First Two Weeks in Prague

Dobrý den! My name is Paulina Veremchuk and I am currently studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. I have had an exceptional time and experience settling in at my new home in Prague. I signed up to be in a homestay and have had an amazing time so far. My host mom’s name is Radka, and she truly makes me feel like I am at home. She makes me and my housemate Kaya comforting dinners at the end of the day and that has made the transition to a new country much easier. She is ready to ask any questions we have and even buys us breakfast food items.

Day trip to Kutná Hora with CIEE.

Radka is a home away from home. I was very apprehensive and worried about moving yet Prague has been everything I have dreamed of. I am just a twenty-minute commute from school and enjoy every moment of my walk to school. The CIEE building is located in one of the most beautiful and historically important locations in Prague: the Vyšehrad fortress. It took me a couple of days to locate where the essential necessities were and get the hang of the public transportation, (which is AMAZING by the way). After that short period, I was able to smoothly acclimate and learn the layout of where I was in Prague.

My beautiful room!

It has been a week of classes in Prague and I enjoy every single one. I added a Czech language course for fun because it seems like a necessary and beneficial course to have during my time here and when I come back to visit Czechia in the future. The CIEE program is a perfect fit for me academically. It offers courses and opportunities such as teaching English to Czech elementary students that I will begin on Monday. Overall, I have had a great two weeks and am excited to see what the future holds in Prague. Na shledanou!

First Thoughts in Aix!

Studying abroad is a scary experience, but it’s so worth it!

After having officially been abroad for a week, I’ve experienced a plethora of emotions. Initially, I was overwhelmingly homesick, already calling my family constantly to count down the days with them. Studying abroad can feel isolating at first. You’re in a new environment with new people and in my case, I felt as though my support system had been ripped from under me. In my experience, there’s only one cure for this issue : MAKING FRIENDS!!!

The best thing you can hear in your new home is that you’re not alone! I didn’t want to feel cooped up in my own sadness so I went out and said hi to every single person I ran into. I met people and immediately started going to dinners with them and vacationing. It’s great to have people to explore with! You’ll feel less alone and more comfortable with your new surroundings. This is an opportunity to make life long friends in a way that creates lasting bonds with people you would’ve otherwise never met!

Homesickness is a terrible feeling, but it can be overcome! I’ve had the scariest and best week of my life, and with new friends and new knowledge, I’m finally ready for a great semester in Aix!

First Impressions

First impressions are important and my first 5 days in Nice, France have been surreal.

The first day we were immediately taken on a tour of the Old Town of Nice after settling into our apartments. Then the next day we were taken to lunch consisting of charcuterie, 2 different pizzas, a pasta, and two different deserts. Then the next day we were shown around the neighboring countryside of Nice – Grasse and Saint-Paul-De-Vence.

As you can tell, when it comes to first impressions Nice is making a very good one.

Caroline Monroe

Pre-Departure for Aix-En-Provence, France

Hello! My name is Addison, and I am super excited to document my travel journey with everyone who finds themselves reading these blogs! I have studied French for the past 15 years, so I feel relatively prepared… except I don’t.

I am extremely nervous for my time abroad. What if my speaking skills aren’t as good as I thought? Will I make any friends abroad? Will I live up to the expectations of others while I’m there? Above all, I know I will miss my mother so much. She is my best friend, and I am terrified of leaving her for even a little while. Although, maybe this this trip is exactly what I need to become more independent… at least that’s what I’m telling myself. 

I won’t be entirely alone. I have a host woman and through my communication with her, I have learned that she has a cat which is a massive incentive for my willingness to come. Additionally, she seems very kind and ready to help me along my journey. She has already begun informing me of the beauties of Aix that I will be surrounded by. The historic, scenic nature of Aix-En-Provence played a huge role in my decision to choose IAU as my study abroad program, along with a few other factors.

IAU offers a variety of programs to tailor to different student’s needs. I will be in the French Honors Program, but I am also able to take a beginner’s Arabic course and gain a credit for international affairs. The staff has been very helpful and reassuring when I have needed guidance. The biggest help was their leniency in time they gave me to obtain my Visa that took way too long to come in the mail. The staff is also very helpful with the application and orientation process as a whole. I could not imagine choosing any other program than this one.

Packing has been a disaster as I’ve realized it’s a lot harder than I had originally expected to fit months of clothes into 2 suitcases, but I have high hopes. My mom is adamant that I must enjoy myself thoroughly while abroad so she can live vicariously through me, and I can’t wait to bring you all along for this journey as well!

The Initial Excitement

I stepped off the plane and into el Aeropuerto Internacional de Quito only five days ago. Five days ago, I left the States to participate in the most unique and incredible experience of my life. Each morning I wake up here, look at the endless mountains, and remain in awe of how magnificent the world is.

While I have not settled in my homestay, yet (that starts tomorrow), I have found delight and comfort in a number of wonderful people, places, and, of course, food.

Something I did not mention in my pre-departure post was how nervous I was to meet my classmates. I went through the typical, “Will they like me, are we all going to get along, and will we have anything in common?” The answer to all these questions has been, “Yes!” Everyone in my cohort has been marvelous. There are eight of us, and we are all unique. However, by respecting everyone’s backgrounds and participating in amazing “sobremesas,” we have formed connections. These bonds are what really helped me transition to Ecuador.

Keeping busy over the last five days has also prevented much of my expected homesickness. My programs started with an orientation period and part of it was exploring the cities and towns around us. Just yesterday, a groups of us were tasked with going to El Quinche. This is a town very close to Quito. It was like no place I had seen before. In the center of town was a gorgeous church of cultural significance and surrounding it were vendors and businesses selling everything from pan flutes to hand sanitizer, both of which I bought. While we were in town, a friend of mine got a haircut, and that just added to the adventure. We also had lunch in town which was experience of its own.

When I was in El Quinche, I tried seco de chivo (goat stew). It is a traditional meal in Ecuador and one of my new favorites. It was prepared on a stove in the middle of the dining area. We also went to an ice cream shop, and I tried a sundae that has shredded cheese on it. I have had about 22 meals over the last five days. I have also had so many types of freshly squeezed juice. I do not think a flavor has been repeated, yet. In Ecuador, it is common to have a snack between breakfast and lunch and another between lunch and dinner. It has been enjoyable and filling.

From here on out, I will not be counting the days that passed or the ones left to come. Instead, I will be enjoying my time in Ecuador friendship by friendship, trip by trip, bite by bite, and lesson by lesson.


Lillian Smith

Pre-departure Nice, France

My name is Caroline Monroe, and for my Fall 2023 semester I will be abroad in Nice, France studying International Business, Finance, and Marketing in the IES NICE – Business, Sustainability, and Immigration program. I chose this program to complete the electives required for my business minor, and to take a breather from my biology major – then of course who wouldn’t choose to live on the French Mediterranean coast for 4 months.

For writing this blog post the day I leave the country, I’m very calm about my impending trip with little worry. I’m sure I’ll experience all of the natural side effects of doing something so foreign – homesickness, missing friends, etc. But for the most part I am incredibly excited to participate in such a unique adventure.

The only reservation I have, is that I virtually speak no French and only remember how to ask “If I may go to the bathroom” from my one year of high school French. But from what I remember from visiting Europe (France and Italy) when I was younger, is that everyone can speak some level of English. But I’ll keep y’all posted on my language barrier issue.

But either way, I’m absolutely ready to get over there to travel and experience as much as I possibly can!

See you later America.

See you soon! Nice!

Caroline Monroe

Pre-Departure Excitement

Hello, my name is Lillian! During the 2023 Fall semester, I will be in Ecuador, and I am so elated that you have decided to join me on this journey!

I use the word “elated” because that is how I feel, and also, I have been using the word “excited” exhaustively over the last few weeks. Just about everyone I have talked to recently asked, “Are you excited?” Of course, I am excited, and I would like to share with you why I am.

I chose the School for International Training (SIT) Ecuador: Development, Politics, and Languages because it excited me more than any other program I looked into. I initially started looking into study abroad programs because as a Spanish major, I have to spend a semester abroad in a Spanish-speaking country and my language of instruction has to be in Spanish. I loved the idea of going to South America. Probably the biggest goal of mine abroad is to improve my Spanish speaking skills, and I knew a country with the fewest number of English speakers possible would benefit me. That is why I ruled out Spain.

I am also an International Affairs major and Economics minor who loves environmental science. To my glee, this program will cover all these subjects. Experiential learning is greatly encouraged by SIT. Therefore, outside of the classroom, I will be learning through my homestays and the excursions my program planned. I have the pleasure of staying with at least two different host families while I am in Ecuador which will support the growth of my ability to speak Spanish. My excursions will be geared more towards development and politics. While we start in the capital city Quito, we will travel to the Upper Amazon Basin, the Andean Chocó Reserve, and the Galápagos. The final exciting component of my program is the Independent Study Project (ISP). This is essentially a large research project conducted independently during my final month in Ecuador. I will be sure to keep you updated on my ISP as it develops.

Now, not everything about studying abroad can be exciting. I am certainly nervous to be leaving. In fact, it will be my first time out of the country. I expect to be homesick and sick sick at times. While I am excited to try new food (I am a very adventurous eater), I have been warned to be cautious about where my food comes from and what water it is washed with because it can make me sick. There are also diseases like malaria that I have not had to be concerned about before. However, despite the nerves, I cannot help but be filled with joy at the prospect of going to a country as beautiful as this one. I do not know if this tip will help everyone, but one way I have settled my nerves is by looking at pictures of the places I will be going. I do not want to miss out on the big wide world.

So, let’s get out into the big wide world together!


Lillian Smith

Final Post

Hiking with the program in Cabo de Gata, our final trip together

Studying abroad truly has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I cannot speak enough about how special my program is, between the staff, my peers, and the beautiful city of Granada. I have made some of my favorite memories here that I will carry with me forever- from the craziness that is landing in a new country and immediately having to change my brain to Spanish-mode, to orientation and meeting my host mom and roommate, to traveling with my friends and program to Dublin, Lisbon, Sevilla, and more, and of course, to our farewell cocktail, dancing in the rain with all my amazing friends and professors. 

My amazing friends and I at our farwell cocktail

Being abroad has changed me in so many ways, some that I am even still discovering. I’ve grown so much in confidence and learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of. I am excited to return to Wofford in the fall and see how my perspective post being abroad influences my life there. I’ve learned social skills that I will carry with me long after graduation. I’ve learned about balancing a social life with school work. The biggest thing I’ve learned by far though is the importance of taking chances and making the most of every opportunity. I took a chance in coming here and met some of the most special people in my life. I took a chance and pushed myself outside of my comfort zone with each day I was here. And I can definitively say that I made the most of my time in Granada. 

View of the Alhambra at Sunset

Identity and Perception while Abroad

Me, my roomate, and my host mom out for tapas!

When I arrived in Spain, one of the first things my host mom told me was that I looked very Spanish. I have darker hair, I’m relatively tan, and pretty short- very similar to her and the general physical traits of a stereotypical Spanish woman. My roommate, on the other hand, is much taller and blonde with blue eyes, and my host mom immediately commented on how different we look and how “not-Spanish” she looked. My roommate and other friends who share similar physical traits to her have said that they definitely notice how people look at them differently and talk to them differently because they don’t look Spanish at all. It’s taken us all some time to get used to the way we are talked about as people who are clearly not from Spain, who Spaniards automatically assume don’t speak Spanish or understand it very well, when in reality, we understand the majority of what they are saying. 

Me and my friends!

After being here for several months, I also feel like I’m able to identify fairly easily when a person is a tourist, an abroad student like me, or if they are from here. Granada is home to a lot of students and study abroad programs, especially near the area where I live, so I always see students and hear English being spoken to and from classes. There’s a certain way Spaniards dress and carry themselves that is so different from Americans, that makes us so easily identifiable. Waiters will come up and speak English to us before Spanish and won’t speak to us in Spanish even when we say we understand. The couple of times I’ve been stopped for advice has been by tourists who don’t speak Spanish and need someone to direct them somewhere in English.  

My program exploring the Friday Mosque of Cordoba

That being said, my program has done a great job in encouraging us to have open conversations about stereotypes and the way we are perceived amongst students in our program as well as with local students and professors. We’ve talked about the stereotypes surrounding Americans and the way Americans perceive Spainiards versus the reality of the culture and people now that we’re here and experiencing everything firsthand. I am lucky because I haven’t experienced as many problems as a member of my identity group, however I have heard stories and seen firsthand how people of other groups have experienced issues and haven’t been as accepted. I think these conversations are so important and it’s so great that my program encourages these because it has helped me be more aware of the way I am perceived and the way I perceive others of different identity groups while here. 

My Top 5 Pieces of Advice

I’ve learned a lot over the course of my time abroad and of all the tips, tricks, and advice I got before leaving, these were some of my favorites and some of the most helpful;

  1. Keep a journal or sketchbook.

Bring a small journal to record some of your favorite memories while abroad. It’s easy to forget some of the special little moments, so having something to look back on later to remind you of all the amazing memories you made is the perfect little keepsake. I have a little sketchbook where I draw some of the places I’ve visited, write song lyrics I listened to that day, and keep ticket stubs and plane tickets in between the pages. 

Sketch and journal entry from my trip to Dublin

2. Don’t spend every weekend traveling. 

This one is hard, especially in a place like Europe where all of these incredible cities and countries are so close and relatively cheap to get to. That being said, all of that travel takes a lot out of you, so set aside weekends where you have no plans other than to relax and be with friends. Make sure to spend time getting to know your city and exploring things you might’ve otherwise never explored. Spend time getting to know as many people as possible in your program too (take advantage of the fact that you are in an incredible place with people from all around the world!). 

3. Don’t be afraid to do things alone. 

This is another hard one. You’re in a new place with a new group of people and obviously you want to get to know them and spend time with them too. But remember that it’s important to take time for yourself too. If that means taking a couple hours to explore a local museum or market or even just treat yourself to some ice cream and a walk around your city, make sure to take time to do the things you want, even if it means doing it solo. Some of my friends have even taken solo trips on the weekends and have said that it was one of their favorite experiences. 

Solo breakfast in a cafe near my school

4. Ask questions.

Whether you live in a residence hall or a homestay, ask questions about the culture and the things people like to do. My roommate and I ended up exploring a lot of really cool places near our city because of this! We found some gorgeous beaches that were only 30 minutes away and this incredible hike just outside the city. You can even ask your program staff or people who previously went abroad to the same place as you. We even learned about a lot of things to do just by talking with other students in our program about what they did on their weekends.  

Nerja, a beach not too far from my city

5. Make a budget and try to stick to it, but remember not to stress too much if you don’t. 

I saved up money over the summer and worked the semester before going abroad so that I could be prepared and have money for things like going out with friends, traveling, and clothes and souvenirs. I had an idea in mind of how much I wanted to spend per week and what I thought was important to spend it on. That being said though, if I go slightly over budget one week or spend money on something I didn’t necessarily need, I try to remember that I’m going to remember these experiences more than how much I’ve spent or the guilty feeling I get after going off of my budget. I just adjust for the next week and pick my priorities.