Is Technology a Study Abroad Student’s Friend or Foe?

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Every American student under 30 can tell you that technology is the key to social interaction and information. In the United States, email and websites are the norm when it comes to intra-collegiate information exchange and communication. So it’s no surprise that studying abroad has hopped on the technology band wagon, too. On November 3rd, I participated in a lively and engaging twitter chat #ISACHAT about the pros of technology in a study abroad. We were able to come up with many ways technology has enriched studying abroad for the better such as:

  • Ease and speed of finding out information
  • Cost effective for communicating with family
  • Connects students with other students, resources and program advisers much faster
  • Helps students discover hobbies like writing and photography and allows them to share these hobbies with the world


With pros like that, how can there be any cons? In a recent article/interview by Vermont Public Radio Educators Worry Technology Hampers Study Abroad Experience, multiple educators speak their minds on the negative effects technology has had on the study abroad experience. Some of the disadvantages they’ve observed first hand are:


  • Deepens homesickness
  • Makes students more anxious while waiting for an immediate response back from loved ones via email or text
  • Lessens communication between students and others as can simply text instead of talking on phone or sometimes in person
  • Distracts students from the experience part of a study abroad as too busy with social media/ taking pictures to really immerse into the host culture
  • As spending so much time on social media/ connecting with family, students aren’t able to really improve their foreign language skills as the majority of their interactions are in their native tongue
  • Because of ease and speed with which students can connect with their parents, students are missing out on the growing up aspect as they’re calling their parents for assistance instead of figuring it out on their own


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When we compare the 2 lists, it looks as though there are more cons to technology and its impact on a study abroad than advantages. This can be the case if you don’t consciously unplug on a weekly if not daily basis at home and while abroad. It’s great to be connected but it’s important to be alone and to be with others sans devices. Our generation has completely adopted technology and social media to the extent that it overruns our lives instead of adding to it. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity- don’t waste it behind a screen. Go and experience the new culture, the new language and leave that phone/ laptop behind more often to avoid a technologically driven study abroad.


Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: Tour de l’Europe

I’m sitting in a place called AntiCafe. Their shtick is that they give you as much coffee and as many pastries as your body can handle while you sit and do work to groovy jazz tunes. You pay by the hour, not by the espresso (thank you). It’s packed, sweaty, and full of people muttering to themselves in French.


I should be reading extracts from Hobbes’ “The Leviathan” right now. (Let’s be real. I will never read even three pages of Hobbes’ “The Leviathan”.) Instead, I’m browsing Google Flights. If you’ve never used it before, please stop what you’re doing. This is Google at its finest. It knows where you live, so just go to the website and click on the map. You’ll see pinpoints on every airport in the world. Click on a point to figure out how much money it’ll cost you to go there. Et voilà. Go there.

I want to plan a little birthday-week trip. My under-100-euro options include: Lisbon, Barcelona, Marrakesh, Naples, Munich, and Geneva. One of my biggest struggles here is not booking a flight to someplace with a dreamy name whenever I see fit. Or whenever I’m bored. Or drunk. Tough life, I know.


Speaking of, I’ve finally got Christmas plans! I toyed with the idea of going back home to New Jersey for about two seconds. Then I decided that would be a terrible idea. Go home? When I’m stuck in the middle of Europe with no plans for four weeks? As if. My friend invited me to spend the week leading up to and including Christmas with his family in his hometown, which is a small place near Milan. I know zero Italian. But, I know I like lasanga.


After that, I’ll return to Paris and stay for New Years. Then, who knows? A friend from home is coming and we’re in the process of planning a small trip for the first week of 2015. We’ll probably go to the south of France (Nice, maybe Monaco?). Then, we have a 24-hour layover in Barcelona. Neither of us plan on sleeping. After that, we’re going to Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk, and Sanok to visit his family and friends there. I know zero Polish. I am so, so, so excited! I’m preparing my body for real kielbasa and home-made pierogies. And I’m buying thermal underwear.

Last week, Paris took its vacances. Why? I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone here even knows. It was just break time.

And it was great! My mom and my grandma came to visit me, and I became their personal tour guide for the week. We finally hit all of those tourist-y points of interest that I’d purposely left out. Sites included: Jardin du Luxembourg, Musée du Louvre, Champs-Élysées, Musée Rodin, Cimetière du Montparnasse, Tour Eiffel, and Galeries Lafayette. We also went to Versailles one day, and Giverny the next. We accidentally sat in first-class seats on the train, and marveled at how beautiful the accommodations were for a full 15 minutes before realizing where we really belonged. Ah, the American tourist experience.

wa4(Mom and me in Jardin du Luxembourg)

wa9(La Joconde or The Mona Lisa in Le Louvre)

wa6(Monet garden in Giverny)

A word about climbing the Eiffel Tower in October (versus, you know, August, like everyone else): It was the best decision I didn’t purposely make. At the very top level, when I looked down, I didn’t see a blank city. I saw the place I’ve been crawling around for the past eight weeks. I felt powerful. I was up there alone. I thought about how I came to this city alone. I gazed one more time over the railing’s edge and made a small contented noise, which the wind swallowed up and nobody would’ve heard anyway. I think the entire thing was fitting.

wa5 (Paris as seen from the top of the Eiffel Tower)

The day that my family left, I ran the Semi-Marathon du Bois de Vincennes. I was in a haze for the entire day, grouchy and mad about my aching limbs. I kissed them (my family, not my limbs) goodbye, bisous-style, and fell asleep for twelve hours.

In other news, I read one of my poems out loud at that poetry-in-the-basement-of-a-bar thing. I wonder why I did that. I wonder if I’ll do it again.

Apart from all that, I’ve been decompressing. Because it’s hard to grow up in the most beautiful city in the world.


Also, not everything is wonderful. I tried to go to Norway with a friend to see another friend, but the plane allegedly broke as it pulled away from the gate. Long story short, four hours later, I was on a train back home. Then, I lost my phone. Actually, a scary man whose face I never saw stole it right out of my hand as I was opening the gate to my building. There’s something extremely unsettling about having your personal space violated like that. Though, I know, it could have been so much worse.

I was walking home from being drunk in Paris at 2 a.m., which is nothing unusual and nothing short of stupid. It’s on the list of things I’m never doing again after last Saturday night.

I’ve seen a lot of you, Paris, but the police station was probably my least favorite part.


Note to self: use iCloud, you idiot.


Are you an introvert who’s interested in studying abroad but previous talks with your folks haven’t gone so well? Find out how to approach this topic for a guaranteed successful conversation and gain your parents’ support for this experience with new mini guide book An Introvert’s Guide to Talking Study Abroad With Their Parents.


Alexa Wybraniec

Alexa studies journalism, media and French at Rutgers University. She is abroad at Sciences Po for her third year of college. Check back every other Monday for a new post and connect on Twitter.


How Much Money to Request for Your Study Abroad

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Today I came across a donation site where a student who is about to study in Paris for 1 semester was asking people to help fund his experience. His total request was for $2,800. Before I saw the breakdown, I thought this donation request amount seemed reasonable taking into consideration cost of living in Paris; that is until I saw this student’s breakdown of the $2,800 donation amount request. If you are thinking of doing a fundraising for your study abroad, your donators will greatly appreciate a breakdown to see what their money is going towards. Let’s take a look at the actual example used on a student’s fundraising website page and the importance of accurate information when requesting strangers’ money.

Here is the actual breakdown of the student’s requested $2,800.00

•Books for the allotted amount of classes(18 credit hours/6 classes)- $600

•Food expenses(I am a vegan in Paris, so I will have to purchase and cook my own food due to their dietary fixations)- 500$

•Metro Pass(Used to go to and from school for the length of the semester)- 500$

•Travel Expenses a.k.a. assistance in purchasing the ability to ride a metal contraption with wings(I am a writer primarily, and I have some fun perks for your donation if you enjoy artistic expression painted on the page paired with professional pictures of travel)- 1000$

•Indiegogo Fee- 300$

It’s a nice, clear and easy to read breakdown. And for that, I applaud this student. What concerns me are the prices allotted to these items. I’m hoping that the student isn’t trying to make a profit off of innocent donators and simply just didn’t look any of this info up. Remember, this student said they were studying abroad for 1 semester in Paris at the Sorbonne so I’ll show you how these prices don’t add up right for 1 semester abroad. Let’s take it from the top!

  • Books: I understand that things have changed since I was a student in Paris but when I saw $600 worth of books I thought something was wrong with my glasses. Those are American college textbook prices, not French prices. This student had mentioned on this website in a brief bio that he was a linguistic / art major. I guarantee you that he will not have many textbook purchases and certainly not anywhere near $600. For my year in France, I only had to buy books for my literature and translation class for a total of 10€! It’s always smart to be on the safe side but when factoring in price of books, make sure to ask your program director for current textbook prices for your classes.

   Andrea’s recommendation: $100 or 80, 30€ for books for 1 semester should be way more than plenty.

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  • Food: Of all the categories, this one was undervalued. The whole point of studying in Paris is to eat out, not cook every night. I didn’t realize this before I went to Paris and ate every night at Tatie’s instead of experiencing all the cuisine the City of Light has to offer. You can buy a baguette sandwich for about 5€ but plan on 10€ for sit down lunch and 30€ for dinner to be safe. That’s not including going to the grocery store for breakfast and snacks. I see that this student is vegan and wants to cook at home every night. I’m not familiar with this diet regime but I’d like to think that there is something he could eat at a restaurant or find a vegan catered one in Paris. So let’s crunch the numbers for food to find out a realistic amount. Going out for lunch and dinner everyday using the figures above: 40€ per day x 30 days a month = 1 200€ for eating out lunch and dinner at nice restaurants (fast food not calculated) for just 1 month! That’s really expensive so you might want to buy lunch only a few times a week, dinner a few times a month and the rest of the time cook at home. In the USA, I spend about $75 per week on food for 1 person. I’m buying fresh veggies, meats and miscellaneous ingredients and this is for breakfast, lunch and dinner. $75/week x 4 weeks = $300. With current currency rates, $300 is about 241,94€ per month for groceries. The Sorbonne’s semester goes from October – January or 4 months. I’m not sure how this student plans to eat on only $500 for 4 months but you can see how this figure is undervalued and not realistic.

Andrea’s Recommendation: $2,500 or 2 000€ for food will provide you more than enough funds to go to nice restaurants and eat at home without having to starve.      This figure should leave you with some extra cash at the end of the semester. But remember, you only have 1 chance to for your fundraiser. Why not be realistic with your eating expectations?

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  • Metro Pass: Paris’ monthly metro pass, Navigo, costs 35,03€ with a student discount. 35,03€/month x 4 months = 140,12€ for metro fees. In case you want to see something outside of Paris zones 1-3 (check out this article on a breakdown of Paris’ metro zones), you should add no more than 100€ for these excursions.

Andrea’s recommendation: 240,12€ for monthly Paris and outskirts travel; not $500 which is 403€


  • Travel Expenses: This is where it gets a little tricky. One of the first things I noticed was no airfare to Paris and back was mentioned in this section. But maybe that expense is already covered. Anyhoo, this student talks about a ride with metal wings. It’s unclear if he has other plans to travel. If so, this $1,000.00 amount could be seriously undervalued.

Andrea’s recommendation: Before going abroad, think about your travel plans. If you want to do a lot of traveling, research flight/train prices, hotel /hostel rates, and museum admission to make sure that you are requesting an accurate amount of travel funds.

Giving a breakdown of how donation funds will be used is the right thing to do; just be sure to have accurate info before asking for money!


Bonne Election!

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Today is a very special day in the USA – it’s Election Day! It is our national Election Day and a chance to exercise one of our most precious rights as US citizens- the right to vote. Tomorrow’s election day is a Congressional Election meaning we are voting for our elected officials in Congress.

Did you know that the US Census Bureau reports that congressional elections traditionally have less voter turn out than a presidential election? Or that roughly half of all registered voters actually go to the polls and vote? We can change that! If you are able to vote today, please exercise this very important right as an American citizen. It only takes a few minutes but the decision impacts our country for years.

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Here’s a few fun facts about American voting that you might not have known:

  • The voting age limit was 21 and over from 1787 until the 26th amendment passed in 1971 which lowered the voting age across the nation to 18 years of age
  • 1870- the 15th amendment guaranteed the right to vote for all men that were 21 or older regardless of race or ethnic background
  • 1920- the 19th Amendment gave women age 21 and older the right to vote
  • Only 42 countries in the world have the right to vote; that makes this a very precious and important right and one that should not be taken for granted!
  • By US Census Bureau records, congressional elections have traditionally lower voter turn out than presidential elections. Roughly half of all American registered voters actually vote.


Happy Voting!