Welcome to the ACCENT Blog!


post1Over 25 years ago, ACCENT was born of the dream to see students from all over the United States engaging with and learning from an increasingly complex and diverse Europe. The goal: to empower students with global perspective through experiential study abroad programming custom designed for their school and major. The power of the study abroad experience to broaden an individual’s horizons, to transform not only the way we see the world, but the way we see ourselves, is what inspires every member of the ACCENT community to continue their work in international education.

This is study abroad, ACCENT style. With staff in San Francisco, Paris, Florence, London, Madrid, and Rome, the ACCENT community is far-reaching and dedicated to inspiring internationally focused intercultural experiences. This is our forum for sharing these experiences with you.

Whether you’ve already traveled abroad or you’re just now starting to consider it, whether you’re a student or parent, an administrator or faculty, we want to share our ACCENT study abroad experiences with you. We invite you to join our community, hear what we have to say, and share your personal study abroad experience with us today.

Florence Favs…!

The Torrigiani Gardens in Florence span nearly 17 acres and contain an impressive array of flowering plants and artistic marvels. The Gardens reached their height in popularity during the 19th century, when Marquis Pietro Torrigiani began to acquire adjoining properties, expanding the size of the garden and decorating it in the English Romantic style.

Perhaps the most impressive structure in the gardens is the astronomy tower. Rising up beyond the treetops, this tower, deliberately designed in the then-popular neo-Gothic style, contained a vast library and a fantastic collection of scientific instruments.   800px-Giardino_torrigiani,_torretta_13 wikimediacommons

Today, the Gardens are the chosen site of a number of special events. ACCENT Florence Study Center Director Michelangelo D’Elia discusses why the Torrigiani Gardens are one of his Florence Favs in this Live Like A Local post!


The Torrigiani Gardens are the largest privately owned gardens within the city walls. I like it for the history, the events and fashion shows held there, and the cultural value of the area.JPX0030torrigianisite

The Torrigiani Gardens have many different kinds of plants and trees so I find it really charming from a historical point of view; and I appreciate the way they set up events and organize fashion shows, using the space in a more modern way. Conveniently, it’s on my side of the River, so I always try to go when there is an event there. The Torrigiani Gardens are only open for special events, so it helps to be on the mailing list. Some of the events are open to the public so even if you don’t get the email, you can still go. It’s a nice part of Florence.

800px-Giardino_torrigiani,_edificio_04 wikimediacommons~ Michelangelo D’Elia, ACCENT Florence

Educational Exploration: Guided Walks in London

This week’s post comes to us from our London intern Plamen Momchilov, who describes how visiting a city and learning from a professional guide can be a more engaging learning experience than simply sitting in a classroom.

It has been said that, without a doubt, London is a historically rich city, filled with centuries-old buildings and curious stories to hear. From Roman walls, through Medieval palaces, to Victorian splendor, there is a 2,000-year history to explore within the center of the capital.

Typically, the way that we study a subject (such as the history of London) at a university would be through a series of lectures and seminars. But being physically in London provides a plethora of opportunities to explore endless amounts of interesting sites. It is even easier if you have a knowledgeable guide to teach you about a topic you are interested in while being surrounded by the living history of this city.

In the last month while I attended guided walks, I soon realized that there was more to explore than I had thought. Though I study and live in the area, I felt as excited as the visiting students, who were only beginning to experience London.

Professional Guide Richard Barnett leads a group of students on a tour

I joined a walk with Arizona State University students in Greenwich, where hemispheres meet and naval heritage is the main attraction, an area that has lured various interesting characters throughout its history. Once an isolated village past the outskirts of London, its significance in regards to the development of British naval power is undisputed. However, it is not only scientific research or overseas quests that have attracted so many to the area. Since the Tudor era, Greenwich has enticed royal pleasure-seekers, secret spies, and creative novelists. Richard Barnett, our guide who offered insight into the history of Greenwich, managed to captivate all of us by weaving together narratives of grand architecture, ghost stories, odd scientists, and undercover royals.

Students with an interest in law and the impact of documents such as the Magna Carta would find the area known as Temple fascinating. Hidden between Embankment and Fleet Street, Temple is known to most people through the novel and film ‘The Da Vinci Code.” People well acquainted with Temple’s history can easily debunk the myths put forward by Dan Brown! David Mildon detailed the roots of English law and politics as he guided us around Temple. Middle Temple, the hall in the heart of the area, is like a historic time capsule. It was founded by the Knights Templar and has developed into a secluded legal base, in which many famous people, including several authors of the American Declaration of Independence, received their legal training.

Image courtesy of bbc.co.uk

Tower Hamlets

The focus of guided academic walks need not be exclusively historic.  As one of the largest cities in Europe, London’s diverse inhabitants face numerous challenges. Natalie Savona, an experienced dietician, has researched the health issues that concern Londoners, particularly those from low-income backgrounds.  Her guided walk around the borough of Tower Hamlets exposed the pressures urbanization and globalization put on the provision of healthcare in London, as well as how social and economic inequalities have had an effect on local attitudes towards public health. She touched on how gentrification across London’s poorest boroughs has had an impact on diet and choice.

Through experiencing these sites first-hand, I have been truly inspired to learn more about this vast city and its people. These guided walks have taken me beyond the traditional learning platforms of lectures, readings, and seminar discussions into a space where I have had a sensory connection to the subject matter, and, as a direct result, will remember the stories I have been told more vividly.IMAG0384

~Plamen Momchilov, Intern at  ACCENT London

An Excerpt from Insights: An Italian Take on Crime & Deviance

Addiopizzo1The Insights newsletter highlights innovative programs with ACCENT. This excerpt comes from our May 2016 edition. For more Insights, visit our newsletter at:

Professor Marco Bracci’s Sociology of Crime course is prompting University of Minnesota students in Florence to study the relationship between crime, culture, and media, focusing on the mafia and some high-profile criminal cases in central Italy, such as the Amanda Knox trial.

The course deals with the most relevant sociological theories on crime as a particular form of deviance, aiming to apply different theoretical perspectives to the study of the relationship between crime and culture in contemporary societies. It is designed to take full advantage of the students’ experience abroad and focuses on Florentine and Italian contexts.

In April, Bracci’s students departed for a Sicily study tour. While there, they met with representatives of Addiopizzo, an NGO fighting the tradition of businesses paying a pizzo or bribe to the local mafia boss simply to be allowed to remain open for trade. The group met with Addiopizzo representative Francesco Fiumara, a lawyer and activist who explained the challenges the organization faces in Sicily, and the organization’s aims which include education, racket prevention, and solidarity. Addiopizzo provides legal support to those brave enough to denounce the extortion, and helps them cope with the consequences, which range from menacing behavior to an escalation of threats and violence.


“I found all of this extremely interesting. It was a very different look at the Mafia and who they actually are…we are used to the movies, like the Godfather,” one student reflected. “Prior to our trip to Taormina, I was already aware of the Mafia, but only in a general capacity. I may have known that different mafia groups impact the economy in their towns, but I did not know the specifics on how exactly they accomplished this.”

Back in Florence, the course continued with a look at the representation of crime in the Italian popular music culture, as well as the violence in and around sport that continues to plague Italian soccer stadiums and beyond.

For more information on how ACCENT students learn about local efforts to combat Mafia influence, see our ACCENT Blog post, “A Visit to ARCI with UC’s ‘History and Culture of Food’ Class.”

University of California Internship Students in Madrid Meet Nobel Peace Prize Winner

As part of the ACCENT UCEAP European Transformations Semester with Internship in Madrid Program, University of California students had the opportunity to meet 1992 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Rigoberta Menchú at a seminar focused on combatting impunity in Guatemala. Aside from obtaining the Nobel Peace Prize for her leadership in national and international social struggles, Menchú received the UNESCO Education for Peace Prize in 1990, the Legion of Honor from France in 1996, and the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation from Spain in 1998. This experience was integral for student Jennifer Solares’ internship at the Asociación de Mujeres de Guatemala (http://mujeresdeguatemala.org/), which hosted Rigoberta Menchú’s seminar at Casa Encendida, a cultural center in Madrid.

Rigoberta Menchú, photo posted on Menchú’s Premio Nobel de la Paz 1992 Facebook Page

The Asociación de Mujeres de Guatemala is a non-profit feminist Spanish NGO created by Guatemalan female refugees, displaced people, and immigrants living in Spain. Currently, it is formed by women of different nationalities with a common objective: the search for procedures which ensure that serious human rights violations of women, especially in Latin America, are internationally known and assumed as a global responsibility.

Menchú among the panelists at the seminar, photo posted on Menchú’s Premio Nobel de la Paz 1992 Facebook Page

The seminar, titled “Crimes Against Humanity: Historical Cases,” was part of the conference series “Women Against Impunity.” Rigoberta highlighted two historical cases between 2013 and 2016. The first case was an assault and fire by police that occurred at the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala in 1980, which left 37 people dead, including Menchú’s father, Vicente. The trial took place 34 years later and culminated in a 90-year prison sentence for former head of police Pedro García Arredondo. Another historical sentence was accomplished in 2016 for serious human rights violations committed in the Sepur Zarco village against women of Q’eqchi origin, who were used as labor and sex slaves for years by the Guatemalan military.

Group photo at Casa Encendida

From left to right, UCEAP students Jazmin Jimenez, Ciclady Rodriguez and at the bottom center, Jennifer Solares. Photo taken by ACCENT Staff Lourdes Ceja and Tania Rodríguez (also in picture).

For Jennifer Solares, the visit by Rigoberta Menchú was the highlight of her internship experience: “If it weren’t for this internship experience, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to see a Nobel Prize Winner.” As a Political Science major with a passion for politics, Jennifer has been able to fulfill her internship goal of working in activism, promoting equality, and assisting women in a non-profit organization. Likewise, UC student Ciclady Rodriguez found the lecture to be very insightful and valuable for her internship at Asociación CONI (http://www.asociacionconi.org), a non-profit Spanish NGO whose objective is international cooperation for development in Guatemala via initiatives aimed at promoting the most disadvantaged, such as women, children, and at-risk indigenous groups.

The historical visit by Rigoberta Menchú deepened students’ knowledge about influential feminist human rights leaders in Latin America, helped them understand significant trials, and enhanced their internship experience in Spain.

~ Lourdes Ceja, ACCENT Madrid

Lessons Learned in Paris and Rome

The third in our series of Student Features from Michigan State University students comes from Sam Metry, who tells us about his first impressions as a new study abroad student, and what he has learned during his first week in Europe.

This is one of many student blogs from the Summer 2016 MSU Sporting Cultures & Media Program in Paris and Rome. You can view the rest of them online here: https://msusportsjrn16sa.wordpress.com

6 Things I’ve Learned After 6 Days in Europe

I’ve been in Europe for six days and I’ve learned a lot, and made a ton of mistakes, but that’s the point of this journey, to embrace a new culture and learn things. So here are six things that I’ve learned so far.

1) Clothes are way different: This might be the thing I wish I knew most before leaving the USA. No one wears short sleeve shirts in Paris, and very few wear them in Rome. I only packed short sleeve shirts. I basically scream, “Look at me, I’m an American.” Same goes with shorts and pants. I have no idea how the locals don’t get hot, but it works for them. Another big difference: everyone wears black and gray or other dark colors, so when you’re wearing a lime green golf shirt, you tend to stick out.

2) Happiness is universal: I can’t speak Italian or French. At all. But so far, no one has gotten mad at me for being an American. As long as you try, smile, and seem nice and happy, you’ll have no problems.

3) Eventually, you’ll figure out what people are saying: English is derived from Latin, German, French, and others. Most languages in Europe have a lot in common, so there are going to be crossover words that everyone will understand. You can also talk with your hands. Pointing, making shapes, that all works. Eventually, you and your new European friend will figure it out, but as I said in number two, be friendly. You probably wouldn’t want to help a rude French speaking person on the streets of New York, same goes for the reverse here.

4) If you have to take an overnight train, pay to upgrade your seat: I definitely learned this the hard way. An overnight train from Milan to Paris is 10-12 hours, depending on how long customs take, so let me paint you a word picture of how much that night will haunt me. Our compartment was about half the size of the ones on the Hogwarts Express,Source: MTV News there were six fully-grown men trying to lay down in there. I’m 6’2”, and the bed was probably 5’9”. And it got hot. Really hot. So if I could have a do-over on that night, I would, but you live and you learn.


5) There is no way to prepare for how big things are: My second day in Rome, I was taking a taxi to a friend’s apartment and we rounded a corner and saw the Colosseum.Source: Wikimedia Commons We’ve all seen pictures of the Colosseum, we all know it’s huge. But I’m serious when I say that there is no way for you to prepare for how big it is. The same thing goes for the Eiffel Tower. The first time it comes into your line of sight, you say to yourself, “It can’t be that big.” But it is. It was a pretty cloudy day when I first saw it, and I couldn’t see the top because it was hiding in the clouds.

6) Don’t be afraid to get lost: On the way to a club in Rome, we somehow got lost and ended up at the Trevi Fountain. And I didn’t realize it until we got there and I looked up. Definitely a cool thing. And as long as you have the address of where you’re staying, you can just hop in a taxi.

The Parisian Lifestyle and the Value of Time

In our second in the latest series of Student Features on the ACCENT Blog, Michigan State University student Kacy Kobakof shares with us her experiences in Paris, first as a newcomer to the city, and then as an individual immersed in, and nurturing a fondness for, the Parisian way of life. This is one of many student blogs from the Summer 2016 MSU Sporting Cultures & Media Program in Paris and Rome. You can view the rest of them online here: https://msusportsjrn16sa.wordpress.com

Waking Up In Paris

Today, I was a Parisian for a day. Or, at least, I tried to be.

I woke up to the sound of the rain beating against the bedroom window of my apartment and in the puddles on the surrounding concrete ground. I walked onto the terrace and looked over Seine River, the morning light hitting the water and the Eiffel Tower saying “hello” in the distance. Well, good morning, beautiful Parisian ambiance.

The challenge I had to face today: the Metro. Much like the New York City subway system, the Metro connects the 20 arrondissements of Paris through a series of underground rails. To my surprise, I navigated the Metro with ease and fit in. A Tuesday morning ride on the Metro is a ride with the working people of Paris. It’s quite a concept that in a city occupied by over two million people, they all fall into one flow.

Paris is full of space that craves to be explored and monuments that are meant to be admired. My first day ended by gazing at the sparkling Eiffel Tower an hour before midnight. I have never seen a sight more beautiful in my entire twenty years, the monument glistening and lighting up the sky for everyone to see.

I cannot wait for the next 15 days to learn how to become one with this city. Expectations are meant to be exceeded, and I have total confidence that Paris will exceed mine.

How Do You Spend Your Time?

If there is one thing that stands out about the way Parisians live their lives, it’s the way that they spend their time. Parisians do not live life in the fast lane, trying to balance five things when there are only enough hands for one. Can you imagine that? From the minute I arrived in Paris, I noticed dramatic differences in the way people spend the hours of their days, versus the way I know Americans spend their time back in the United States.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed:

First: Espresso.

In the United States, there isn’t a person that you pass on the morning walk to work that doesn’t have a coffee in hand. This is multi-tasking at its finest. It’s very rare to take the ten minutes and sit down in a Starbucks and enjoy your cup of coffee before heading to work in America. Wouldn’t those ten minutes be nice to have before your hectic day starts? Probably.

In Paris, people make the time so that they can enjoy those ten minutes. The Parisians stop in a coffee shop, drink their shot of espresso, and continue on their way. No rushing and no need for the balancing act that goes on between your to-go cup and other objects.

Second: You don’t need the bill the second you finish the food on your plate…

…And your plate comes out of the kitchen with a correct serving on it, not an enormous American portion you’re struggling to finish by the end of the meal.

Instead of constantly squeezing in as many customers as the restaurant can, service is not a race. Once seated, food comes out quickly and conversation lingers on. The bill isn’t brought until those dining in are completely ready to leave. Time out to eat should be relaxing. With an enjoyable meal and great company, what’s the rush about?

Third: Your clothes are going to take longer to dry than the 60-minute cycle.

Because plot-twist, there are no drying machines in Europe. There is no last minute I’m-going-to-throw-my-shirt-in-the-washer-then-dryer-and-have-it-in-two-hours-because-I-forgot-to-do-it-last-night here in Europe. If that’s the case, you’re either wearing it damp or out of luck.

I don’t think that these few differences between Europe and the United States are a negative. Making time to do the necessary things that you have to do throughout your day is a wonderful thing, and helps keep the stress levels at an all-time low. It allows a person to enjoy whatever it is they’re doing, rather than just checking off the boxes to make it through the day.

Take the time to make every minute of your day count. Don’t rush, don’t stress. Try it.


Football: It’s a way of life


Photo by Antonio FerraroIn this week’s post, Anna Tapfer, the ACCENT San Francisco team’s football fanatic and Germany fan (“Auf geht’s Deutschland!”), provides us with some useful background info on the Euro Cup. Following these fun facts, Michigan State University student Antonio Ferraro shares with us his experience of the Euro Cup in Paris, France. This Student Feature, provided to ACCENT by the Summer 2016 MSU Sporting Cultures & Media Program in Paris and Rome, is the first in a series of posts we’ll be sharing.

Whether you’re in Paris, Madrid, London, Rome, or Florence, you’ve probably noticed all kinds of celebrations going on surrounding the Euro Cup. Curious about what the Euro Cup is exactly, and why it is so important? Here’s all the information you need to know if this is your first Euro Cup experience!

  • The first Euro Cup was organized in France in 1960 and had only four teams, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, France, and Yugoslavia, and was won by the Soviet Union.
  • The tournament has steadily expanded since 1960, doubling to eight teams in 1980, doubling again in 1996 to 16 teams, and increasing this year to 24 teams for the first time, the same number that compete in the World Cup.
  • Unlike the World Cup, and as the name implies, the Euro Cup is only open to the 53 UEFA members, all located in Europe.
  • Opening up the tournament to 24 teams has allowed many countries their first time to compete in the group stages, including Albania, Northern Ireland, Wales, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Iceland.
  • The tournament follows the same structure as the World Cup: teams are selected at random and assigned to a group, four teams per group, six groups total. The six group winners, six ground runners-up, and the top four third-place teams will advance to the knock out round, the Round of 16.
  • Winners, runners-up, and the top four third-place teams are determined on a points-based system. 3 points are awarded to the team that wins a game, 1 point is awarded to each team that draws, and 0 points are given to those teams that lose. For any ties (likely at the third-place level), a point differential is used, which is the number of goals you scored in the three group stage matches, minus the number of goals your team conceded. The higher the number, the better.
  • The group stage is the only part of the tournament where a draw/tie is allowed. After this stage, teams will have to play overtime (two 15 minute halves) and then go into a penalty shoot-out, if still tied after overtime.
  • Teams are put together based on citizenship; you must be a citizen of a country in order to represent it. This can result in some fairly lopsided teams, with maybe one or two top players with some mid-tier players, and explains why you won’t see Messi out and about during the Euro Cup.
  • By now, you have probably realized that it’s not soccer, it’s football, and it’s not just a sport, it’s a way of life. Football is the heart and soul of many countries across the world, it is truly the world’s sport, and therefore is treated as such throughout Europe. It is not uncommon to see European politicians at important matches as it’s not just a sport, it’s a way for an entire country to unite together and celebrate.
  • The BBC has France favored to win this tournament, and generally speaking, host countries do very well in their Host countries also don’t have to play the qualifying matches earlier in the year to get to the Euro Cup, they are automatically in. Of course, anything can happen though, so stay tuned!
  • The group stage ended yesterday, June 22nd, and Round of 16 begins Saturday, June 25th. Italy, France, England, and Spain are all through to the Round of 16, so don your face paint and join your host country in (safely) rooting on your host country!

Euro 2016 Opening Match
by Antonio Ferraro

I love soccer. It may sound cliché, but to me it really is a beautiful game. The way players can kick a ball 30 yards on a dime to the feet of the receiving player is remarkable. The way a striker can perfectly place a ball in the top right corner off a set piece is absolutely stunning. Most Americans think I’m a little crazy, but I prefer soccer to American football. It keeps me on my toes every minute, not knowing what might happen. The way a country rallies around their team with such passion is what sports are all about: something that brings people together. I think the US is slowly learning that as I think soccer is becoming more popular since the last men’s World Cup garnered a lot of interest and the women won their World Cup last summer.

Well, in Europe and France it has been that way for generations. The French national team or Les Bleus as it’s called here began their Euro 2016 campaign at home against Romania last night and I managed to get a ticket to go with some friends.

Now, I’ve been to my fair share of big sporting events; a Stanley Cup Final, an MLB playoff game, I even drove to Pasadena to cheer on my Spartans in the Rose Bowl in 2014. Those are all great and I enjoy every memory, but nothing can compare so far to what I witnessed last night. From the Opening Ceremony to the national anthems, from kick-off to Dimitri Payet’s 89th minute immaculate strike to give Les Bleus the win, I could tell when I looked around and just tried to take it all in that to the French, this was way more than just an opening game of a tournament. It means so much more than that to them.

This is one of many student blogs from the Summer 2016 MSU Sporting Cultures & Media Program in Paris and Rome. You can view the rest of them online here: https://msusportsjrn16sa.wordpress.com

Perceptions of Paris

Marc-Antoine Vives is an intern at the ACCENT Paris Study Center and organizes a weekly “Coffee Talk” for the students. Coffee Talk is an informal meeting where students can practice their French, learn about French culture, play games, and enjoy coffee and biscuits, all in a relaxing atmosphere. During one of these sessions, Marc-Antoine interviewed a group of students from the University of Southern California and San Diego State University to understand what it’s like to study abroad in Paris and how ACCENT helped to shape their experience there.

This interview was conducted in French and was then translated into English.

IMG_1935Marc-Antoine: Before you came to Paris, what did you imagine the “City of Lights” to be like?

Evelyne: First of all, I didn’t expect it to be so cold! That was certainly difficult to get used to. I also thought that I would hear more English on the streets and in the metro; I imagined Paris to be a bit more touristy. However, when you’re actually living here, you see that there are French people living normal lives, and foreigners and tourists visiting the city as well.

Autumn: I essentially imagined it to be like many movies filmed in Paris, where one strolls down the street with a big bag of fresh produce in one arm, admiring all of the windows brimming with flowers, like in the Impressionist paintings. I also naively thought that it would be easier to converse with French students—that was a bit of a challenge!

Marc-Antoine: After living in Paris for a semester, how has your perception of the city changed?

Evelyne: It’s not just a touristy city to me now; it’s a place where I’ve actually lived and made my home for the semester. The ability to speak French and to find my way around the city without getting lost is a very cool feeling!

Autumn: My perception has basically stayed the same as it was a few weeks into my arrival. I’ve come across a lot of incredibly nice people. The “frostiness” of the French is not as common of a characteristic as many people believe it to be.

imageMarc-Antoine: What is the biggest culture shock you’ve faced?

Evelyne: It’s been a slight culture shock having to follow a different rhythm of life. Taking the metro every day is completely new to me and I must say that having dinner at a late hour is also a big change.

Autumn: Things are certainly different! For example, my day-to-day life in Paris has absolutely changed from my day-to-day life in America, transportation and weather being the most drastic changes. I’m very happy with how relaxed this semester has been in comparison to past semesters.

Marc-Antoine: What advice would you give to a student who has just arrived in Paris?

Jeremy: In my opinion, everyone should visit Versailles. There’s too much to see in a single day, so I’d recommend taking multiple trips.

Evelyne: I’d suggest making a list of things to do and having a physical calendar of your time here to keep track of the days and months passing, as much as you’re able to. Keeping a journal is also a great way to remember everything you did and it’s nice to show it to everyone back home!

Autumn: Walk a lot and make sure that you don’t rely on public transportation too much or else you’ll miss out on some incredible views! Try to get involved in local events, especially those involving language, so you can participate in “international meetups” and practice your French as much as possible. I definitely suggest watching news and TV shows in French. Even though I don’t have access to a TV, I watch shows online, such as “Le Petit Journal” on Canal+.

IMG_1924Marc-Antoine: What has been the highlight of your stay in Paris?

Evelyne: I enjoyed spending special moments with friends, like the picnic I had with a group of friends in front of the Eiffel Tower! The fondue dinner organized by ACCENT was another fun memory and I also enjoyed having conversations and dinners with my host family.

Autumn: I really liked the first couple of days of staying at the hotel, when the city was fresh and everyone was getting to know each other. It was just a haze of good times.

Jeremy: I’d have to say the highlight was, again, Versailles and traveling with like-minded people.

Marc-Antoine: In your opinion, what are some benefits of studying abroad?

Jeremy: It provides the chance to experience a new culture and to gain a better perspective of the world.

Evelyne: For me, being able to improve my French has been one of the biggest benefits. My host family has helped me a lot—I recommend living with a host family, if you have the choice.

Autumn: Studying abroad allows us to see the world from a different point of view. I personally benefited from the exposure to centuries of history petrified in the buildings that are still standing. I’ve also loved trying new food and having to change my daily habits. And I’m so happy that my listening comprehension in French has skyrocketed!

IMG_1929Marc-Antoine: Do you see yourself coming back to Paris in the future? Is there another French city you’d like to explore during your visit?

Evelyne: I will definitely come back to Paris and travel around many different parts of France.

Jeremy: I’ll be back very soon as I’ve been fortunate to have acquired a teaching post in France!

Autumn: I would love to return to Paris! I hope that it will be in a professional context at some point in the future. I was able to enjoy Aix-en-Provence during my stay, and Lille was a wonderful city as well. I’d love to give other countries in Europe a try and maybe Canada, as I could speak French there. The world is my huître.

~Marc-Antoine Vives, ACCENT Paris

If you’re a faculty or study abroad office looking to make your students’ world their huître (“oyster”), check out ACCENT’s program design process and contact our program development team for more information.

A Second Chance

Upon returning from an overseas adventure, the question often comes up in conversation, “Would you do it all over again?” The question is usually answered with a resounding “YES!” The ACCENT San Francisco Center unanimously agrees that, given the chance to repeat our study abroad programs, we’d do it all again in a heartbeat. In this week’s blog post, each member of the team confesses what they’d do differently, or do again, if presented with the chance to return to the city where they studied abroad.

Ashley P. Spinelli, Program Development Manager, writes:
If I were back on my study abroad program right now, I would first eat an enormous bowl of tagliatelle al ragu from my favorite student restaurant in Bologna, Osteria dell’Orsa. After satisfying that craving, I would summon the courage to seek out more creative extracurriculars such as art, music, dance, or yoga early on in my study abroad experience.

I studied abroad on a full-immersion program in Bologna, Italy for an academic year, and although I had the academic preparation necessary for my coursework, I longed for an Italian-speaking community outside of the classroom that was not centered around my Italian roommates or American/Erasmus friends. It took me nearly a full year to work up the courage to seek out creative extracurriculars in Italian that my peers weren’t participating in.

I found I particularly missed the dance classes I had enjoyed as a student at the University of Minnesota. I spent months researching options and agonizing over whether I could think fast enough in Italian (I could), or if I would embarrass myself when I did not understand movement metaphors in another language (I would, but I’d also learn some tremendous vocabulary in the process) before I finally worked up the courage to sign up for a West African dance class. Inevitably, as the only non-native Italian speaker, I was not the star of the class. However, as a non-verbal form of communication, the dance class gave me the freedom to express myself with my Italian-speaking peers more freely. Combined with the opportunity to practice my language skills during class in a low-stress setting, this provided the perfect opportunity to make Italian friends with similar interests, stretch my vocabulary, and learn more about the the West African diaspora in Italy. Unfortunately, it was nearly the end of the program by the time I found this space. Having worked in the field, I’m now able to reflect on this experience and see the personal and academic learning opportunities that I could’ve experienced, had I pursued my interests earlier. At the time, I let my nerves get the best of me for most of the year, despite feeling desperate to expand outside of my community, do something creative, and get some exercise!Ashley2

Allison Keith, Director of U.S. Operations, says:
What would I want if I was back on my study abroad program? I need think no further. For me, the very best part of my study abroad experience was living with my homestay family in Tours, France. I have always adored children, and being able to live with a single mother and her two young girls was absolutely wonderful. I have to give credit to Melanie and Sylvie, as they were really the best teachers of French! The amazing inhibitions of the young, who will tell you exactly what you are saying wrong and then easily tell you how to say it correctly! Granted, it was French at a certain level, but it allowed me to build a foundation and also confidence in speaking. I adored my six months living with the Bertrand family and would not want to change that for the world!AKhomestay

Chelsey Little, Contract Manager/Social Media Manager, writes:
If I were lucky enough to be back on my study abroad program in Florence with Stanford University right now, I would: 1) Avoid that walkway/bridge that just collapsed due to a sink hole because it’s right by where the Stanford center in Florence is now, and is the same route I took every day to get to school from the Santa Croce neighborhood—yikes! 2) Enjoy un caffé and the scene at Le Murate / Café Letteraio, a place I did not know about when I was abroad, but would have loved to frequent. 3) Learn how to cook from my Italian host mom. This never came up as an opportunity for me when I was abroad, probably because I never thought to ask, but as an adult, I love to make all sorts of Italian dishes (linguini, paperdelle, tagliatelle, gnocchi, pizza, risotto, tutti fatto a mano!) and it would have been amazing to have picked up a few pointers from a pro. 4) Plan a trip to a nearby hot springs. I’ve only recently (in the past few years) developed a fondness for hot springs, and I might not have been quite brave enough to venture out to one when I was in college, but at this point in my life, I’ve got the bug and I want to bask in any sulfuric body of water I can find. Sounds to me like I need to make a trip back to Italy ASAP!Chelsey overlooking Florence

Tanyshia Stevens, Programs Assistant, says:
If I were back in Paris, the very first thing I would do is hunt down a döner kebab! It’s been four years since I studied abroad and I still crave them, almost daily. It’s the perfect meal—delicious slow roasted meat sandwiched between perfectly toasted bread, with a large helping of frites (or french fries, as we call them). For less than €5, it’s the perfect grab-and-go meal.

I would then take a walk through Paris and find a nice park or bench so I could sit and enjoy the sun. During my time abroad, I was always very hesitant to get out and explore by myself. Now that I have some experience traveling, if I could go back to Paris now, I’d do a lot more exploring alone.Tanyshia

Anna Tapfer, Programs Coordinator, says:
If I was back on my study abroad program, I’d be spending more time out and about in Munich, taking the train to surrounding Bavarian towns (eating tons of pretzels and döner kebab along the way), and taking advantage of low-cost flights to see other countries. I did a good amount of traveling during a generous two-and-a-half-month semester break, but would try to spend more time going to countries and cities I had never been to before, even cities within Germany.Anna[2]

Sara Assadi-Nik, Assistant Programs Coordinator, writes:
If I was back in Paris on my study abroad program, I would make more of an effort to travel outside of the city. I was so enamored with Paris itself that I only took a few short trips outside of the city. Certainly exotic locations like Morocco, Croatia, and Hungary beckon. Knowing now that the opportunities to travel to these locations only become more troublesome in post-collegiate life, I would have taken advantage of the fact that I was in close proximity to such fascinating parts of the world.

Additionally, I would make an effort to spend more time in the city’s older neighborhoods, particularly in the little-known corners of the city. Between our campus in the 16th arrondisement, my apartment in the 19th, and a close friend’s apartment in the 4th, neighborhood haunts were quickly established, favorite locales visited time and time again, and aside from a rainy adventure to the Belleville neighborhood to eat my first bowl of authentic Vietnamese Pho, I can’t remember many times I ventured into arrondisements like the 10th, 12th, 13th, and 20th. Certainly I missed much of “authentic” Paris and eschewed many stunning locales because of metro rides that were seemingly too long to bear. Of particular interest to me now would be the flea markets like Marché aux Puces de Paris/St.-Ouen and Puces de Vanves, located in neighborhoods further afield than I would have ventured at the time.

Jani McEuen, Programs Coordinator, says:
If I was back on my study abroad program, I would make more of an effort to interact with local Londoners. Almost everything I did while in London was with my fellow University of California students, or entirely on my own, and I feel that I really missed out on something valuable by not making connections with any locals. I made friends on my study abroad program…with other Californians. I experienced London culture…as a solo foreign observer. It’s not always an easy task for an introverted gal to strike up random conversations with strangers, but if I was back there now, I would try harder. And I encourage every student who is currently studying abroad to strike up those conversations; ask someone in that restaurant what they ordered, ask someone in that pub which football team they’re cheering for, ask someone in that museum what they think of that painting, ask someone in that park what they love about the city in which they live. It’s thrilling to experience a new place and to see it through your own eyes, but one of the greatest gifts that study abroad can give is the ability to see the world through someone else’s.Jani Solitary

Megan Neureuter, Associate Director of U.S. Operations, writes:
If I was back on my study abroad program, I’d like to say that I wouldn’t do anything more or less than I did before. This is the case, for the most part, until I get to language. What I’d do differently today is choose to be daring—I would use the language I was learning and try it out everywhere I went. It’s my nature to be cautious and to avoid putting myself out there more than necessary, but I realize as I have become older that there can be downsides to that; at times, breaking out of our nature is more rewarding than any other accomplishment. Today, I would walk into the Parisian stores and stumble with my rudimentary French, but use it anyway. I would try to have actual conversations with my host family, rather than simple hellos and goodbyes. I would make mistakes and probably laugh a lot—it would be hard but it would be worth it and my confidence would skyrocket—and that’s what learning a language (and even a new culture) is all about. It’s about immersing yourself and learning that, although the world is big and scary, making that small attempt at being a part of something different can be so satisfying. In the end though, my Parisian experience was extraordinary and honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. Hindsight is easy and today I can see that I’m different now from who I was then; maybe I’ve become more daring or maybe I’m just able to identify my idiosyncrasies better—I’m not sure. But I do know, without a doubt, that if I was there today, I’d walk into a bakery and say, “Une baguette demi s’il vous plaît!” and savor it, relishing the fact that I’m in a city as special and wondrous as Paris.

Jessica Knittle, Contract and Administrative Assistant, writes:
Although I eagerly anticipate someday returning to the cobblestone streets of Galway’s bustling Eyre Square—to walk through the campus, past Irish storefronts, over the River Corrib, and around the beautiful green cathedral—given the chance to repeat my study abroad program, I’d first stop at the megalithic Lough Crew passage tombs. Only now do I understand what an amazing opportunity I’d been given, to have a glimpse of Ireland’s extensive history during my study abroad trip.

Many of the excursions we went on required short hikes, often ascending upward, to arrive at our destinations. The reward was always worth the effort. At the summit of the passage tombs, the giant mound of grass and small boulders provides a breathtaking view of County Meath—a fantastic spectacle of green, interrupted only by grazing sheep and miles of short stone fences. Sporadic boulders dot the clover-covered hill in random areas, marking ancient grave-sites. If I were back in Ireland, I would tattoo more scenes like this onto my memory. The Irish landscape is unlike anything else; the shades of green brighter and more awe-inspiring than any photograph.

During the autumn and spring equinoxes, light shines into the passage of the Lough Crew tomb, illuminating Neolithic symbols on the stone walls inside. Perhaps what inspires me to return is a longing to better understand the people who carved them. Did these people lay in the blanket of clovers as I did, appreciating the rare sight of a blue sky above them? What did they believe of these equinoxes, deemed significant by their alignment with the tomb’s entryway? If I had the chance to return to Ireland, I’d listen better; I’d look for more answers. After 5,000 years, the meaning of the symbols carved into the stone is still unclear…the history in the hills beckons me back.Jessica Lough Crew chair~ACCENT San Franscisco

“Born in an instant”

ink copyThe Spring 2016 University of Minnesota semester program in Florence culminated in a celebration of art. While students enjoyed their farewell dinner at the ACCENT Florence Study Center, ACCENT staff put together an installation to display the creative achievements of the UMN students who had taken courses in photography, book-making, and drawing; the familiar computer lounge was transformed into an improvised exhibition space that highlighted the projects students had created throughout the semester.

Brian Sera

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In viewing each work of art, students caught a glimpse of what each of their peers experienced during their time in Florence. From the travels they had taken both near and far, to the the local experiences they had as honorary Florentines, the moments captured through paper, pen, and camera lens were personal and extraordinary.

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Nighthawks copyFlorence Kelsey copy copyAs anyone who studies abroad (or travels anywhere, really) can attest, being in a foreign place can result in sensory overload. Florence in particular can astound and overwhelm visitors with its incredible beauty; the amount of art concentrated into such a small city is amazing! For those who remain in Florence for longer than the usual tourist though, this sensory overload can easily give way to inspiration, stirring in one the urge to capture and recreate the wonder. Giorgio Vasari, one of the key contributors to Florence’s beauty through his art, architecture, and writings, wrote, “These rough sketches, which are born in an instant in the heat of inspiration, express the idea of their author in a few strokes […].”

Rachel RosselliFor the University of Minnesota students, having the opportunity to explore their creative sides through these courses opened new channels through which they could express their experiences non-verbally. Though some are majoring in subjects related to the art field, for many of the students, their art classes here in Florence were their introduction to artistic expression, the first chance they had to discover and utilize new skills to express and enrich their experience abroad. The slide shows of photographs students made to tell the story of their lives in Florence, the beautiful hand-bound books that opened up into miniature sculptures with images and writings of the program trip to Taormina, Sicily…each precious form of art gave students a way to meditate on their experiences and to share their stories through their creations.

~Lilia Lamas, ACCENT Florence

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Night Ride to Morocco

Enjoy this Student Feature, written by one of our UCEAP program participants in Madrid. This personal narration of a bus ride to Morocco will give you a glimpse of the moment every study abroad student has when they find fellowship in unfamiliar surroundings.  

I’m currently in route to Tanger, Morocco, enduring a 12-hour bus ride from our starting point in Madrid; it’s a long journey, but it’s easier to bear with my new tribe. This tribe is not only made up of a spectrum of personalities, but an array of experiences. We each left our home campuses, where many of us constructed new homes away from home, and now must rely on each other to reestablish that same comfort overseas.

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How is it possible that we can grow so comfortable with strangers we’ve just met, and yet, when we pass familiar individuals in our daily routines, we never say a word to them? For example, back in the U.S., every Monday after my 8 a.m. class, I go to a little café on my school’s “Science Hill” to purchase an Americano and biscotti. After my purchase, I inevitably run into the same girl, always in a rush and unable to open the door with her hands full of lab gear; I usually reach her just in time to open the door. It’s an established Monday morning routine, and yet, never once have I actually communicated with her, other than to offer a polite smile.

On this bus ride to a foreign land, I’m surrounded by strangers—people I met just two weeks ago—strangers-turned-friends, who depend on my presence as much as I depend on their presence to feel safe. This ride, this hour, this minute, this recognition—it’s the privilege of making friends abroad.

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As I sit here writing under a blue LED light, with the waning lights of Madrid behind me, my new tribe sleeps soundly, resting up for our weekend endeavor. In this moment, I recognize the tendency of human beings to establish a sphere of comfort no matter where they go or who they meet. This night ride to Morocco is the first of many adventures that we as a tribe will experience together before we return to our familiar home campuses, to our old hometowns, or to the new homes we’ll create with the help of those we meet along the way.

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~Paolo Monera, UCEAP 2016 – ACCENT Madrid

Paris Picks…!

In today’s edition of our “Live Like A Local” series, we follow our ACCENT Paris Center Director Melissa Smith-Simonet as she takes us on a virtual tour of the Parc Montsouris.

A Walk in the Parc

When you live in a fast-paced city like Paris and are pounding the sidewalks and the crowded halls of the metro every day to get around, a little greenery and space to spread out is a welcome getaway.

The Parc Montsouris, located at the southern point of Paris just across from the Cité Universitaire campus on the boulevard Jourdan in the 14th arrondissement, is where you’ll find such a place. Built in the 19th century, it’s one of the four large parks located at each cardinal point of the city, the other parks being the Bois de Vincennes at the eastern point, the Bois de Boulogne at the western point, and Buttes Chaumont at the northern point.

Montsouris consists of over 35 acres of grass, trees, shrubs, flowers, a lake, and even a waterfall. The lake is filled with all kinds of water fowl that splash, primp, and preen, completely unbothered by their human Parisian FullSizeRendercompanions. There’s a small café on the outskirts of the park where they serve crepes, sandwiches, coffee, tea, and in the holiday season, cups of vin chaud. In the summer months, French organic ice cream carts are strategically placed throughout the park for refreshment. Children can ride the merry-go-round, pet ponies, and even see a puppet show at the old-fashioned Theatre du Grand-Guignol.

Jubilee, my one-year-old Cavalier King Charles puppy, loves to frolic in the grass and chase the ducks. Sometimes, we are not very sage and when no one is looking, we let Jubilee run, roll, and bark on the deep, rich lawn that says “pelouse interdite” (French for “keep off the grass”). Often, the park rangers notice and blow the whistle so we have to move along, but the dog is generally so playful and joyful that they have to laugh while they scold us!

~Melissa Smith-Simonet, ACCENT Paris

The Business of News

A few weeks ago, Dr. Lisette Johnston, a senior broadcast journalist and producer for BBC World News, gave a fascinating lecture at the ACCENT London Study Center to students from the Washington University in St. Louis, Olin Business School.

The talk focused on the BBC as a global business and the challenges the organization faces as a publicly funded broadcaster operating in a highly competitive sector crowded with private, profit-driven companies. She argued that despite challenges from competitors and the threats the BBC faces to its funding structure (the BBC’s budget will be cut substantially as part of the government’s latest review of its charter), the organization is leading the sector in its breadth of journalism and in the reliability of its content and coverage.

Dr. Johnston went on to speak about the BBC’s response to changing consumer patterns and habits in the face of the digital revolution. The Internet, she argued, and smartphones in particular, have revolutionized how, when, and where we get our news, and have even driven major changes in the production of content. Because content can be gathered in real time by anybody with a smartphone, journalism has been democratized and has changed for the better; the digital revolution has created a process of reciprocity whereby content is recorded or created by the consumer, then picked up and disseminated through traditional platforms such as BBC News.

The BBC’s challenge throughout this shift has been updating the style and format of their product so that it aligns with digital trends without the BBC losing their reputation for quality or reliability. For instance, how do you turn a five-minute news item into a 30-second Snapchat story while still retaining the quality and comprehensiveness of the original item?

Even with these changes in the digital world, she concluded, people have always trusted the BBC to keep them reliably informed and will continue to rely on the organization for their daily shot of news.

The students thoroughly enjoyed the guest lecture and greatly appreciated the speaker’s time. We look forward to welcoming Dr. Johnston back for future lectures at the ACCENT London Study Center.

Lisette Johnston~Harry Isitt, ACCENT London

Lisette Johnston is a senior broadcast journalist with BBC World News. She has worked as a journalist for 13 years across print, TV, and online (social and mobile), and has spent the past six years with the BBC. She recently completed her PhD in journalism at City University London, having been awarded one of two scholarships in 2012. Her thesis investigated the use of user-generated content by the BBC in their coverage of the conflict in Syria, and how this has affected journalistic practices. Her research has been published in academic journals and in the mainstream media. You can find her on Twitter: @lisettejohnston.


Madrid Moments!

In this week’s Madrid Moments! post for our “Live Like A Local” series, staff at our ACCENT Madrid Study Center reveal two of Madrid’s hidden gems, places that only a local would think to suggest.

If a student or faculty were to ask us to recommend a place in Madrid that only a local would know about, we would suggest a visit to Casa de Campo, the most important public park in Madrid. Originally a private hunting ground used by the Spanish royal family, Casa de Campo was declared a Royal Forest by King Fernando VI. This park is comprised of 1,772 hectares of natural space (more than five times the size of Central Park!) and houses various facilities, including an amusement park, a zoo, and an aerial cable car.   Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 12.12.06 PMVisitors can spend a sunny day boating out on the lake, enjoying any of the outdoor restaurants surrounding it, running or biking around the endless paths tangled throughout the park, or just relaxing in the park’s beautiful surroundings.

For the nature-lover, it is an ideal place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city!

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For further information on Casa de Campo, follow this link to the Spanish version of “Zoom” News


C. pic 5 pick 2Another favorite hidden treasure in Madrid is the Cerralbo Museum, one of the most beautiful museums in the city. A walk through the museum offers visitors the opportunity to see how an aristocratic family lived in the late 19th century and to view the unique collection of more than 500,000 traditional pieces collected by Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, XVII Marquis of Cerralbo. Highlights of the museum include paintings, sculptures, drawings, coins, medals, weapons, armor, jewels, ceramics, and furniture created by European artists from the 1500s to the 1900s. And the architecture of the building alone is as impressive as the masterpieces contained within.

Located near Plaza de España and the Temple of Debod, the Cerralbo Museum is one of the greatest lesser known museums in Madrid.

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For those of you hoping to practice your Spanish language skills and to learn more about the museum, check out the following links: Guía del Ocio / una Ventana desde Madrid

~ACCENT Madrid