Tag Archives: abroad

Book Review: “A Cheap Ticket For Student Travel”

21 May

“A Cheap Ticket for Student Travel”

by Gary Chen

A small little guide for the average college student on saving while they travel.

Gary Chen’s new book, “A Cheap Ticket for Student Travel” is a great, yet short, read for college/low income students interested in traveling (especially traveling abroad).  At only 23 pages (in PDF form), you can read through it pretty quickly, but it offers some great insights into how you can travel even on a college student’s budget.  

He opens with a pretty strong argument for traveling while you’re young ~ time, energy, and lack of ties.  This is something I wish a lot more students would keep in mind; by the time you have jobs, families, and other demands on your time and attention, traveling becomes less and less of a likelihood.  Since traveling can significantly add to both your accomplishments and the broadening of your experience, taking that awesome trip now is a pretty good idea.

Most of his advice officially starts in Chapter two, where he begins with the important saving tool – Planning.  This carries through the next two chapters during which he discusses how  even little things like grouping nearby locations together can save money on costs.  Chapter 5 is where he really gets into precise methods of saving as opposed to more general recommendations.  He also has a really great form on pages 17-18 that helps you list out your expected expenses and likely total.  I think filling this out is a great way of reminding yourself precisely how much this might cost you and what you need to save. Throughout the book, he offers some great means of saving and I like the main message he communicates — traveling doesn’t have to ruin you financially!

Writing style: Some of the writing could use some editing and there were a few choppy areas, but overall I found it to be a quick and easy read.  A great addition to the ebook is the number of internal links Chen offers his readers–he frequently links to relevant and interesting articles relating to the subject of discussion.  Particularly helpful are the links to discount sites and saving tools; I might even use a few of these!

If you are interested or thinking about traveling, I recommend checking his book out.  You can find it on Smashwords as a FREE E-book (I like the free part, it matches his theme 🙂 )

READ ON SMASHWORDS

Studying Abroad: A Résumé Builder

5 May
One of our Professors in Japan

One of the Professors in Japan

If you are interested in Studying Abroad or if you have Studied Abroad in the past, now might be a good time to look at how it can help expand your Résumé.   

Study Abroad

One of the simplest ways that you can use your Study Abroad experience in your Résumé is simply by listing it as part of your education.  There are multiple ways you can benefit from this.  First, if you are new to the career field, then your Résumé might be running a little thin on information; use the “Studying Abroad” experience as a filler/lengthener.  Sounds silly/cheap, but everything counts in the job search.  More importantly, if you list the foreign college that you studied under, it adds to the depth of your educational experience. It shows that you have studied under Professors coming from different backgrounds or ways of thought.  It adds to the fact that you might bring in unique or different ideas to their work. For example, I have studied the Law in Civil Law nations and Common Law nations. That means that simply by stating that I studied in China and the United States, my interviewers can tell that I understand ways different people view the law and how it can be applied in alternative ways.   It strengthens the fact that I stand out from the rest of their applicants.

Skills

One of the things you are going to need on both your Résumé and your Cover Letter are key terms, skills, and/or character traits.  You will frequently be asked to name your strengths, weaknesses, and abilities.  Or perhaps you just need to show them what you can offer their team.  If you Study Abroad, there are many helpful terms that can now be applied to you.  Some of those you might use include: Continue reading

Lessons From Traveling: Get A Sense Of Humor

3 Apr

Whenever anyone asks me why I travel abroad, one of my answers has got to be that it makes me laugh.  Laugh at myself. Laugh at the world.  Traveling really is a great confidence booster because it perpetually reminds you that  life is bewildering and ridiculous.  

All beginning travelers try to get it all right. Things start making sense, you get through security with no hiccups and you start to tell yourself “I’ve got this. I own this traveling thing.”  BOOM! You inevitablly trip on the carpet, land flat on your face, and watch as your suitcase crashes to the ground exposing socks and clothes to all and sundry.  Yes, that happened to me. I landed nose to the floor smack in front of the hotel doors and had four lovely bellhops standing around in shock and awe.  

It was a 5-star hotel with highly important people milling around. I just got in because the school had a group rate and wanted to impress us.  Olympians, you will recognize this place because it’s where you stayed during the Beijing games. But trust me, few Olympians have accomplished the sheer magnitude of that landing.  I hit with all the style that only an overweight little German dumpling can accomplish.  It was glorious. 

 

Which brings me back to my point, traveling makes me laugh.  You really can’t help it, because with the world as crazy as it is, you either laugh or cry.  It helps that between the adrenaline and slight hysteria that comes with all new adventures, everything becomes SO much funnier.

You just never catch a break when you adventure outside of your comfort zone. There are cultural differences, natural differences, and of course utterly random differences.  I recently visited China and Korea, and if asked to compare them, one thing really comes to mind–hotel rules. You can slip into the culture really quickly, but spend hours trying to negotiate proper hotel etiquette.  The worst part about traveling in Asia is the lack of good clothes washing abilities. Hotels often don’t come with washers and never have dryers so you generally find yourself sending anything that needs pressed out to dry-cleaning.  The problem was that in Korea you had to bag up your clothes and carry them to the desk.So down I went with my suit pants to ask where I should leave them only to get the look.   Continue reading

Feels Like Home

10 Feb

Irish Parliament, nearly identical to US White House

When traveling, it feels kind of amazing when you stumble across a little bit of home clear across an ocean.  

Maybe it’s a person. A Toronto native bumps into a San Franciscan in China, and suddenly they’re next door neighbors separated since birth.  Immediately it’s all, “oh have you ever been to Chicago, why yes I went when I was 2–oh my gosh, I was there when I was five, how’d you like it?!?”  

Familiar brands can also catch your eye, a McDonald’s, Marriott Hotel,  or Motorola. Even when you never actually bought them back home, they seem a little comforting.   Personally, I never buy from Cold Stone Creamery.  My mother’s parents used to own an ice cream store, and we’ve all eaten our fill of the heavy cream desserts.  Too much, and it gets a little sickening. So instead, whenever we eat Ice Cream we make our own.  But I used to hang with a group of friend who liked to stop there. So on a hot day alone in Korea, Cold Stone Creamery seems awfully comforting. Purely because at that very moment, someone I know might be doing the same thing.

It’s the felling of connection that matters. Homesickness isn’t a craving for home, it’s a craving for the connectedness of home. Despite what many non-travelers think, we usually aren’t really wishing we were at home instead.  We don’t want to abandon our trips abroad or regret taking off on an adventure.  Really, it isn’t home we’re looking for at all, it’s just that sense that you are bonded to the world around you that gets lost sometimes. The feeling that you matter, that you are part of the events around you instead of just a stranger wandering through. That feeling that, if needed, home and friends are just around the corner.  You don’t want to go back to home, it’s just that home needs to be brought to you. Usually, what we really need is a sign that home can still be found right were we are.

For me, this summer that connection was a little flyer I picked up in Japan.  I’d been there nearly 3 weeks and I was starting to miss home and family a bit.  On my way back from school, I ran across an ad for the theatrical version of Kuroshitsuji in a Gas Station.

Kuroshitsuji

You may not recognize the name, but Kuroshitsuji was an anime my best friends and I used to watch in college.  Whenever college or finals or life got to be too much, the four of us would all get together and watch whatever episodes were out. If nothing new was up, we’d watch re-runs. It got us through deaths, failed classes, broken hearts, lost jobs, family fights, and 21-credit semesters. It’s actually a surprisingly angsty show, which allowed us to get all teary-eyed and dramatic without looking like idiots in real life. But it also had characters like the insane, safety-scissor waving, cross-dressing death god who we all adored.  I actually watched a lot of anime in college, but I never met anyone in Japan who recognized my shows or saw anything talking about them.  So to find this little ad for Kuroshitsuji meant a lot to me. Admittedly, it was Japanese in nature, but to me it connected Japan to home.  I ran to the hotel and messaged my friends all about it, and for a little bit I got to squeal with them about something we all recognized.  I felt reunited, just enough to remind me that home wasn’t really that far away.  In fact, I could still find some parts of it as far away as I was.

So for those of you who are travelling abroad, and are reaching that point where you just need a home-sized hug, look around you. Maybe you aren’t looking for something in the U.S. (or whatever nation you’re from); maybe you just need to find something familiar.  Think back to what made you fall in love with the idea of visiting this country? Don’t focus on what you don’t have. Focus on the one think in your life that lives in both locations. You will always be able to find something that looks at you and screams: “You Know Me!” It’s the familiarity that matters.

Seoul Grand Park Zoo

23 Nov

Random photos from my trip to the Seoul’s Grand Park Zoo!  Great place to take your kids 🙂 Just make sure you have run and play clothes cause the kids like to hit the fountains, play areas, etc. 

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Subway Stop: Seoul Grand Park

Subway Directions: Take Line 4  to the Seoul Grand Park stop (i.e. toward Oido) and follow Exit 2.

 If you look at the subway map here, it is the 7th stop after crossing the river.

ONWARD TO THE ZOO!!

When you take Exit 2, you will see a long walkway in front of you. All you have to do is go straight  until you come to the big fountain and the building behind it that says zoo.

There is a little ticket booth at the big building, where you buy a shuttle ticket for 1,000 Won.  Go through the gates and get on the shuttle; the zoo will be on your first stop.  Check out the map below for directions.

 

From there it’s all fun and games and pet-the-animals 🙂  After you enter the zoo grounds, there are red, yellow, blue, and green lines painted on the paths. Each one is a different route, and you can pick and chose which you want to follow via the maps.  I ran up the Blue and Green paths, which took me past the big wild animals (Bear, Tigers, Elephants, etc.), ocean/marine animals, and a few other odds and ends. Plus I got to hit the HUGE ski lift which carried me down the mountain over the tiger/cheetah/lion exhibits and some gardens; an amazing experience.  I am seriously going back there just to ride the ski lift again.  I also like it cause it gives the kids something fun to do on the way down without making them walk all the way back down the mountain when they’re tired.  With my undying distaste for anything snake related, I always avoid the reptiles and birds weren’t really high on my list; however that all available as well.  

Wall of Travels

16 Sep

Wall of Travels

I make no bones about the fact that I am a very, very poor law student. And by poor, I mean macaroni & cheese eating, ramen-guzzling, hold off on air-conditioning until 100+ degrees poor.  So when I have the opportunity to travel abroad, I get down on my knees and thank God for the money to pay for the hotel.  I’m incredibly lucky if I can pick up a few presents for my family and friends, but souvenirs. . . not real high on my list of what is worth spending money on (like food, and, you know, museum fees).

Then there’s the fact that I’m moving in less than a year, hopefully abroad, and that means GARAGE SALE!  Woot, woot! I get to get rid of all my stuff/treasures or figure out how to pay for a storage unit for it all.  Adding to the stuff I have to get rid of is hardly an incentive when looking at the prospect of buying souvenirs. If it isn’t worth keeping in a storage unit; it’s not worth buying in the first place.

And none of this takes into consideration the issue of packing. . . . I’m a professional packer. No, seriously, people should pay me to pack for them.  I came home last summer with 1 suitcase at 49.3 lbs and the other at 49.7 lbs on a 50 lb. free luggage limit (the guy at check-in was incredibly impressed 😛 ).  This summer, it cost me a pair of holey shoes, a few underwear-related items, and a buttload of beauty products but I got my suitcase through at 48.8 lbs.  But I’ve had a friend who insisted on buying so much stuff she had to leave some souvenirs behind and it broke her heart. So I’m always a little cautious about buying things that will either break in transportation or weigh too much entirely.

Instead, I’ve stumbled upon the beauty of postcards.  Usually people buy postcards to give away or to mail back home, but I actually like to keep them.  I have a few rules before buying a postcard:

  • It has to depict something I’ve actually seen — i.e. the building, the artifact, etc.
  • It has to have been bought at the place where I saw it/or at a related place on the same day (If I’m visiting a bunch of temples in one day, I might pick up a package at one that has a picture of several I visit that day).  
  • It has to be worthwhile–a picture of the airport doesn’t count 😛
  • I don’t get a bunch of the same place. I have to choose what is the best image.

I’ve actually been collecting postcards for several years now, and each one has a special memory attached to it. I’ve got everything from the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, to one of the churches in Savannah, Georgia, to a dolphin I saw at the zoo in Seoul.  I have cards from the whirlwind tour my aunt, mom, and I took when looking at colleges where we covered the greater East Coast through Texas in 2 weeks.  There are cards of the trip my mom, aunt, and I take on their birthday (they each have one in the same week) every year (we’ve gone all over the US).  I have some from China, and from the temples of Japan.   

But I don’t just collect post-cards; I also save some small gifts that I’ve been given during my travels.  For example, the Red, yellow and blue fan was a present from a tourist-helper on a particularly hot day when I was dying of heat.  There is a small, pocket-sized good luck charm someone gave me before my exams in Japan when I visited a local temple.  There is also a sheet of paper I was given at the book expo in Seoul; the guy hand printed it with a replica of the world’s first movable type printing press.  

I’ve been working on this wall for 4+ years now, and finally I have completed one portion of the wall!  You can’t really see it, but I’ve filled up the rest of the wall with some hand-outs I’ve gotten from temples, a timeline of Korean history I got at a museum, etc.  None of it cost me more than $3; many were gifts.  They are flat and easily transported when I move; and they connect so carefully with all of my happy memories of these places.  I hope to continue gathering my collection until I can fill up all 4 walls of my room.  Each one a great memory; reminding me of the best of my trips and encouraging me to carry onward in the future.

Tread Lightly When You Travel: My Reputation Goes With You

7 Aug
Traditional South Korean drummers

A traditional South Korean Band playing at a Red Cross Conference in

It seems counter-intuitive, but the art of being a good traveler is disappearing nearly as fast as globalization increases.  Having extensively traveled abroad in recent years, I can safely say that I no long wonder why tourists often rank amongst the most disliked people in the world. But it isn’t just the tourists; it’s the students, the businessmen, the soldiers, and the politicians. There is something about going abroad that causes many people to leave behind all the manners and rules of civilized behavior they would normally adopt at home.  And we get it, it’s nice to just abandon all your reservations and let loose once in a while. But people forget that they aren’t just representing themselves abroad; they are representing their entire nation and culture.  Even if nothing they do ever comes back to their families, the locals will remember “that idiot from ***** country”.  And when the locals have to watch over and over while the travelers repeat the same ignorant, reckless behavior, it becomes a stereotype applied to all traveler’s from that background.

“Oh, stop being such a sourpuss!,” the excuses run. “We’re just having fun.” “We’re paying good money to be here.” “Who cares what they think?”  Well, serious travelers care, for one.  I personally am sick and tired of being brushed with the “stupid, rude, careless, obnoxious, disrespectful, American tourist” stamp. Over and over, I enter a new country only to find that the travelers before me were wildly and Continue reading

Testing Out Airbnb. . . A step-by-step analysis updated live

4 Aug

UPDATED!!!

CHECK OUT THE RESULTS ON THE FOLLOWING POST HERE: Testing Out AirBnB. . . the Results!

 

Seoul, Korea. . . Here I come!

Yes, I am returning to this country of my heart in June, where I get the opportunity to stay for almost 3 weeks.  I will be studying in Kyoto and Tianjin, but I get a little time in between.  After scouring the airline prices, it is definitely cheaper to fly to Korea and hang out there in cheap housing rather than fly back and forth to the US.  Plus, I’m dying to go back!

However, since I am a very cheap student (did I mention I was cheap, as in uber, uber cheap?) I am looking for someplace to stay in Korea for the duration.  Last semester I stayed in Chungmuro, but that hotel is way too expensive to stay in without school loans helping to cover the cost.  On the other hand, I liked being in that area of Seoul, so I think I’ll try finding something in the nearby vicinity of that dip in the Han River.   Continue reading

Leaving to Come Home

15 Jun

Home

I’ve never been to an unfamiliar place. It’s true. In spite of all my travels and the many changes that I ran into along the way, I always feel right at home when visiting new lands.  Admittedly, I’ve never been to the heart of wild Africa. Or the jungles of South America. Really, I’ve only been to pretty advanced locations. But still, when asking me about a foreign country, people always seem surprised when I say it was easy to adapt to.

They point to the difference in religion, food, and styles of clothing. And then comes the big sentence: “But the language is different!” they respond as though this summarizes everything.  And to them, it does. That little change in means of speaking  makes foreign countries seem like planets in a far away galaxy. Something exciting and exotic, but entirely unfamiliar. And to go there  is to enter the land of OZ, where roads are made of yellow and everything is new and (shudder) different.  

So I’ve taken to explaining it like this:

  • They use silverware for their food. 
  • They have a special love for fluffy pillows.
  • They heat their houses in the winter, and use fans/air conditioning in the summer.
  • They drink milk to please their mothers. Continue reading
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