English, we verbally dissected the contents of the labeled goods behind the glass, and they made their choices. “Now,” I told them, “you will order in French. On your own.” And they did. (I had forewarned the cashier in French and thanked her in advance for her patience with us.) Traveling with the group of that size allowed for forays into specialty shops that did not seem like an invasion, and everyone could have his or her cultural interaction.

In truth, traveling as a group of seven had me a little anxious about mealtimes.  To play it safe, I did include dinner arrangements for our first and last nights. Knowing we’d be tired after our traveling day, we had plans to take a dinner cruise on the Seine. I had always seen houseboats, the bâteaux-mouches (bus-like boats), and dinner cruises. But, as a poor college student and later as a lecturer-spontaneous-tour guide, I had never experienced the cruise. Everyone was already thrilled to be in the City of Lights, but the dinner cruise—with its tastings and views—took our enthusiasm up another level. Having spiraled our way up to the towers of Notre Dame that afternoon, we would now see the beloved cathedral illuminated from our place on the Seine. As one student put it, the cruise set the tone for the week. It was one of awe. Now, imagine being in the company of awe-times-six? Another first.

But, let me get back to this group eating situation. Alone or with one or two companions, I had never fretted over seating or how to handle finicky eaters. My past companions were known entities. As I said earlier, I had bookended the trip with two dinners; I was just winging the lunches and dinners in-between. I figured we would walk by gelato or macarons, and we’d sample. In fact, I encouraged it. After walking miles and miles (I think we logged 16 miles one day…), we would discover how famished we were. But, would we be able to find a brasserie that could accommodate our posse, and would I lose someone to low blood sugar? Would we need a reservation as we would in New York for a group of our size? Remember, restaurants in Europe are not these sprawling diners or spacious trattorias found in New Jersey. If we had been a larger group, we might have depended on reservations, but then where is the spontaneity in that? (For me, spontaneity is a crucial component to traveling, but more on that later…) On our second day, a Sunday, when lots of Parisian restaurants are closed, we found typical French café near la Madeleine.  An order of escargots made its way to our table. And even those who thought they would not venture to taste one did so. I was so pleasantly surprised by how agreeable everyone was—I think it was more than hunger; this group did look out for each other with head counts and waiting for each other.  When we made a decision, we executed it. Not always an easy thing to achieve with a group.

People have asked me: How can you go to Paris without going to the summit of the la Tour Eiffel?  I cannot count the number of times I have visited Paris because I lived in France. Only once did I take the stairs up to the level with the cheapest admittance tariff. (I cannot blame acrophobia, just funds.) Nor had I been to the top of L’Arc de Triomphe! I only noticed last April that one could climb to the top. That was also on the list of firsts. Already on the grand Champs Elysées at dusk, we followed the spiral stairs (stairs always spiral!!) up to the arch’s summit. We could not have timed it more perfectly. (Spontaneity…) The Ferris wheel from the Jardin de Tuileries (where we had just come after seeing Monet’s Nymphéas in Musée de l’Orangerie) was illuminated. And then, a fanfare of twinkling lights came from our next destination in the south: the Eiffel Tower.  The crepuscular show of lights was just magnificent. Unfortunately, the heaviest rainfall of the day and our time in Paris occurred when we were scheduled to ascend the Eiffel Tower, a landmark we never tired of spotting.

I’m a walker. In any city, I prefer, when weather and time allow, being on the ground instead of under it. (Maybe it explains the delay in descending into the catacombs? Nah, I still blame Poe.)  People I traveled with were also walkers. But what did I know about these six: Were they walkers? They were, so we were.  A metro pass as well as the museum pass were part of the trip package. (We didn’t have to fuss with change at every metro station, and we went to the head of every museum line.) Yet, in the first two days, to get our bearings, we really walked our neighborhood, the Left Bank, and the Right Bank.  We saved the metro for the instances where we wanted to get someplace more quickly—to the timed, rainy Eiffel Tower visit and to the illuminated Sacre Coeur on the Butte—and it got us out of the Moulin Rouge area in a safe and expedient fashion! (Traveling with a group means a few people will want to go someplace you, the faculty leader, don’t really want to go, but then you don’t want to be the one who prevents them from seeing that cabaret landmark… There is strength in numbers, you tell yourself down the boulevard de Clichy.) The metro also let us discover who in the group likes maps and deciphering subway routes (as much as I do). And we did have an astute reader of Paris’s underground system. We had our very own Metro Queen, a complimentary epithet for a reserved (only reserved compared to the handful of narrators and jokesters) group member who possesses what I call navigational power.  Let others lead awhile.

Walking allowed us to reach sites like the old Beat Hotel  (now a four-star hotel!) and former residences of Verlaine and Hemingway. We made 27, rue de Fleurus, Stein’s former address and destination outside the gate of the Jardin de Luxembourg. And thanks to a French architecture aficionado who was gazing upward, we also stumbled upon the former twelfth century residence of the medieval lovers, Abelard and Héloïse, on 9, Quai des Fleurs. En route to the Panthéon, a stone and mortar abutment protruded into the sidewalk: it was twelfth century wall from Philippe Auguste’s era, to fortify the Left Bank before he left on the Third Crusade!  Marcel Proust’s translated words ring true, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” As we located the familiar tombs of writers in Père Lachaise cemetery, the students helped me pinpoint Proust’s resting place; I revisited Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, and the medieval lovers with them. But, Proust? I’d just finished reading a section of his tome, but I had not yet paid a tribute. A mission accomplished. Our strolling and our spontaneous sightings confirmed that, when possible, Paris is indeed a city to explore on foot.

A trip of firsts means there will never be another one like it. On the eve of our departure, I learned of my promotion to full professor. (I had never traveled to Paris before as a full professor….) The students were happy for me, and reminded me of it throughout the week, “Now, that you’re full professor….” I think such group cohesion and conviviality may go unrivaled. In a short time, we also shared an profound appreciation for this incredible city. We slept in a hotel that overlooked the ruins of the Roman arena, from when Paris was Lutèce, and we watched Parisians play le foot like it was part of their routine. It was, and briefly, it was ours.  I shared my firsts—the ascents to the Triumphal Arch and Eiffel Tower, my one and only descent into the catacombs, and my shushing of noisy tourists—with this group, which means I will not share those firsts with a future group. Traveling with students of literature makes for a unique experience. We all enjoy bookstores; we were all open to visiting burial sites of the luminaries (i.e., this trip could have been subtitled, “the Literary Dead”); we were all in awe of the architecture, sacred and ordinary. We all returned home with those French words at the tip of our tongues.


The Start: Our European Adventure

By Nicole Blazejewski, Steve Cancel, Amanda Earle, Ellen Fitzsimmons, Glisban Machado, Nicole Owenburg, and Allyson Talbot

March 27th, 2015 — Amsterdam, Netherlands

We started our Europe World Wars and Holocaust trip by walking the historic streets of Amsterdam. Our group stopped for a quick breakfast at a quaint cafe. There we had breakfast with one of the locals (a sweet and friendly cat!) We each had a delicious pastry from the shop before continuing. Traveling by tram, we ventured to the Van Gogh Museum, where we saw some of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings. We also went to the Stedelijk Museum, which had an exhibit on art work that was stored in a bunker for safe keeping during World War II. After stopping by the hotel for lunch, we had an interesting three hour walking tour by a local historian of Amsterdam. He showed us key sites such as Dam Square (with the Royal Palace and a World War 2 monument) the oldest post office in Amsterdam, and Rembrandt’s house. We saw beautiful gardens and old Catholic Churches, some of which were even hidden, including one in Begijnhof, a community built in the 14th century for the Beguines, a  Catholic order of women who took care of the orderly. We learned that Amsterdam was once a large port city, connecting to canals flowing through the streets.

One of the most interesting parts about Amsterdam was the large quantities of bicycles throughout the city. Our tour guide told us that the city has more bikes than people! One of the most anticipated parts about traveling to Amsterdam was paying a visit to the Anne Frank House. Our emotional journey throughout the house opened our eyes to the reality of Anne’s diary. Seeing her home in person was a surreal experience for all. The exhibit contained artifacts from the Frank and Van Pelt families, including pages of the diary, photographs, documents obtained from the concentration camps, and personal items.Our time in the exhibit came to an end after viewing a short film filled with quotes from individuals who had visited the museum. One of the most inspirational quotes obtained from the movie was from Anne’s father, Otto Frank, the only survivor of the family, who said it best, “to build a future, you have to know the past.”

The day ended with a new experience for all, when we ate at an Indonesian restaurant. Amsterdam is known for its Indonesian cuisine. The restaurant served us a traditional “rice table” which included a plethora of traditional dishes some of which included curry chicken, fried bananas, rice, pork, and beef. The meal was delicious and filling. We then ventured back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest for the next days travel.

image (7)

Hong Kong through Froriep’s Lens

By Dr. Kathy Froriep, School of Education

Dr. Kathy Froriep co-presented a paper with Dr. Lisa Dille, “Using A Blended Curricular Model to Increase Professional Repertoires for Intervening with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders” at the Autism: Global Challenges and Local Needs Conference sponsored by the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Worldwide Universities Network. Dr. Froriep’s photos reflect some of the sights of Hong Kong.

Here is the menu from the Hong Kong Jockey Club where Lisa and I were invited to dine with the other conference speakers in January.




Here is a photo of a conference presentation (not ours). The panel across the top of the slide projection fives the name of conference and sponsors.



Tai O is a village of houses built on stilts above tidal flats. Sometimes called the Venice of HK. The Tanka people have lived and fished here for generations.


Tai O  Tai O.2  Tai O. 3

Bamboo scaffolding and a Kindergarten.


Tai O. X          Tai O. XX

Tai O. Z          Tai O. 4

We took a cable car (sky shots from earlier message) from Tung Chung to Lantau Island,  these are pics of a Ngong Ping village of shops and eateries … And the “big Buddha”.

kathy14 kathy15 Kathy13

Ngong Ping1    Ngong Ping 2   Ngong 3

Kathy1  Kathy2  Kathy3

Kathy4  Kathy5  Kathy6

Kathy7  Kathy 8 Kathy9

Kathy10 Kathy11 kathy12

















I Love Barcelona!

By Kelly Coles, GCU Student

Hello! Everything is going great in Barcelona. I love it here. This experience has truly been amazing! These are just a few of the amazing places here in Barcelona. I highly recommend Spanish Studies Abroad as well, they have done a great job with my housing, excursions and insuring I am having a safe and happy time here in Barcelona.

Kelly at Casa Batilo, home of one of Barcelona's famous architect

Kelly at Casa Batilo, home of one of Barcelona’s famous architect


La Sagrada Familia, a beautiful modernist church.

La Sagrada Familia, a beautiful modernist church.


The other Spanish Study Abroad students and I in Parc Guell, another modernist area.

The other Spanish Study Abroad students and I in Parc Guell, another modernist area.



Teranga: Understanding Senegal

By Dr. Pamela Rader, Chair & Associate Professor of English 

I have confided in my students, who have read Léopold Sédar Senghor’s treatise on Négritude and Mariama Bâ’s novella in my classes, that I have wanted to visit Senegal in west Africa for many years now.  The Global Transformation Grant made this trip possible. I participated in an International Faculty Development Seminar (IFDS) with the Council for International Educational Exchange led by Dr. Serigne Ndiaye in Dakar. Dr. Ndiaye organized the seminar around the topic of Islam in Senegal, bringing in top notch scholars from Dakar and the University of Gaston Berger from Saint-Louis (a city near the Mauritanian border). The seminar provided me and my four US-based colleagues with foundations for understanding the Sufi brotherhoods practicing Islam in Senegal. With Dr. Ndiaye’s purposeful planning, we visited several holy sites in Cambérène and Touba, and various Koranic/Qur’anic schools whose philosophies were as diverse as their resources (or lack thereof). Invited into several homes of these hard working  people, I remain deeply moved by the warmth of the Senegalese and their genuine hospitality, or teranga (the Wolof word).

Idriss worked for Fabinta’s mother as a tailor/dressmaker.

Idriss worked for Fabinta’s mother as a tailor/dressmaker.


We visited several Koranic schools; these girls were friendly and curious. We conversed in French, and they invited me to visit their classroom.

We visited several Koranic schools; these girls were friendly and curious. We conversed in French, and they invited me to visit their classroom.

Touba is a fast-growing city for its great mosque. Here, we have people traveling by horse/burro drawn cart.

Touba is a fast-growing city for its great mosque. Here, we have people traveling by horse/burro drawn cart.

 I am donning the veil in Camberène, a holy site for the Mouridist brotherhood on the outskirts of Dakar.

I am donning the veil in Camberène, a holy site for the Mouridist brotherhood on the outskirts of Dakar.

My US colleagues and I were interviewed by a young woman on behalf of the Saint Louis, Senegal, journal “”.

My US colleagues and I were interviewed by a young woman on behalf of the Saint Louis, Senegal, journal “”.


ironing at Goree


The two pictures from Goree Island show a woman ironing in the street; that island, a short ferry ride from Dakar, had been without electricity during our visit. Dakar school children of all ages were visiting the island that day, too. A field trip to learn about the country’s past and role in slavery. (Gorée preserves a UNESCO World Heritage site of the Slave House, where Africans sold and traded Africans into slavery.

The two pictures from Goree Island show a woman ironing in the street; that island, a short ferry ride from Dakar, had been without electricity during our visit. Dakar school children of all ages were visiting the island that day, too. A field trip to learn about the country’s past and role in slavery. (Gorée preserves a UNESCO World Heritage site of the Slave House, where Africans sold and traded Africans into slavery.

Chicago in Architectural Detail

By Dr. Claire Gallagher — School of Education

I am currently in Chicago to speak at the American Institute of Architects conference. In my travels I have been documenting the city through architectural details.

        claire1     claire5

        claire3     claire4

         claire6     claire7

                     claire8                        claire9

 claire10                  claire2



Trip of a Lifetime

By Lauren Myles — GCU Student

This trip to Europe was a once and a lifetime opportunity and as soon as I heard about it I knew I had to go. I went in 2012 with Dr. Bruess and Christine to Ireland, Whales, England and France. I knew that this was a great opportunity to grow and have fun. I was excited to see so many countries, and I was glad for the opportunity for my friends Kait and Cristina to see them with me!


I had so much fun on this trip of a lifetime! I went with two girls from my home town who I have been friends with for years and we all had learning experiences together as well as making other friends, making memories as well as learning about ourselves individually.

I enjoyed many of the amazing experiences that have changed my life. In Amsterdam the Anne Frank House. This is the house where the Franks were in hiding from the Nazis for two years. They were found and taken to Auschwitz and everyone that was in hiding was killed except Otto Frank, Anne’s father. It was bone chilling to walk through the room in which they were hiding and could barely move for fear of being found out, and being captured by the Nazi soldiers. The Diamond Museum in Amsterdam was amazing to see the Diamond Capital of the world, and to get the chance to try on these fabulous diamonds. We also saw amazing Windmills and how they worked. We saw where the Dutch make clogs and cheese.


In Germany we went to many of the phenomenal sights such as Dom Cathedral in Kolon, it was beautiful. Heidelberg was a beautiful town with an amazing castle it was truly remarkable. We went to the straw hat festival in Heidelberg. It was so much fun to see how another country celebrates. It was to hear the bands playing a lot of American Music, we learned about the culture and dancing. Munich was an amazing city where there are still scares from World War II, it is a historic City. We Saw the Palace that the royal family had lived for years, and how each generation had built more on. The BMW Factory was a very cool place to see. We learned that the people would take a test drive inside the factory if they were interested in buying the car, amazing. The Olympic Games Stadium of Munich was very cool to see as well. It is very impressive that they continue to maintain and still use parts of it today.


Austria was breath-taking. I wish we had more time there. We saw live music in the city square. Austria is where Mozart is from and it was fun to be in a musically historic area which was so beautiful with amazing views. We received friendship bracelets in Innsbruck as well.


Italy was extremely warm and the town of lido de Jesolo. We arrived in time for a look at the beach, and the Adriatic Sea. I was so excited to put my feet in the Adriatic Sea. We went to Murano to watch a glassblowing demonstration. It was amazing to watch the people demonstrate the making of glass as well as the great souvenir shopping experience. We then took another boat to Venice, it was a great day filled with a tour of the Venetian Palace and the exploring of the city itself and how it is a bunch of little islands that are connected by bridges. We took a gondola ride that was relaxing and a great way to see the city. We traveled to the city of Verona, to see the beautiful arena and the House of Juliette, eating fabulous fruit.




Switzerland was amazing! We saw bunnies that were the largest rabbits that I have ever seen. Lucerne was awesome with amazing sights. There was the beautiful and moving Lion Monument where we took a group photo and then walked around the lake and over the Kappelbrucke, or Chapel Bridge, Lucernes most historical landmark. We went up Mount Pilatus. In order to get to Mount Pilatus we took a cruise across Lake Lucerne and then the worlds steepest cog railway to the summit, and a cable car back down to Lucerne, about half way down, a few of us took advantage of the summer toboggan track. It was so much fun, then we took the gondola down into Lucerne. The summer toboggan was on my bucket list of things to do in my life and I am glad that I had the opportunity to have this thrilling adventure. Geneva was a great day even though it was raining, the city where so many treaties have been signed was beautiful, we also found that the chocolate was fabulous.

France was fun, Dejon the home of Mustard was a wonderful town, we saw a beautiful carousel, and an arch de triumph. Stopping in Auxerre, for lunch we had an amazing view and saw some school children eating lunch in the park. We then drove on to Paris were we see the Eiffel Tower, Arch De Triumph for Napoleon Bonaparte, Notre dame Cathedral, and The Palace of Versailles, it was so much fun to see these places with a great group of new friends. Had amazing pizza in Paris with Cristina.






We then took the Eurostar Chunnel to London. We had fun on the train and got to take some silly pictures. In London we made the most of our last couple of days together trying to see as much as possible as well as making memories to last a lifetime. Some seeing the Book of Mormon to looking around at Piccadilly Circus, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, parliament and also The Harry Potter 9 ¾ Platform to Hogwarts.


We  had a sad day of goodbyes at the airport, but they are not true goodbyes because they are I will see you laters.

“Je voo dray un chocolat cake”

By Elise Nowak — GCU Student

If one ever has the time in his/her life to travel abroad to Europe, he/she should definitely take the opportunity. I was fortunate enough to take part in the experience two weeks after I finished my sophomore year at Georgian Court University with a group of 19 women. It was a very unique experience that I am very happy to have taken part in.

Our group’s first stop in Europe was Amsterdam, Netherlands. When we arrived at the airport in Amsterdam after a eight hour flight, we met our tour director Jamie, who works with Explorica Travel Tours, and a group of 21 students from California who would join us on our two week excursion.


Our European adventure was from Monday, May 26, 2014 to Monday, June 9, 2014. On May 26 when we were to arrive in Europe, everyone in our group at GCU had to meet on campus by 2:30pm that afternoon in order to early for our 8pm flight at JFK. The flight to Amsterdam flew by with the help of a delicious dinner and a plethora of movies and tv shows to choose from. The flight touched down in Amsterdam at 9:55am their time and everyone in our group was super jet-lagged because of the time difference of the two countries. Once our group first met at the airport, all 41 of us got on the bus and went right over to our hotel we would be staying, put all of our bags in a hotel room and got back on the bus to start the first day of our tour. We took a walk in the city center of Amsterdam.

This two week, 15 day tour consisted of going to seven countries all across Europe every two or three days. We had a planned itinerary for each day to see historic landmarks each country is known for, such as Heidelberg Castle in Heidelberg, Germany and then to take guided walking sightseeing tours in each country. The only free time we did have was for lunch and every night, after dinner as a group. I explored the nightlife of the different countries with my new friends.The food in Europe was very different from what everyone in our group was used to in America. For example, in Europe, sodas and other sugary drinks are made with natural sugar, which is different from how Americans are used to them being made with corn syrup. Each night for dinner, our trip included an authentic home cooked meal from each country, and I found each meal to be good, one-time meals for experience (in Munich, Germany we had Bavarian Bratwurst), but I much rather prefer American food.

From our first day in Amsterdam, everyone as a group took the Metro train to get from place to place on our sightseeing tour. I made great friends in both groups of travelers, from Georgian Court and California, which made adventuring around each country during our free time much more fun and enjoyable. I moved around and hung out with various small groups of people on our tour so I was able to better know everyone. Everyone was so nice! Here at home I had never really taken public transportation very much, so since I had to get around to explore Europe, once I used it the first few times, it was a breeze.

In the mornings, before our group would enter into each new country by bus, driven by our faithful and loyal driver, Haust, our tour director Jamie would give us lessons of simple native phrases to use whenever we would be conversing with shop-keepers or other locals. For example, in France, my friends and I went into a little patisserie to buy some pastries and I said to the storeowner, “Je voo dray un chocolat cake,” which means “I would like a chocolate cake.” In that moment, as I asked for the little chocolate cake I could not help but smile and think to myself that my French grandmother would be so happy to hear me speak French if she were alive today. My favorite countries to visit on our tour were Italy, France, and England. I also loved visiting Italy and France because now I am finally able to say that I have visited where my ancestors are from!

I personally really loved visiting all of the historical landmarks and neat sites in these three countries such as the Murano Glass factory in Murano, Italy, the Basilica in Venice, taking a gondola ride in Venice; being so up close to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France; and Big Ben, The London Eye and Buckingham Palace in London, England. I found it really neat to be so close to these iconic places that before, I had only dreamed about! Now I will always be able to proudly say that I have visited these places! I’ll forever have the pictures and memories to prove I was there. I bought many souvenirs from these three favorite countries I visited, for myself and each member of my family that I know we all will cherish forever.

In conclusion, some days when I really think about it, I really cannot believe that it has been two weeks since I have come home from Amsterdam, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, France, and England. I will be forever grateful to have had this wonderful opportunity to travel abroad and to have made life-long friends. I encourage that whenever one has the opportunity to travel abroad, that he/she should take the trip. I loved the experience!


It Still Amazes Me

By Cristina Russo — GCU Student

[In Europe] I learned so many different things about myself and other people. I also gained more knowledge about different cultures, lifestyles, languages and currencies used around the world. The trip broadened my horizons in more ways than one.

It still amazes me that we could go such a short distance and still have to convert money from country to country! I encountered so many different people in such a short amount of time as well. Most of all, I will be sure to take with me what I have learned and share it with others along my professional journey.




More Stamps in My Passport

By Jahnise M. Clements — GCU Student

This European tour trip was such a good learning experience. It was my very first time leaving the country and to visit many countries in a short amount of time. Also, I am the first one in my family to travel the world at such a young age. It made me realize there is so much of the world for me to visit and understand.

The very first stop on this trip was Amsterdam.  Even though there was no time to get rest from the time we got off the plane until the time we got in the hotel room at night, I enjoyed every bit of it. It was a great feeling to go backin history like going to Anne Frank house. Even though I had learned about her horrific last days of life, it was a different experience actually visiting where she was hiding and learning how she survived during that time.

My first night in Germany I got to go to a Straw Hat Festival that included good food, fun, and lots of people. It was more like a big concert that filled the streets. Germany was lots of fun and so different from what I am used to at home. In Europe so many people are on bikes and walking around, and that is something I am just not used to because places are so far from each other where I live.


Then we went to Italy, where I hated the hotel/motel we stayed in because it reminded me of the slums meaning it was run down and just not up to my standards. Yes, I had a bad hotel experience, but I still enjoyed the country because the weather was great and the cities were beautiful. For example, Venice was a lovely city where a man showed us how to make glass art that was unbelievable. He even let volunteers come up and help him sculpt the glass.

Next we ended up in the lovely country of Switzerland where the dinner every night was great. This was the first time on the trip where I was excited to have dinner.

Our next steeping stone for the trip was France. My first thought of France was that I was not going to like their food because I had heard they are known for eating snails and a whole bunch of weird stuff. Surprisingly I enjoyed dinner.  I was so excited to see the Eifel Tower. It was something I always knew about, so to finally see it was a big deal.

The last but certainly not the least stop of the trip was England. I really enjoyed being in London because it reminded me of New York, but much cleaner. I like how it was so diverse; it seemed just like home. I  liked London because they spoke English and I knew exactly what they were talking about.

I look forward to being apart of another trip that is offered and to get more stamps in my passport.

Europe Opened My Mind

By Michelle Paltin — GCU Accounting Major

This summer I was privileged enough to travel to some amazing places in Europe, and along the way I have learned so much and have met so many amazing people. From May 26th to June 9th, I visited several countries with some very amazing people that I still keep in touch with. Those two weeks have been some of the best yet exhausting days of my life. While this was a fun experience, it greatly expanded on my knowledge of other cultures, it helped me become a more social person and also made me realize that one has to be open minded in order to appreciate different cultures.

Over the course of these two weeks I visited the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France and the United Kingdom. As an accounting student, I was very intrigued by the different currencies in these countries since sometimes we are stuck in a bubble and forget that other countries do not use the US dollar bills. I remember that at first I would actually dismiss the coins until I noticed that they were one or two euros. Dealing with different currencies for me was extremely helpful since in my future career I will be dealing with money. The first time I got money out of the ATM in Amsterdam, I took out 150 Euros only to check my bank statement and notice it was over 200 USD. This quickly made me realize how much more euros were worth and made me be smarter with my spending.

While the currencies were certainly a big change, the everyday culture of the different countries was eye opening. The United States is a more modern country and sometimes people may forgot how young America is compared to the world. Some buildings in Europe were actually older than the United States. The buildings in America are more modern and looking at the different cities in the different countries was refreshing to see some beautiful architecture. My first days in Europe I found myself constantly taking pictures of the streets and buildings. Not only was the architecture different but just the way people were was different than America. In Amsterdam I was astonished by the amounts of bikes I saw and in many of the hotels they talked about being green, so it appears that in some countries in Europe they are more environmentally conscious. I also remember seeing several buses in Switzerland that were covered in quotes of people who have been hurt by domestic violence. Such raw social consciousness is admirable because in the USA it seems that only advertisements appear on our buses.

Not only did I expand my learning on different cultures but I also found myself growing as a person through this experience. I am a commuter student at Georgian Court and have never had any roommates, so learning that during the trip I would have two other roommates was very exciting for me. I actually went on this trip without knowing anyone that was going on it and during the meetings I did not really find myself trying to make friends. On the airplane and on the first day I found myself staying with my roommates, but by the second day I socialized more with other people even with students not even from Georgian Court. I feel like I went from knowing a couple of people’s names to by the end of trip having at least one conversation with everyone who went. I never expected to meet such amazing people that made this trip so enjoyable and I did not expect that I would be tearing up at the airport saying good bye to my new friends.

Traveling to Europe was one of the best experiences of my life and has made me realize that there is so much more out there that I need to go out and see. The different cultures was astounding and has definitely impacted me. It made me feel more grateful for small things such as my bed and actually knowing the language of the area.

This trip made me get out of my comfort zone and for that I am also very grateful. I cannot wait to revisit some of these places and visit new countries. I already want to go back!


Focus on Haiti: Port au Prince to Gros Morne — January 2014

By Dr. Mary-Paula Cancienne, Professor of Theology, RSM

Photo credits: Dr. Mary-Paula Cancienne


Port au Prince to Gros Morne is 110 miles, and 4 1/2 hours by bus.


“The Group”

"The Group"

Sister Jackie Picard (Religious of Jesus and Mary) and Sr. Mary-Paula Cancienne (left) Sister Pat Dillon (Religious of Jesus and Mary) (right)

Picture1C Picture1D

In 1920’s 60 % of Haiti was forested, and in the first part of the 21st century only 2%


Where we traveled, we rarely saw large trees.


In 1804 Haiti gained its independence from France, but with the promise of paying a huge amount of money.Over time Haiti sold hardwoods to pay off portions of the debt, as did opportunists for short term profits.


In addition, government instability, storms, and the common practice in poor countries of making charcoal for fuel, the country suffers from deforestation, erosion, degraded soil, and massive poverty.– These folks are collecting charcoal after having felled a tree and letting it smolder, buried, for about 12 days. They will sell it for income.


Selling charcoal on market day.


Cooking at Bon Samaritain.


Cooks serving up lunch at Bon Samaritain…a place for those with no place else to go.




Pumping water and outside latrines.

pumping water

outside latrines

Learning to grow vegetables and helping to provide food for the school.

keyhole gardens 1

school children


Sister Mary-Paula outside of a Catholic church in Gros Morne.

outside catholic church in gros morne

Gros Morne Hospital with cholera tents in back.

gros moyne hospital.cholera tents located in back

Where we stayed in Gros Morne, Haiti.

where we stayed in gros moyne

Selling sugarcane.

selling sugarcane

Photos of the reality in Gros Morne.












Bon Samaritain party!

bon samaritain party


Northern Light

By Jennifer Summerhays, Director of Global Education Programs

Light in the North is a clean razor, that cuts and fills everything, even mortar walls and cobblestone. Light shifts in angles, and moves in clear-cut, geometric pieces over city squares and pastures.

Light doesn’t dance or play like it does in the South, because Northern Light is serious and intentional. It doesn’t fool around. But at just the right time during mid-summer, Light turns everything a brilliant red and gold.

Photo credit: Jen Summerhays

Photo credit: Jen Summerhays — Copenhagen, DK

Photo credit: Jen Summerhays -- Jylland, DK

Photo credit: Jen Summerhays — Jylland, DK

Photo credit: Jen Summerhays -- Skagen, DK

Photo credit: Jen Summerhays — Skagen, DK

Photo credit: Jen Summehays -- Bergen Norway

Photo credit: Jen Summerhays -- Bergen, Norway

Photo credit: Jen Summerhays — Bergen, Norway

Photo credit: Jen Summerhays -- Haugastol, Norway

Photo credit: Jen Summerhays -- Bergen, Norway

Photo credit: Jen Summerhays — Bergen, Norway

Sometimes It’s Okay to Look Back

By Ann M. Lorenc, GCU Alum — English

This past November I traveled to Scotland in order to attend the Post Graduate Open Day at the University of Glasgow and to delve into family research in the week leading up to the event.  Having the opportunity to spend a full week in Edinburgh made me very excited as it had always been only a travel check point with merely a day to spend exploring on my past trips.  I set an additional goal for my trip: climbing to the top of Arthur’s Seat, one of the top ten things to see in Edinburgh according to all my research.

Fortune smiled on me my second day in Edinburgh when I awoke to nearly clear skies and the prediction that the weather was likely to hold with mild winds throughout the day.  In addition, cars are not usually allowed on Sundays in Holyrood Park where Arthur’s Seat is located so I decided it would be the perfect day to make the climb.  Because the weather in Scotland tends to change quite unexpectedly, I dressed in layers and my trusted hiking boots.  I also fortified myself with a Scottish breakfast which proved itself capable of sustaining me for a full day of activity during my last trip to Scotland.

Edinburgh is a walking city.  Yes, it is the capital of Scotland and has a great public transportation system, however the city beckons you to walk as often as possible.  If you walk briskly, you can travel from the West End to the East End and back within a little over two hours unless you stop for tea or to investigate one of the many sights guaranteed to catch your eye. Knowing that the climb would take some effort, however, I opted to take the bus rather than making the walk from my B&B to the Royal Mile and then down to Holyrood Palace and Park.  As it turns out, I probably should have done that walk, but I hopped on the No. 16 bus to Princes Street instead with the intent to catch another bus from North Bridge to Holyrood. Somehow I managed to distract myself and wound up walking right by North Bridge and winding up alongside the eastern side of Calton Hill.  Naturally, this turned out to be the one section where I could not find a bus that would take me to Holyrood other than the City Tour bus for which my bus pass would not work.  Taking a quick glance at a pocket map I had brought with me, I decided I could not be too far from my destination and opted to continue walking, finding an interesting monument erected to commemorate Scotland regaining its own parliament again.

After becoming briefly lost, in what I think may have been Portobello, I finally found my way to Holyrood Palace.  I stopped in the giftshop for Holyrood Abbey to ask for directions to Holyrood Park and the lady working there kindly provided me with a map of the park as well as a tip on a gentler ascent to Arthur’s Seat.  I welcomed the news of an easier climb as my feet and ankles were now quite sore from the extended walk in addition to all the walking I had done the day before in not-quite-broken-in boots.

Thanking the staff, I walked an additional mile or two until I finally found myself at the bottom of the trail leading up to Arthur’s Seat.  I felt a sudden burst of energy upon seeing the paved initial path and set off on my journey.  Following my map, I veered off to take the path on the right of St. Margaret’s Well confident that I had found the easier route as it appeared well maintained with loose, but densely packed stones.  After walking about twenty feet up the steeper-than-expected path, I discovered that I needed to stop and rest .  Luckily I saw a boulder nearby and took a moment to sit and watch other hikers pass in either direction.  A few minutes later, I stood and resumed my own climb.  The appearance of a gentle slope turned out to be an illusion.  Within minutes I found myself breathless and needing to stop and rest again.  I told myself I needed to continue however as I worried that I would loose my motivation if I stopped again.  All my life I learned the importance of always looking forward when reaching for a goal.  My Aikido and CrossFit training provided me with a method of tricking my body to continue by telling myself I had just a little further to go and, once I reached that point, just a little ways more until I finally achieve my goal.  I believed that if I did that, I would succeed since it had worked well for me in the past.

My plan did work, at least for the next fifty feet, although I think that it might have been because there were no boulders in sight and my options were to sit on the somewhat muddy three-foot-wide path near a steep drop on my left or lean against the steep wall to might right while fighting against increasing gusts of wind that seemed determined to blow me right off the side.  When at last I found a section of the path that looked like a set of uneven steps made out of partially exposed rocks, I lowered myself down in relief to rest as close to the ‘wall’ as possible.

After catching my breath while looking across to a neighboring hill, I chanced a glance back up at the path that would lead me up to Arthur’s Seat and felt my heart wail with despair.  No way could I make it up the next sections which consisted of an almost 45 degree incline followed by a near vertical climb.  At this point, I had no energy left and no water with which to rehydrate myself.  The only thing I did have was a camera case that seemed to grow heavier by the minute, two sore ankles and feet, a throbbing knee and an aching shoulder.  Clearly the only option I had was to give up and go back down.  My disappointment in myself only increased when I looked back up to see people actually running down the path and not looking tired at all!  I truly felt like  complete failure and foolish for even making the attempt.  I heaved a frustrated sigh and hoisted my camera bag back over my shoulder, wondering why I had even bothered to bring it with me and closed my eyes briefly in resignation, dreading the sight of my pending descent.

When I opened my eyes and stood up, I found that I could not force myself to take a step back in the direction from which I had come. I could not believe it, but the path appeared steeper now than it had when I was walking up.  I closed my eyes once more and shook my head slightly to clear it, certain my mind was playing tricks on me.

Upon opening them once more, I had an epiphany.  The strongest and most meaningful epiphany I had ever had.  I took a long hard look back down the trail and reminded myself of every step I had taken to get to the spot where I stood.  I asked myself how I would feel about giving up and going back down now with the knowledge that I might never have the opportunity or the motivation to make a second attempt when I had already come so far.

I glanced back up where Arthur’s Seat seemed to call to me in the distance.  Did it still appear nearly insurmountable?  Absolutely!  But ironically, the path back down seemed equally daunting, if not worse knowing that I would descend without achieving my goal and would forever question what it would have been like to reach the top and see the amazing views I had read so much about.  I considered my options carefully and decided that I wanted to have that experience of reaching Arthur’s Seat and that giving up now would completely waste all the hard work and effort it took to make it to the spot I stood on at that moment.  If I allowed myself to do that now, what did that mean for the other goals in my life that often seem impossible?

With a renewed focus and sense of determination, I continued my climb, allowing myself the chance to rest whenever opportunity allowed it. During those brief periods of rest to look back at how far I had come, even if it was just ten feet, and remind myself that all major goals take time and to have patience with myself.  Other times I would push on , sharing knowing smiles and laughing comradely with others I met along the way.

The last bit of the climb proved the most challenging, with narrow pathways seemingly meant for sure-footed mountain goats and winds that now seemed determined to blow me right off the top, but I carried on and succeeded in reaching the top where I found a space to sit and take in the amazing views around me.  From Arthur’s Seat I could see for miles in almost every direction with the city of Edinburgh and several the surrounding towns laid out below like a miniature model city.  I took several pictures and then sat there on the rocky surface taking everything in with an immense sense of healthy pride in what I had just accomplished.  As I gazed around me, I could scarcely believe that I had come so close to giving up the opportunity to experience not only these amazing views but the deep sense of accomplishment in overcoming a worthy challenge and knowing that I can now draw on this experience whenever I begin to doubt myself or the ability to achieve my dreams.

Too often we are told that we should ‘Never look back’ because doing so will slow us down and impede our progress.  In many cases this is sound advice.  Constantly looking over our shoulders while running from danger could slow us down or cause us to trip an obstacle we didn’t see and berating ourselves for past mistakes often leads to demoralization and the belief that we cannot accomplish anything.  However, sometimes, it is okay to look back.  Looking back once in awhile is a valuable tool in helping us recognize how far we have already come and an encouragement to keep going.  The experiences and steps taken in working towards a goal all have a purpose and value to them.  Every goal worth achieving takes time and hard work in addition to patience and understanding towards yourself and others making the journey with you.

Photo credit: Ann Lorenc

Photo credit: Ann Lorenc

Photo credit: Ann Lorenc

Photo credit: Ann Lorenc

Photo credit: Ann Lorenc

Photo credit: Ann Lorenc

Photo credit: Ann Lorenc

Photo credit: Ann Lorenc

Photo credit: Ann Lorenc

Photo credit: Ann Lorenc




Living in Jalapa, Guatemala

By Jamie-Lee Sonnenberg-Smith, History Major

Jamie in Jalapa. "This is a photo of Ludine and I. Ludine was one of the children I spent a lot of time with. We built two houses in his area. He did not attend school at the time, so he and his friends would always tag along with our group. We worked in his neighborhood for about three weeks straight, all throughout the day. He was truly a happy boy, and he always put a smile on my face. He called me his “gringa mama.”

Jamie in Jalapa. “This is a photo of Ludine and I. Ludine was one of the children I spent a lot of time with. We built two houses in his area. He did not attend school at the time, so he and his friends would always tag along with our group. We worked in his neighborhood for about three weeks straight, all throughout the day. He was truly a happy boy, and he always put a smile on my face. He called me his “gringa mama.”

I was fortunate to have the opportunity of a lifetime to spend my last semester of high school on a mission trip. I spent four months in the mountainous region of Jalapa, Guatemala. The people there may be impoverished, lacking clean water, proper nutrition and adequate living conditions, but make no mistake–they are rich in heart and happiness.

Although I was there to help these people live a better life and provide them with basic human necessities, they too helped me live a better life. It was in the beautiful mountains of Jalapa that I learned what the true value of life is: Happiness comes from that which cannot be purchased.

I learned to appreciate my family and friends, and understand that the “little” things in life are really all that matter. To see people with almost nothing constantly have smiles on their faces, with the ability to find a reason to be happy and positive had an overwhelming impact on me. When I am having a bad day, I reflect on that. I realize how trivial some of the things are I tend to get upset over. Does it really matter that my laptop broke? I still have food, clean water, and shelter.

My outlook on life has completely changed since my experience in Guatemala. I have much more appreciation for the opportunities I have been granted and the life I live.


For The Traveler

By John O’Donohue (Reprinted from “To Bless the Space Between Us”, 2008)

Art credit: The Boy Traveler by Maggie Hasbrouck

Art credit: The Boy Traveler by Maggie Hasbrouck


Every time you leave home,

Another road takes you

Into a world you were never in.


New strangers on other paths await.

New places that have never seen you

Will startle a little at your entry.

Old places that know you well

Will pretend nothing

Changed since your last visit.


When you travel, you find yourself

Alone in a different way,

More attentive now

To the self you bring along,

Your more subtle eye watching

You abroad; and how what meets you

Touches that part of the heart

That lies low at home:


How you unexpectedly attune

To the timbre in some voice,

Opening a conversation

You want to take in

To where your longing

Has pressed hard enough

Inward, on some unsaid dark,

To create a crystal of insight

You could not have known

You needed

To illuminate

Your way.


When you travel,

A new silence

Goes with you,

And if you listen,

You will hear

What your heart would

Love to say.


A journey can become a sacred thing:

Make sure, before you go,

To take the time

To bless your going forth,

To free your heart of ballast

So that the compass of your soul

Might direct you toward

The territories of spirit

Where you will discover

More of your hidden life,

And the urgencies

That deserve to claim you.


May you travel in an awakened way,

Gathered wisely into your inner ground;

That you may not waste the invitations

Which wait along the way to transform you.


May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,

And live your time away to its fullest;

Return home more enriched, and free

To balance the gift of days which call you.

European Christmas

By Mark Bianchi, Director of Facilities

Nurnberg Christmas Market Flier

Nurnberg Christmas Market Flier

View of the Nurnberg Christmas Market

View of the Nurnberg Christmas Market

Father Christmas, Budapest

Prague City Square Christmas Tree

Prague City Square Christmas Tree

Prague Food Vendor Stand