By Troy Stiles, ISA Marketing Communications Manager
Let’s be honest. I’m not going back to school. I’ve written enough term papers and worked on enough group projects to realize that I’m happy to not have to do that anymore. At this point only a doctorate program could tempt me back into the land of “student” and I’m not that tempted.
During my post-student years I’ve been lucky and have had the opportunity to travel extensively. Since my undergrad, I’ve been to six continents and nearly 25 countries. I’ve taken USO-style entertainment groups to Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve led world championship triathlon teams to Australia and around Europe. I’ve explored parts of Africa and South America.
I’ve been lucky to have done a lot of things since graduation, but one thing I wish I’d done as a student is study abroad.
Truth be told, I participated in two short-term programs, but those were during grad school. Looking back now, I wish I would have done an entire semester or even an internship during my undergraduate years.
Since my study abroad ship has sailed, all I can do is dream about where I might study abroad and for 2016, these would be my top 6 locations:
1 – Lima, Peru
The culinary capital of South America. The land of the Incans. The home of the most amazing ceviche you’ll ever taste. And a place with an incredible history.
Lima is the third largest city in the Americas behind Sao Paolo in Brazil and Mexico City, and is literally the hub of Peru. I’ve actually traveled to Peru before but didn’t spend too much time in Lima, which is why I’d love to go back. From my interactions, the people are amazingly friendly and always looking to please. As a matter of fact, because my Spanish is less than perfect I had a hard time communicating with a taxi driver, because of that, the driver started blaring an old N’Sync CD thinking that it was still cool (it wasn’t) and that I’d like it (I didn’t, but it was amusing seeing him dance).
Peru is also a relatively inexpensive country for US students. I took a 45 minute taxi ride which cost me around $25. To put that in perspective, a $25 taxi ride in most big US cities would be about 10 minutes or less. Bonus: I got to practice my Spanish skills with the driver for free! And I actually realized that I knew a lot more than I thought I did.
When I think of Costa Rica I think of two things: rainforest and coffee. Obviously there is much more to the country than that, but these things jump out at me right away.
I think it’s cool that you can drive from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean in less than a day. Having the ability to explore volcanos and beaches on your days off is exciting too. The fact that there is so much history in San Jose makes the city attractive. In addition, Costa Ricans (Ticos) are known to be extremely friendly and this is something that I think would help when trying to learn the language and integrate into the local community.
Oh yeah… and the beaches.
So if you haven’t heard, the 2016 Olympic Games will be in Brazil!!! Granted the games won’t be taking place in Floripa (that’s what they call it down there), but undoubtedly the country will be filled with excitement. Unless you hate puppies and kittens, you more than likely get excited about the Olympics. And what could be better than having them take place in your own backyard?
But the Olympic Games aren’t the only reason I would choose Florianopolis. I’ll just start with the fact that, in my mind I’m a fantastic surfer. In reality, however, I’m not. (I’ve gone once.) With Floripa boasting over 40 beaches throughout the city and being a surfing haven, I think it would be paradise.
I’d be able to get a lot of surfing practice in between my Intensive Portuguese classes and my International Business courses.
I’ve also heard that visa restrictions are being softened for the Olympics this year, so it will be easier to have friends and family come visit. And who wouldn’t want to have mom and dad come fill up the proverbial refrigerator?
4 – Santander, Spain
One place that I’ve never been able to visit is Spain. Barcelona. Madrid. Malaga. Sevilla. I want to visit them all. However, I don’t know if they’d necessarily fit my personality. Because of that I think I’d like to go to Santander.
Why? Well, for a few reasons: – 1) it’s location is a hidden gem where you don’t necessarily think about going, but once you’ve been, you don’t forget it. 2) It’s ON the beach. Did I say what I thought about surfing? 3) It’s close to the mountains and the famous Camino de Santiago trail. And it’s a short trip from the country’s Basque region.
Also, I could study in the former summer palace of the Spanish Royal family! How cool would that be?
Then we come to South Africa. I don’t really even know where to start. South Africa holds a warm place in my heart. It was actually the very first place that I traveled to outside of the United States. It was my graduation present to myself for surviving undergrad. I spent two and a half weeks there and still dream about it like it was yesterday. I would go back in a heartbeat. Despite the LONG flight, the experience was beyond worth it.
Although I could have definitely passed on the biltong, my impression all these years later is overwhelmingly positive. I can only imagine what it would be like to spend time in such a majestic country and not be struggling with jet lag!
Both Cape Town and Port Elizabeth have top notch universities and the excursions can’t be beat.
The Paris of South America. That’s what Buenos Aires is often called and it’s been on the top of my travel list for the past few years. Actually, for a brief time in grad school, I thought about doing an intensive language study program here. It didn’t happen, unfortunately, and my Spanish language skills remained at the most basic level.
While I haven’t traveled here yet, I’ve been fortunate to meet people from Argentina, and Buenos Aires specifically, and they are some of the most passionate, genuine people I’ve ever had the privilege to meet. If they’re any indication of the type of place Buenos Aires is, I want to go.
Being a hop, skip and a jump away from Patagonia and other incredible natural treasures is a huge plus too.
Bonus – Dublin, Ireland
With a good bit of Irish blood flowing through my veins, Ireland has always been on the top of my list. I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted to visit Dublin and travel around the country. Like many of the other places on my list, I’ve heard stories about the hospitality of the Irish and their willingness to make strangers feel at home. If this were to translate over to a student studying abroad there, which I’m sure it is, I would have an incredible semester and make life-long friends.
The world’s a big place when you think about it, but once you’ve traveled, you realize how small it can be. Friendly people and unique experiences help you to realize that no matter where you go, it’ll be special.
So those are my top locations right now. Of course, as the saying goes, “I haven’t been everywhere, yet.”