98 Steps

Today’s post comes to us from ACCENT San Francisco’s new Programs Assistant, Samantha Proteau. Sam participated in an 11-month exchange program in Paris, living, studying, and working for nearly a year among native Parisians. In her first post for the ACCENT Blog, Sam tells us about how overcoming stress and shyness allowed img_0633her to achieve a whole new sense of independence and personal growth.

In a very last minute decision, I extended my college experience to participate in an exchange program in Paris.  I was hesitant in the beginning, eager as I was to transition into the professional world; but then I remembered how remarkable my first study abroad experience in Florence, Italy had been and became certain that another study abroad trip would meet such great expectations.  How different could this new experience be? Continue reading

Faculty Feature: UCEAP Students in Madrid Interview LGBTQ Activist Mario Blázquez

This week’s post comes from local faculty Jon Snyder, who accompanied University of California students on a visit to COGAM, an NGO that advises and advocates for LGBTQ+ communities in Spain. The students learned not only how nonprofit organizations are structured and funded, but also specific ways COGAM works to better the lives of Spanish citizens and spread awareness across the world.

This week, University of California students on the “Negotiating Identities: Gender and Sexuality in Urban Space” program had a productive exchange with Mario Blázquez, an experienced activist and coordinator from COGAM (Colectivo de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales y Bisexuales de Madrid). img_20161115_130500Some 50 students interviewed Mario about his volunteer work coordinating health initiatives for the LGBTQ community, one of the organization’s main lines of action along with education and social work initiatives. Mario kindly greeted us at the COGAM headquarters in downtown Madrid before making his appearance before parliament deputies at the Madrid Assembly that afternoon. Continue reading

An Excerpt from Insights: Fluctuat Nec Mergitur

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks on Paris and the nearby suburb of Saint-Denis, which resulted in the deaths of 130 people. In the wake of international turmoil caused by events such as these, questions of national identity emerge: who are we, and who do we want to become?

ACCENT is dedicated to the broadening of hearts and minds, to the importance of looking beyond ourselves, and appreciating our vast and ever-changing world. It is easy to withdraw into ourselves when we are hurt and afraid, but it is true courage to reach out to others and work together to rebuild.

In our May 2016 edition of ACCENT’s Insights Newsletter, Paris Center Director Melissa Smith-Simonet published the following response to the attacks, detailing what ACCENT is doing to help students combat fear and better understand the vibrant and diverse city that heroically emerged from the rubble and refused to sink under terror.

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Fluctuat Nec Mergitur – Tossed but Not Sunk – is the motto of the city of Paris and has appeared on the city’s coat of arms for centuries. These three Latin words have never been truer than in the weeks and months since the events of November 13. Continue reading

Celebrating ACCENT’s 25th Anniversary!

October 31st, 2016 marked ACCENT’s 25th birthday! To celebrate, our Study Centers in Europe have been throwing parties in appreciation of 25 years of successful cooperation with schools, students, and our partners abroad. ACCENT Paris’ Lily Mac Mahon describes the festivities that took place at our Paris Study Center.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of ACCENT, and all 5 Study Centers — spread across 4 different countries — have been celebrating! The team and students in Florence got to enjoy some delicious ACCENT-themed cookies and here in Paris, we tucked into a classic French fraisier (strawberry cream cake) and a chocolate layer cake! screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-14-09-44 Before the celebrations began, Ray Vernon, the Executive Director, gave a wonderful speech about the history of ACCENT, from when it started as a small company with only a few programs in Paris and Florence, to its current status as a successful study abroad program provider for schools across America. In a world where learning foreign languages is becoming perceived as seemingly inessential, and people are experiencing fear and uncertainty, Ray explained why it is so important for students to “take back the message that it’s still a fantastic experience and that study abroad is still very special!”screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-14-04-48The celebrations were a great way for our students to get to know the staff and ask them questions about their experiences at ACCENT. When Adrien (our academic liaison in Paris), who started as an intern and has been with ACCENT Paris for over 12 years, was asked to describe the best thing about working at ACCENT, he said: “Having contact with students keeps you young inside; and as a French person, it’s really nice to see the students making Paris their home after only a few months, learning how to adapt to another culture, some actually become quite French themselves!”

During the last 25 years, ACCENT has helped 50,000 students (over 10,000 in Paris alone) facilitate their study abroad experiences and has partnered with over 100 universities on  2,450 programs. In the words of Ray, the ACCENT team would like to “thank all the students from the bottom of our hearts for coming this semester.” This semester, and semesters moving forward, ACCENT is thrilled to continue to support and encourage students in their intellectual pursuits, personal growth and cultural understanding.

~Lily Mac Mahon, ACCENT Paris

Click through our gallery to see how other ACCENT Study Centers have been celebrating our 25th anniversary!

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Students in Madrid Visit the “Centro de Acogida Temporal para Inmigrantes”

In this week’s post, Programs Coordinator Tania Rodriguez from our ACCENT Madrid Study Center describes an eye-opening excursion University of California students took to a local shelter for displaced immigrants. Students had the chance to see how the organization was run, what services they provide, and listened to the residents tell their stories. After visiting the shelter, many of the students came away with a new outlook on homelessness and the economic vulnerability of immigrants.

On October 3rd, Professor Mary Kate Donovan and students from the UCEAP Contemporary Spain Program participated in a study visit to Centro de Acogida Temporal para Inmigrantes San Blas as part of their course “Immigration, Ethnicity and accent-blog-madrid-entry-18-photo-1Nation in Contemporary Spain.” Continue reading

Mercato Ballarò: Learning a Language through Food

Following up from last week’s entry on Tuscan cuisine, this week’s post comes from Kadri Paju, our new Programs Coordinator at the ACCENT London Study Center. Kadri is originally from Tallinn, Estonia and studied in Palermo, Sicily as part of her undergraduate degree. Kadri describes to us how being exposed to the rich culinary culture of Sicily helped her overcome the language barrier.

imgp4923 With very limited Italian language skills and having never traveled to Italy, I decided to study abroad in Palermo, Sicily. I had no idea what to expect. Needless to say, the year I spent there was extremely challenging and rewarding.
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ACCENT Florence: Learning About Italian Culture Through Food

This week’s post comes to us from the ACCENT Florence Study Center, where Programs Coordinator Lilia Lamas tells us about the culinary adventures our Florence students are embarking on, and what Italy’s incomparable cuisine can teach us about Italian language and culture.

Some of the most talked about and photographed things while studying abroad in Italy are students’ wonderful culinary adventures. What did you have for your first Italian dinner? What gelato flavors have you tried? What pastries are your favorite? How do you prefer your caffé? What pasta dishes do you like best? Have you had the bistecca?

Italian cuisine is well-known around the world, but living in Italy, cuisine becomes an intense multi-sensory experience of divine things like mozzarella di buffala (fresh mozzarella), freshly made pasta, and delicious pastries with your cappuccino in the morning. While studying abroad in Florence, students not only have the opportunity to experience Italian cuisine independently, but also by learning new recipes and techniques through class visits and activities.

cucina_18 One of these is a Pizza Making Class with the Bianco brothers of Pizzeria O’Scugnizzo in Florence. O’Scugnizzo is a certified authentic Neapolitan pizzeria in the heart of Florence’s oltrarno quarter, just a few steps from Piazza del Carmine. The Bianco brothers are fourth generation Neapolitan pizzaiuoli and teach the traditional way dsc_0874of making pizza. Francesco Bianco explains, “We use a sourdough (lievito madre) that has been in our family for generations, and let the dough rise for 24 hours.” Each student shapes the dough (as Francesco says, “you must gently massage it”), and then adds each topping with care. The pizza is then baked in a 400-degree Celsius brick oven for a few minutes and eccola! The pizza is ready!

Another culinary adventure students embark upon in Florence is the cooking class at Apicius (a local Culinary Education school). With an integrated approach to cooking, both in practice and in language, this activity engages students’ stomachs and their minds. Students prepare a 3-course “pranzo” lunch that includes a pasta dish made from cucina_7scratch, a second entrée, and a dessert. Before the lesson, students learn culinary vocabulary to help them while they cook.

This Fall, one of the professors of the UC Mediterranean Food program, Prof. Sergio Rufini, enthusiastically encouraged his students to try traditional Florentine dishes that have very interesting histories, ingredients and seasonality.

So dear readers, when in Italy (and, in particular, in Florence) please try at least one of these dishes: la ribollita, papa al pomodoro, peposo, lampredotto, trippa alla fiorentina, and bistecca alla fiorentina to name a few. For those with a sweet tooth, here are a few traditional Tuscan sweets: pan con l’uva, schiacciata alla fiorentina, and cenci for carnevale.

tuscan-dishes2For those of you who would like to try some of these delights at home, here are recipes for pappa al pomodoro and pan con l’uva.

~Lilia Lamas, ACCENT Florence

Custom semester programs with ACCENT reflect the unique identity and learning objectives of the US university while reaching into the deep network of local resources at the ACCENT Study Center. Get in touch to design a semester for your institution at prog-dev@accentintl.com.

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Paris Fashion Week

Last week saw the finale of Paris Fashion Week, which took place from Tuesday, September 27th to Wednesday, October 5th. In today’s post, ACCENT Paris’ Lily Mac Mahon discusses the Chanel and Lanvin shows, as well as the changes that occur within the city during this international celebration of a thriving art form.

For any fashionista, Paris Fashion Week is one of the most anticipated and exciting events of the year. However, if you aren’t a journalist or celebrity, there isn’t much chance of getting in to see any of the shows! Like many of us, you have to experience the glitz and glamour from the sidelines.

The line outside the Lanvin show at Hôtel de Ville. Photo taken by Janie Connelly.

Our very own ACCENT student Janie Connelly, from the University of Southern California, went to the Lanvin show at Hôtel de Ville to do some celebrity-spotting and managed to get snapshots of the supermodel Karlie Kloss and some famous fashion bloggers whose job it is to report on the latest trends.

Supermodel Karlie Kloss. Photo taken by Janie Connelly.

It’s not just outside the fashion shows where you get to feel the buzz of Fashion Week: even walking through the trendy Marais district, you’ll be able to spot all of the beautiful and fabulously dressed people sitting on the terraces of cafés or hopping from boutique to boutique.

Every inhabitant of Paris feels a shift in the city over these 9 days; we’re reminded that Paris is the fashion capital of the world. It’s easy to become cynical when the city is so inundated with fashion news and events. However, I recently saw a quotation from Coco Chanel which challenged my mte5ndg0mdu0ote5nzqyotkxprejudice toward what some call a modern art form:

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”

There is art in fashion and fashion in art. You only need to visit the Palais Galliera: Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris to see that fashion goes beyond just sewing pieces of fabric together. There is artistry, skill, and talent in every design and stitch.

sewing-machine-1369658_1920Karl Lagerfeld, the outspoken savior of the Chanel maison, staged his Spring/Summer 2017 show at the Grand Palais, and it wasn’t just about clothes: it was a commentary on the dystopian and technologically advanced society that the we live in. Models wore stormtrooper-esque helmets and the backdrop was a circuit-board of colorful cables, which echoed the woven thread of the classic Chanel tweed suit.

picture2As the final days of Paris Fashion Week came to a close, the crowds began to thin out. As quickly as the fashion world descended on the city, it quickly disappeared, and Paris became once again the catwalk of its civilians.

~ Lily Mac Mahon, ACCENT Paris

Did this post inspire you to study abroad in Paris? Research your study abroad options at http://accentintl.com/find-a-program/.

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London Likes…!

This week’s Live Like a Local post comes to us from our ACCENT London Study Center, where Programs Coordinator Tim Marsh tells us his favorite spot for weekend shopping, quick eats, and “an authentic taste of twenty-first century London.”

TMIn my free time, I like to explore the markets beyond the classic ones like Borough Market http://www.scandiway.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Cooper_wolf_meatballs.jpgor Covent Garden. My new favourite market is one local to me, Chatsworth Road Market. It’s great for finding local produce, street food, and second-hand clothing. Alongside the market, there are a few great independent shops and cafes to explore, such as L’épicerie, Creperie du Monde, and Cooper and Wolf, a Scandinavian breakfast café.

The reason I love this market is because it’s a true “local” market full of colorful characters. It’s a wonderful melting pot which contrasts the more-food-stalls“old” and “new” London: Jamaicans selling jerk chicken, cantankerous older gentlemen with their unique antiques (I’ve seen them carrying creepy old dolls in glass decanters), French artisans selling baguettes and crêpes, cockney fellows with their fruit and vegetable stalls, and “hip” artisans and sellers. Walking through the market, you’ll get an authentic taste of twenty-first century London. Clapton, where Chatsworth Road is located, has a great community and I find that people are quite friendly and open to making conversation with strangers. One seller once described to me how this market has brought renewed life into the neighborhood, reinvigorating an area that hasn’t always had the great reputation that it now boasts.http://www.chatsworthroade5.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/homeslider_02.jpg

~Tim Marsh, ACCENT London

Did this post inspire you to study abroad? Use the ACCENT Program Finder to discover your next great adventure: http://accentintl.com/find-a-program/.

Paris and the Canvas of Life

This week’s post, the first of two discussing the many unusual movie theaters of Paris, comes from Programs Coordinator and Academic Liaison Adrien Fropos at our ACCENT Paris Study Center.

“Hey, why don’t we go get a canvas?” is a question you may someday be asked if you ever find yourself in France. While to a native French speaker this phrase would make perfect sense,  someone less experienced with the language might be completely puzzled. What could it mean? Could it be referencing painting, or weaving, or maybe even sailing?

While all very sensible guesses, “Se faire une toile” is actually a common expression in French that means “going to the movies” (the “toile” refers to the screen upon which the movie is projected, the canvas of cinema, if you will). Movie-going is a popular pastime among Parisians, and for good reason: it is less expensive than going to the opera or the theater, the rooms are air-conditioned (which is a quite a rare thing in France, especially in Paris!), and one is almost always guaranteed to have a good time.

Paris boasts 85 movie theaters within the city, 404 movie screens, and over 75,000 seats. Among these movie theaters, most are rather modern, offering movies in 2D or 3D, playing foreign films in their original language with French subtitles, or alternatively, dubbed in French.  There are also, however, a number of highly unique theaters to be found in Paris, suitable for those who are seeking a more rarefied movie-going experience.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most unusual places to see movies in Paris:

Le Louxor
This cinema is located in the 10th arrondissement. Founded in 1921, the theater was built in a stunning Egyptian Revivalist architectural style. The building has belouxor-1en through many iterations, ceasing operations as a cinema in the early 1980s, functioning as a nightclub until 1988 when the doors were finally shuttered. The building was later deemed a national heritage site, undergoing a massive renovation and restoration, reopening as a fully functioning cinema in 2013.

 

la-villetteCinéma en Plein Air à la Villette
The La Villette park is the third-largest park in Paris and plays host every year to a great free outdoor movie festival. Up to 1,000 movie-lovers can relax while sitting comfortably on deck chairs, enjoying a wide selection of movies, both French and foreign.

 

MK2 Bibliothèque
This recently built multiplex located in the 14th arrondissement (near the François Mitterrand public library) is mostly sought after by cinephiles looking for a comfortable venue to attend with their ‘special someone’. The MK2 Bibliothèque is peculiarly equipped with “love seats,” where the armrest can be folded into the seat in order to allow couples to lie in each other’s embrace while watching the latest romantic (or scary!) movie.

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The vast array of movie theaters in Paris assures that moviegoers of all kinds will be sure to find what they are looking for. Regardless of the kinds of movies you enjoy (action, fantasy, adventure, romantic, or classic, to name but a few), whether you’re a fan of French New Wave, Italian Neorealism, or Film Noir, Paris will always be able to satisfy your thirst for novel cinematic experiences by offering out-of-the-ordinary venues, specializing in a wide variety of films.

If you are still hesitant about studying abroad, consider this: in the great movie that is life, why would you patiently sit aside and watch other people in the spotlight, when you could have the lead role and follow your own storyline?

Silence! Moteur! Action!

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~Adrien Fropos, ACCENT Paris

Did this post inspire you to study abroad? Use the ACCENT Program Finder to discover your next great adventure: http://accentintl.com/find-a-program/.

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The Immeasurable Benefits of Studying Abroad

In today’s fast-paced, competitive world, students often attend college with an eye towards a long-term career. Before making the decision to study abroad, students might ask “What use is studying abroad to me? Will studying abroad help set me apart professionally? What is there to gain from the experience?” In this week’s post, members of ACCENT’s San Francisco Team give their own unique answers to those questions.

Among our answers is that of outgoing Contract and Social Media Manager Chelsey Little, who is moving on to other opportunities. We wish her the best of luck!

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Anna Tapfer, Contract Manager

Studying abroad in Munich, Germany, for a full year gave me many opportunities to develop skills traditionally thought of when studying abroad, skills such as German language proficiency and an enhanced sense of cultural awareness. These skills have certainly been useful to my career: allowing me to work overseas in Vienna, Austria, and securing my acceptance in a graduate program in Foreign Language Education. However, there are a number of other skills that I developed that I did not anticipate would be as beneficial as they have been.

Studying abroad enabled me to build my self-confidence, helping me learn to let go of the need for concrete details and allow myself to accept ambiguity. Taking a train to a new town and only understanding half of the announcements, for example, meant that I wasn’t ever entirely sure if I was going to arrive on time or even make it all the way to my destination. In Germany this wasn’t the biggest issue; once I learned more of the language, I realized most of those announcements were to let you know the train was delayed a full two minutes, an eternity in the German rail system. However, traveling outside of Germany meant that I could not count on my newly found language skills. I had to get creative in how I dealt with everyday life in a different country, weighing decisions as they came up and working things out on the fly, instead of planning in advance, as I had been used to. This type of flexibility, acceptance of ambiguity, and creativity in problem solving has definitely helped me professionally as well as in my personal life. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have lived abroad twice in my adult life and for all the benefits those experiences have afforded me.

 

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Sara Assadi-Nik, Assistant Programs Coordinator and Social Media Coordinator

My study abroad experience was an exercise in building confidence and adaptability in unfamiliar situations, and an ability to stay calm under pressure that I still carry with me to this day. I recall a specific day in Paris not long after I had arrived: I had decided to make a trip to an unfamiliar neighborhood to visit a friend at a nearby University in Paris. Confident in the directions my friend had given me earlier that afternoon, I bounded out into Paris with great élan. Paris, as I would come to know, was a city of many wonders and visual delights. I became too distracted by the charming carousel, the frenzy of tourists on the Champ de Mars, and the candy-colored sunset on the Seine and soon found myself hopelessly lost. This was in the era before smart phones had become popularized, and all I had was a small flip phone that I had bought at the local Tabac for 20 euros, a device with no internet connection and a comical lack of battery life. I wandered the streets, hoping for something recognizable that would steer me back to the right path. In the US, I would have had no problem asking for directions from a stranger. Here in Paris, however, I was horrified to actually speak French in public, harboring a neurotic anxiety about appearing as a discourteous and wide-eyed American, not keeping with the unflappable elegance I imagined of true Parisians.

Overcoming my embarrassment and self-consciousness, I finally built up the courage to approach one of the locals. She was helpful and concise, pointing me in the right direction. Soon the landscape appeared clearer and more familiar. Exhausted, I finally dragged my blistered feet through the doors of the University Café. I scanned the sparsely-populated café and didn’t see my friend anywhere (he had waited for me for over an hour and unable to reach me on my cellphone, had left). I wearily slumped into a seat at the bar, thinking about everything that had transpired. Harsh, vituperative thoughts circled in my head. How was I going to spend the better part of a year in this city if I could barely get around? I sat there for another hour, ruminating on my harrowing experience, eventually gathering myself up, walking straight to the metro station, and back to the comfort of my tiny apartment. This was not the last time I would get lost in Paris, or confused, or maddened. Slowly I learned that for me, the answer to living abroad was to allow the city to challenge me, and in turn, for me to challenge myself. The self-assurance and adaptability that I gained from my time in Paris still helps me in my work and my personal relationships. I’m still working on perfecting that poised Parisian sophistication…though I’m not holding my breath on that one.

 

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Ashley Spinelli, Program Development Manager

I studied abroad twice – first on a month-long “Music and Culture” faculty-led program in Ghana where I studied cultural anthropology through Ghanaian drumming and dance, and later on a yearlong direct exchange program at the University of Bologna in Italy where I studied Italian language, literature, and history at the oldest continuously operating university in Europe. The two experiences were extremely distinct academically – one involved 6 hours per day of dance classes while the other entailed countless hours in lecture halls. Nonetheless, both experiences provided me with the opportunity to live and study outside of my comfort zone, and learn from professors who guided me to reflect more deeply on the world in which I lived, and the economic, political, cultural, and psychological dimensions that had shaped my experience up until that point. I’m very thankful for having had the opportunity to study abroad, as it provided me with many new ways of looking at the world and analytical skills that carried me throughout my graduate studies and career in education.

 

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Megan Neureuter, Associate Director of U.S. Operations

There is no question that I both developed and improved my communication skills during my study abroad experience— it was somewhat impossible not to! Studying in Paris with a very basic knowledge of French required some creative expressions and a lot of gesturing. That being said, those communication skills basically changed my life. It helped me to understand that I could make it anywhere, and led me to challenge myself in ways I would not have thought possible. Looking back now, with some years between me and my Paris experience, I can see how it led me to success internationally as well as at home, with my greatest success in having married a non-native English speaker after meeting overseas. Sixteen years and two beautiful daughters later, it still amazes me how essential good communication is, how it can make or break a relationship both professionally and personally, regardless of the language spoken.

In the end, though I had formative experiences before heading to Paris for a semester, it was that experience that helped me realize the value of good communication. It is something that has made me a more thoughtful and compassionate person.

 

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Tanyshia Stevens, Programs Coordinator

I think the most important skills I learned from studying abroad, though slightly obvious, are independence and self-sufficience. Everyone says going to college is the first step to independence, which is definitely true, but the type of independence I learned while studying abroad is probably something I wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t gone.

From the minute I set foot on campus, I was always with someone: my parents moving me in, my roommates, or my friends. I would never go to the dining hall alone, my roommates and I picked our classes together, we did laundry at the same time, and as much as I wanted to explore the city I was in, if I couldn’t find someone to go with me, I wouldn’t go. Once I was abroad, I was all alone. I didn’t know a single person. Here I was in Paris, wanting so badly to see the city, but so afraid to step out into the unknown with no support system. However, I knew that if I wanted to see the city, I couldn’t wait until there was someone to do it with me. Did I immediately blow caution to the wind and start exploring my new city? No. I started small by exploring my neighborhood and the markets on my street. Once I was confident I could find my way around, I branched out farther.

Returning back home, I maintained the mentality I had while living in Paris. I no longer waited to have someone with me to do things. If I wanted to sit in the park on a sunny day, I sat in the park on a sunny day. I no longer felt the need to be surrounded by people – I found comfort and confidence in being alone. This self-assurance, knowing that I can do anything I set my mind to, is something I carry with me both personally and professionally, and it definitely shows. When you no longer doubt yourself, and carry yourself with confidence, you are able to take on new challenges that make your professional life – and personal life – more rewarding.

 

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Audrey Celenza, Contract and Administrative Assistant

I learned a lot of vital skills through the two study abroad programs that I participated in, but one of the most important was the sense of optimism I got from my study abroad experience in Edinburgh, Scotland. A chronic worrier, I expected to have bad roommates, a bad apartment, and a bad flight.

Instead, my roommates were intelligent and considerate people. I had a room all to myself. The locals were incredibly friendly and would start conversations out of the blue. This last surprise had me noticing small acts of kindness that I would have taken for granted if I weren’t in a new place. On the way back to the US, the flight that I had thought would be a nightmare was made a complete delight by a little girl who enthusiastically recommended I see Big Hero 6 and skipped down the aisle to show me her handheld video game collection.

You can find goodness wherever you are, but it took a change of scene for me to really look around and see it. Simply being able to view the world in a more positive light has helped me face both acceptance and rejection with grace, and I’ve become more patient and understanding of others.

 

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Jani McEuen, Programs Coordinator

One of the most essential things my study abroad experience instilled in me was the ability— and self-confidence— to travel alone and remain calm when travel issues arise.  Before I studied abroad, I had never been on a plane by myself (I didn’t even like to drive very far on my own, due to my horrible sense of direction), let alone flown out of the country.  However, once in London, I was pushed out of my comfort zone. I had to research and plan out how to get around the city on my own, both to get to class or to any local attraction I wanted to visit.  I also wanted to take advantage of being so close to continental Europe by making side trips to other countries, knowing I’d often have to travel by myself. The experience of traveling on my own while studying abroad made me realize that venturing out on your own (whether to another country or just to a new noodle house in your hometown) isn’t as scary as we first might think. I used to worry about making a wrong turn while driving or about missing a bus, but I learned that it doesn’t really matter. There will always be another bus.

This understanding has come in handy both in my personal life and professionally.  For ACCENT, I do a few trips a year by myself to deliver orientations to students on our study abroad programs. On one of these trips I missed my flight due to extra long security lines; it was the first time I had ever missed a flight.  For a moment I panicked internally because it was a travel situation I had never encountered. However, my study abroad experience had taught me that things go wrong, especially when traveling. It also taught me that it is not the end of the world when they do. Before studying abroad, I might have called my family to freak out if I had missed my flight, this time I calmly spoke to the airport attendant and figured out what my next step was.  My time abroad taught me that I can handle these mishaps.

 

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Allison Keith, Director of U.S. Operations

Growing up as the 5th child of 6 in my family, I was forced to take on a fair amount of independence from a young age. However, my study abroad experience most certainly made me grow even more in this area. I chose to do a gap year as my first overseas experience, and even though I was only 17, I traveled a lot on my own.  Being so far from my family and friends (pre-internet, so very little contact back home!), meant that I had to problem-solve entirely on my own. The confidence that I acquired during my gap year most definitely helped me in college, as I had previously been very timid and shy. Studying abroad made me even more inquisitive and allowed me to open up more with people. I learned to embrace other cultures, which diversified my interests. My study abroad experiences eventually led me to find the field of international education, for which, 25 years later, I am still so thankful!

 

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Chelsey Little, Outgoing Contract Manager and Social Media Manager

I would have to say that adaptability is one skill I really honed when studying abroad in Florence, Italy and Oxford, England. This is a vital skill in any profession and has certainly helped me during my time at ACCENT as Contract Manager and Social Media Manager. In any field or workplace, things change as time goes on, and sometimes things change very quickly or unexpectedly, so being able to anticipate and face unforeseen challenges head-on by adapting to the task and needs at hand is critical. In both Florence and Oxford, I had to adapt to a new culture, a new classroom and workplace environment, new people, and new places. Everything about life was a little different than what my day-to-day was back on campus at Stanford, or in my hometown of Austin, Texas, and in adapting to those differences, I found that I thrive under such circumstances and truly enjoy the learning opportunities that novel environments and experiences offer.

Beyond being a just a “skill” though, as the years have passed, I’ve come to realize that adaptability is, for me, a core personal value. When I think now about adaptability, I think about how it has helped me to connect with the community that I live in, wherever that community may be. Growing up in Austin, I connected with my community by taking public transportation throughout the city, going to cafés and coffee shops to study or read, and generally interacting with people wherever I’d go. In Florence, I walked to both class and work each day, made friends with expats who lived there, and even dated a local Florentine student. In Oxford, I got involved with a local theater group comprised of Oxford students from around the world, all living, studying, and performing Shakespeare together, in true English fashion. When I graduated from Stanford, I moved to San Francisco, where I would ride my bike around the city, go to local farmer’s markets, walk around, and just take everything in. About a year ago, I moved across the Bay to Oakland and am hoping to continue connecting with my local community throughout my life and career.

Although my time at ACCENT has drawn to a close, I still firmly believe in the work they do and in the importance of studying abroad. I am so proud to have been a part of helping students have these learning opportunities for the past five years, and forever in my heart I will be a member of the ACCENT family.

image3a~ ACCENT San Francisco

Did this post inspire you to study abroad? Research your study abroad options at http://accentintl.com/find-a-program/.

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Rock the Vote from Anywhere in the World

vote-1319435_1280November 8th is almost here, and while many of our students are returning from Summer programs just in time to vote for our next President, some of our students will be abroad for the Fall. However, it is still possible for overseas students to engage in the voting process.

How do you vote from overseas? It’s actually very simple. This week’s post comes from two UC students, who interned with Democrats Abroad while studying in Madrid. They will take you through the process step-by-step, in this excerpt shared by them from the UCEAP post found here.

We hear you’re about to embark on one of the best experiences of your life! We just came back from ours. If you’re like us, you know how important the upcoming election is. Before we left the U.S., we hadn’t done much research on the process to vote from abroad.

In case you were not aware, yes, you can vote from abroad! Awesome, right? We thought so, too. Here are a few simple steps to vote.

1. Register and Request a Ballot

Mailing Deadline: October 24, 2016

Rock the Vote has a convenient website to help you register and request your ballot. To get your ballot, you have to know your residential address abroad.

You’ll be asked a series of questions that makes filling in the form a breeze and the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) is generated for you to print, sign and mail. A prepaid U.S. postage label addressed to your local election official (the person responsible for sending you your ballot) is also printed. You’ll have to add the additional postage if you’re abroad. Watch this video for a 3-minute overview of the process.

2. Vote and Mail your Ballot

Mailing Deadline: November 8, 2016

Once you’ve sent back your FPCA, you can verify your voter registration status with your local elections office. After this, you can expect your ballot to be mailed to your current address abroad so you can participate in the upcoming election! Be sure to mail your ballot early enough to account for mail delivery times.

3. Get Help if You Need It

Got questions? Message the helpful admins on Rock the Vote’s Facebook group for a quick response.

Some frequently asked questions and answers include:

  • Federal Postcard Application — works as both a voter registration form and a ballot request form
  • US Address — the last place you lived; either your home address, or at school
  • Current Address — where you’ll stay abroad; this is where your ballot will be sent
  • Email Option — USE IT! It’s faster and more convenient
  • ID Number — your state driver’s license number, or the last 4 digits of your Social Security
  • Party Preference — required to vote in closed primaries, otherwise not necessary
  • Ballot Return — even if you email your ballot, you’ll need to print, sign and mail it

-Andrea Parra and Stephen Read; European Transformations, Madrid & Rome Internship Program

In addition to Andrea and Stephen’s advice, here are some handy links below:

Federal Voting Assistance Program: http://www.fvap.gov/
Vote From Abroad: http://www.votefromabroad.org/

If you’re still undecided, here are links to each of the top four candidates’ websites:

Hillary Clinton: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/
Donald Trump: https://www.donaldjtrump.com/
Jill Stein: http://www.jill2016.com/
Gary Johnson: https://www.johnsonweld.com/

ACCENT staff at your local Study Center are also available to answer any other questions you might have. Every vote counts, so be sure your voice is heard this election year.

~ACCENT San Francisco

The Long, Winding Road to Independence

Our next post comes from our office in San Francisco, where Contract and Administrative Assistant Audrey Celenza tells us about her study abroad experience in Italy, with a focus on students with disabilities.

When I was 8 years old, I was diagnosed with NLD, which I often describe as a loquacious distant cousin to Asperger’s Syndrome, and existing in that nebulous space between the autism spectrum and “other.” To give you a general idea, I began speaking well before most babies do, but at 27, I still have trouble decoding sarcasm, nonverbal cues, and, to some extent, nonliteral language.

There are still plenty of recurring myths about the autistic: that they never leave their parents’ basements, never learn how to interact with people, and always live only in their own heads. But if you give us the time and opportunity, we will be happy to grow and explore.

DSCN0821I suppose that was why, when I saw an advertisement for a Florence study abroad program at my local community college, I decided then and there that I was going to go. There was no inner struggle, no contemplation of pros and cons. I simply knew, deep down, that this was right.

I can’t say that, while I was sharing an apartment with other students, I always felt that same sense of rightness. It’s hard to make friends when your old support systems are unavailable. I had meltdowns that I’m sure caused my roommates to feel confused and powerless. I often felt overwhelmed by the unpredictable behavior and events that constantly surrounded me. It’s never easy to pack up and fly halfway around the world, and when you’re neurologically predisposed to have trouble with change, it’s ten times more difficult.

Eventually, though, I did find two friends: one of my fellow students, and her ASL interpreter. I can’t begin to imagine what living in a world with almost no sound must be like, but that didn’t stop us. After all, if we could communicate with the locals by speaking Italian that was more destroyed than broken, we could find a way to understand and be understood.

Guidebook in hand, we would walk all over the city, searching for artworks that I had only seen before in my Art History classes. We joined crowds celebrating the 150th anniversary of Italian unification. The three of us went to restaurants where we ate dishes most Americans had probably never laid eyes on. I began to feel more comfortable, and when I did, I discovered something about myself.

Change is a tricky thing. People on the spectrum are constantly told that change always comes when we push ourselves beyond our comfort zone. Being the hair-splitting, detail-oriented folks we are, we are quick to point out that that isn’t always the case. I’ve experienced change in a variety of ways, leading me to think of it as a very personal journey. In this case, change wasn’t dramatic. It crept up on me the night the three of us wandered around Venice during an optional excursion. Carnevale was in full swing: Piazza San Marco was packed with people, all anxious to approach an enormous, cherub-infested fountain flowing with red wine. Laughter, muffled behind bejeweled porcelain masks, sounded from all sides. Language reached a rolling bubble as more and more locals and tourists joined the crowd. In the side streets, inebriated groups of revelers leaned against one another as they weaved from side-to-side.

As we wandered around the narrow, twisted streets of Venice, stopping for pizza slices, hot chocolate, and anything that happened to catch our gaze, I realized how much I had grown from the person I was ten years ago, five years ago, or three months ago. There was a time when an outing like this would have inspired uncontrollable anxiety in me, possibly even a full-blown panic attack. Now, even though I had no idea where we were, what we were doing, or where we were going, I was happy. I could handle spontaneity.

Independence isn’t something only reserved for a certain set of people. It’s a journey we all take, and whether we rush into it with excitement and energy or crawl at a snail’s pace, our stories are worth telling. We all try to go from point A to point B, it’s just that we don’t always get there in a straight line. And as anyone who has landed in a new city knows, the most roundabout route often generates the best memories.

Allison_and_Audrey_in_Venice~Audrey Celenza, ACCENT San Francisco

 

Château d’Amboise and Château de Chambord

This week, Programs Assistant Lily Mac Mahon from our Paris Study Center shares with us her favorite excursion this summer: a trip to the Loire Valley and a tour of the sumptuous palaces that dominate its landscape.

The ACCENT Paris Study Center organized some wonderful activities throughout the summer semester, such as a tour of the city of Rouen (where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake) and a visit of the house and beautiful gardens of Monet at Giverny, but the highlight this year was certainly the day trip to the Loire Valley with the students of Emory University.

Chateau d'Amboise

After an early start and a very scenic drive along the Loire River, we arrived at the Château d’Amboise, strategically perched on a rocky promontory and dating back to the 11th century. As we mounted the castle ramparts, it was as if the modern world had been left behind, especially when we gazed at the panoramic view of the countryside and the river calmly flowing below. One can see why Leonardo da Vinci requested to be buried in the chapel of Saint-Hubert, just next to the surviving part of château. The great artist was invited by King Francis I, an admirer of Italian art, to reside in the nearby Château du Clos Lucé, which was connected to Amboise by an underground passage. One of the most unique architectural features of the château was the interior sloped stone walkway, covered in medieval graffiti, which was used for the horses and carts to enter and exit. The whole place had an air of mystery, and while portions of the original buildings have been destroyed, the royal apartments and beautiful gardens give an impressive image of what courtly life would have been like.

Our final destination of the day was the Château Chambord, the largest of the hundred or so châteaux in the Loire Valley and, arguably, the most impressive. As we approached, it felt as if its chimneys and towers were rising out of the marshland. It is an architectural marvel, designed to impress visiting royalty and dignitaries, and yet completely impractical as it was too cold in winter and too hot in summer. Even the builders did not wish to work there for fear of the life-threatening mosquitos. Built just shortly after the death of Leonardo da Vinci in 1519, many suspect that it was he who designed the double helix staircases, which ascend up to the third floor without ever connecting. Although the interior of the château was less grandiose than the exterior, it nevertheless had a fireplace for everyday of the year, eighty-four staircases, and the ceremonial bedroom where Louis XIV would have done his Grand Lever. During this morning ritual, the king would have been washed, combed and dressed before a select few or, on certain days, the entire court. Ceremonial bedroom- Château de ChambordHenry James summed up the Renaissance extravagance of Chambord perfectly in his travel serial A Little Tour in France: “The towers, cupolas, the gables, the lanterns, the chimneys, look more like the spires of a city than the salient points of a single building.”

Château Chambord

~Lily Mac Mahon, ACCENT Paris

An Excerpt from Insights: Internship – Rome Reports News Agency

Rome_Intern

The Insights newsletter highlights innovative programs with ACCENT. This excerpt comes from our May 2016 edition. For more Insights, visit our newsletter at: http://accentintl.com/insightsmay2016/

When Zach Styx, journalism major from the University of Minnesota, secured an internship with Rome Reports news agency, he hardly imagined that he would soon be reporting on-camera from St. Peter’s Square, conducting interviews with passing bishops and cardinals.

Zack chose Rome for his semester abroad because he wanted to go somewhere that would take him out of his comfort zone and challenge him linguistically. “I had decent Spanish but zero Italian when I arrived,” Zack recalls. He admits to disliking Italy for his first two weeks, but now back in Minneapolis, has only positive memories of his time in Rome and his internship was the highlight.

“My internship was the most important part of my study abroad experience,” says Zack. Rome Reports is a Vatican-based news agency, which produces video reports to sell to other large news agencies.

Zack recalls his first day: “My mentor Adam said that he was going to throw me into the water and see if I could swim. He said that I could get as much out of this internship as I put in. This meant that from the first day I had to be entrepreneurial. I began by researching, translating and editing copy, and then moved onto more hands-on work with the broadcast crew. I always showed up early and I enjoyed it so much it didn’t feel like work to me.”

Soon Zack was given his own camera and sound crew and sent out to do reports and interviews in St. Peter’s Square and beyond. One of his favorite memories is covering an event between the Japanese Embassy and the Vatican Pontifical Council for Culture. It was a Japanese flute concert in the seventh century church of San Giorgio al Velabro and he was given sole responsibility for reporting on the event.

“I was also lucky,” recalls Zack, “that the Pope was very active during the time I was reporting on the Vatican, with his trips away including the one to Africa, and the Vatileaks scandal came out too.”

Zack graduates this month and plans to join the Air Force. For now, his journalistic ambitions are on hold, but he hopes to be able to connect his two passions in the future.