As of May 2010, only three of us will still be University students.  The rest of us will be off to new adventures, putting our editing skills to use in the “real” world—and by that we don’t mean the MTV show.  This coming year you can find us in theaters, publishing programs, and study-abroad sessions around the world. (And hopefully not living in our parents’ basements.)

By the time we have to have real jobs, we hope to be on the cover of Forbes for singlehandedly resuscitating the publishing world.  You will be able to find us at magazines, art organizations, travel publications, and independent publishers.  Actually, we’ll settle for any paying job with benefits.

Thanks to everyone–and we do mean one–for reading our blog. You’ve put up with our tangents about Muppet bugs, statues, fairytales, and Taiwanese weddings.  And especially thanks to all the subjects of our posts for putting up with all our desperate, last-minute requests for interviews. We stole your anecdotes and we gave you no glory, except a brief mention here.

Time to close the laptop and go somewhere.

Desiree, Agnes, Merisa, Sherry, Jaynie, & Drew


If you’re getting ready to study abroad, then this post is for you.  Yes, it does reference going to Ireland mostly, but there are some good pointers for wherever you may be headed!  Aleyse Peterson, my good friend from Augsburg College, fills us in on her preparation experience for studying abroad in Ireland in the fall of 2009.  It wasn’t as much work as she had first expected; the biggest thing on her end was acquiring a passport.

So what is getting a passport like?

According to Aleyse, it’s a simple process.  “You just go to wherever nearest to you they do passports, fill out the paperwork, and they take your picture. Then you wait for however many weeks until you receive it in the mail. For Ireland, if you are there for 90 days or less, you do not need a Visa.”

You can find applications at post offices, learning abroad centers, and on the U.S travel site.

Is there any other paperwork?

“I had paperwork for my program I was going through—one piece of which I had to have signed by a notary.” Notaries do the official verification of legal matters—in this case, financial business.

“The best part is, when I got to immigration in Ireland, the guy I got was really nice, and when I said I was from IES, he didn’t even make me show him the papers,” said Aleyse.  “If you are in the country for only 90 days or less, you don’t need a visa. Well, our program was for 110 days or something like that, so it was up to immigration if they wanted to make us go pay 150 Euros to get a Visa. About half of us had to; I got lucky and didn’t.”

What is packing like?

“It was interesting. You have to try and fit everything you will need for three and a half months into as little baggage as possible! Not easy.” Said Aleyse.  “I ended up taking two suitcases, one bigger than the other, and paying the extra for the second bag. Oh, and I had my carry on.”

Aleyse’s packing style: one bag for clothes, one bag for toiletries and other everyday items, and a carry on full of electronics—especially a digital camera!

“Everything is more expensive in Ireland than here, as it is around most of Europe, so bring what you can with you from the states. That’s just an opinion though.”

There you have it then—a few tips in preparation from an experienced traveler (did I mention she’s been to Costa Rica and a bunch of other states across the nation)!  So good luck to all you future study abroaders with getting your passport, doing any other paperwork, and deciding what to bring with you!

Since when did student travel become an opportunity for civil disobedience?

When my friend Sinan brought his art to Turkey, his homeland.

Sinan came to Minneapolis for grad school and is currently a computer science Phd at the U of M, specializing in technology applications for the collaborative arts. Which means he uses high tech gizmos to bring art into communities. He prefers video projectors because they have the power to display videos, images, and animations on practically any urban structure.

Born in Bergama, Turkey, Sinan grew up near the  west coast of the Aegean Sea. But during his adolescent years he left Bergama for Istanbul. “[I] fell in love with that city,” he said. “When I think of home, I often think of Istanbul.”

Sinan recently returned to Istanbul with a group of fellow artists to participate in the Istanbul Pride march. “Pride is a big deal in Istanbul,” he said. “Many people from all around turkey come to the political events, panels, the march, etc.” Sinan was there to support his gay community, alongside anti-fascists, anti-militarists, people against violence, feminists, leftists, Marxists, and worker unions. He did his part with video projectors. “Projections were another way of getting our message across,” he said.

Every year, the march ends at Galata tower, a monument built by the Genovese in the 14th century. That was Sinan’s target. “We projected some artistic content related to queer issues on the tower,” he said. Since we didn’t have permission (there is no way, they would give permission) it caused some tension.” The police were called, but they didn’t know where to find the ghost vandals. Sinan was hidden in a building across the street, projecting images out a window.

This political intervention wasn’t school sponsored—Sinan didn’t have the academic policy monkey on his back. He took it upon himself to bring his studies to the streets. If you’re interested in his direction, but want to keep things legal, there are plenty of study abroad programs centered on social justice.

Sinan and his team were eventually caught, but there were no arrests. “At the end things magically got resolved” he said “An officer even secretly told us that he thought the projections were cool.”

Courtney in Kenya with her host dad and one of her host moms.

The Africa in the news is often portrayed as dangerous, impoverished, and war-torn. But this depiction is only one facet of the continent. My friend Courtney, a senior Global studies major and English minor, had an entirely different experience when she studied abroad in Kenya for a year. Over email, she shared some of the most eye-opening and enjoyable experiences she had while abroad.

Courtney came to Nairobi, Kenya, somewhat unexpectedly. A German-speaker since fourth grade, she had been planning to study in Germany, but everything changed when she began taking Swahili classes on a whim: “I fell in love with the language and my Kenyan professor, and knew I wanted to go to Kenya.”

Despite her love for the country, she was unprepared for at least one thing: her polygamous host family. “I didn’t really get the whole situation straight until after a while,” she explained. “My program didn’t tell me what my situation would be like, nor did my family announce to me when I met them, ‘Hi, we are polygamous.’”

“At first it was sort of hard to figure out who was who,” she said, because people from the nearby village were always visiting and sleeping over.

“Our home was a courtyard with 8 small houses, which were allotted to different wives and extended family,” she said. “In total, I think there were about 40 permanent people in our compound. But everyone does everything outside, so you can’t really tell who belongs to which house.”

It took about two weeks into her stay before she met all the members of her immediate host family. “My [host] dad introduced me without flourish to a woman at the breakfast table. ‘This is my third wife. You know we Africans are like that right?’”

While her host family was rather larger than she had expected, Courtney felt a comfortable and familiar family atmosphere. “Life passed as normal,” she said. “The kids (and there were lots of them) played with each other, the women sat around chatting after the day’s chores were done, and my dad drank tea and chatted with his friends. It’s kind of weird how not weird it was.”

The ease with which Kenya accepts diversity continued to surprise her. While there are extreme differences between rural and city life, it was the groups that lived side-by-side that impressed her.

“In Nairobi, for example, you can walk down the street and pass a man in jeans and a Michael Jordan jersey, a woman in a bai-bui and hijaab, a Maasai warrior carrying a spear, and a man in a business suit carrying a briefcase,” she said. “People just coexist with an unspoken respect for one another’s lifestyles.”

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I realized that my friend Claire Watne is bound to come home soon, so I sent her an email to see how her trip was wrapping up and what her plans were for after she came home. I’m sure being in another country for several months changes your perspective on how you want to live. Claire gave me quite a lengthy explanation and she has changed a lot about her future.
Claire started her email in Spanish, and though I didn’t understand it. I can tell already she is becoming more fluent, using it much more than English, as she often switches between the two. She told me she is still having a really great time, and is very reluctant to leave, but she won’t be gone from Venezuela for long. “I’m also still planning on coming back next year after I graduate, and have made plans to attend la Universidad de los Andes, which is a FREE public university here. It’s one of the best in Latin America. 🙂 I’ll probably go for Modern Languages and learn French and Italian, or something like that… I’m also hoping to get a job with them teaching English, which would include 100% benefits for free.”
Her semester ends this Thursday, and most students are leaving the day or two after their tests. but Claire has chosen to stay a couple weeks past her finals so she can explore Venezuela on her own time. “I’m going to be staying with a friend in el centro (downtown), and just chilling… we’re going to go to a beach called Chorroni for a few days during that time as well.”
Her plans for when she gets home? Visit friends, family, and of course, show off some new dance moves. “I’m definitely going salsa dancing at Famous Dave’s and showing off my Venezuelan salsa… which is very different from Mexican and Puerto Rican salsa that they dance in the states.”

Not as sunny as Greece or as romantic as France (and still recovering from Soviet rule), Poland is usually overlooked by the student traveler. But the country’s eccentric combination of history, nature, and nightlife may help to put it on the map, according to a host of recent travel articles:

Veteran traveler and television personality Rick Steves touts Krakow, Poland, as both “the next Prague” and the “Boston of Poland” in his CNN article. With historic sites at Main Market Square, folksy market stalls, affordable dining, and pastoral countrysides, Krakow has a unique and sometimes wacky spin on history. A salt mine just outside the city, for example, houses an underground cathedral carved entirely out of salt.

According to the New York Times, the city of Wroclaw has an equally unique combination of modernism and history. Over 150 bronze dwarfs, symbolic of the communist resistance movement in the 1980s, have dotted the city since 2001.

But don’t let its quirky exterior fool you: Residents praise the vitality of the “young” town, as evidenced by student-friendly clubs and cafes. The article also lists recommended hotels, restaurants, and sights.

Even the Polish sector of Minneapolis is having its own revival. Previously ruled by Polish delis and clothing stores, the 13th Avenue stretch of northeast Minneapolis is now home to art galleries, restaurants, and record stores, according to the New York Times. Neighborhood artists and students alike can afford nights out at the well-priced Anchor Fish & Chips or the 331 Club (no cover charge).

Experience the offbeat culture of Poland for yourself with a semester-long study abroad program in Warsaw. And since Rick Steve says that it is one of Europe’s least expensive countries, Poland may even be worth an independent trip.

My next-door neighbor sleeps five feet away from me. We both live on the second floor of adjacent duplexes. Our windows face each other.

I finally met the guy behind the curtain last week during a grill-out party. His name is Ahmed Omar, and he goes by Mido.

He’s a 26-year old veterinarian studying animal viruses at the University of Minnesota; here for the research portion of a Masters project he started in Egypt, his homeland.

Interviewing him was easy. We just opened our windows and started talking.

I asked Mido to describe some general differences between Minneapolis and his home in Cairo. He first cleared up two common American misconceptions: Egypt is not one big desert and the main mode of transportation is not camel.

“Cairo is similar to Minneapolis,” he said, “We have twin cities, Cairo and Giza, and we have the Nile river that runs between them.”

Although Cairo crushes Minneapolis on the population scale—13,300,00 to 382,618—Mido said Minneapolis is more culturally diverse. In Cairo, Arabic is the dominant language and Islam the principal faith. The  houses are larger, too, yet due to crowding, most have been carved into numerous apartments.

Egypt and the U.S. do share one aspect: an obsession with sports. “We have the same things for fun,” Mido said. Though the other type football, soccer, is more popular. Egypt has won a record seven championships in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Moving to the other side of the Earth was a challenge for Mido, to say the least. This was his first time outside Egypt, so Minnesota might as well be another planet.

The cold was a shocker he said. Egypt is one of the hottest countries in the world, and he came here this past January.

But adjusting to this place meant more than buying a winter coat. “Another challenge I have faced here is being a Muslim,” he said. “I didn’t find many mosques to go to and pray.” He’s right. According to Google maps, there are only four Mosques within a five-mile radius of the campus.

Then there’s the language barrier:

“The first month [here] was really hard, because I had no friends,” he said. “How do you ask someone to be your friend? In Egypt, it’s easier. Same culture. Same language.” Having only studied British English, the Midwestern accent probably doesn’t help. Nevertheless, Mido remains positive. “The people are so nice here,” he said, and “the language problem will be solved over time.”

While Minnesota doesn’t have the Great Pyramids or year-round warm weather, Mido has been struck by one Midwest wonder: The Mall of America. “It’s very huge and very great,” he said. “It’s the best thing I have seen until now.”

I recently watched the movie A Little Princess (circa 1995), and was reminded that “all girls are princesses.”  I ended up thinking about where I would want to live if I was a princess.  My decision is based on my heritage: France—although I’m not sure I would want to live in a castle because that may get lonely.

My roommate, Alyson, a 21-year-old journalism student, recently came back from a trip to Germany and France.  She brought back photos of castles in both countries.  The architecture goes beyond the blueprint plan of the castle I envision living in, but I can’t deny how amazing it would be to live in one.

These pictures should convince you that France and Germany are places to visit, especially if you’re studying architecture, history, design, etc., or if you’re like me and dream about being royalty!

Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg (circa 12th century)

Located in the Alsace region of France, this castle sits an impressive 757 meters above the Alsace plain.  Looking out from the castle you can see the surrounding countryside: the Vosges mountains, the Black Forest, and on a clear day, the Alps.  Tours are offered daily, and you can hang out in the castle’s dining rooms, weapons rooms, chapel, and so much more.  Eight centuries of history have been witnessed by this castle, you shouldn’t miss out on this.

View from the castle's keep

Neuschwanstein (circa 1868)

Neuschwanstein Castle is situated near Schwangau and Füssen in the Allgäu (Southeastern Germany near Austria). The path to the castle starts in the village of Hohenschwangau, and this is also your last opportunity to park.  The castle is relatively new, but it is one of the most popular landmarks in Europe (1.3 million visitors each year).  After the death of King Ludwig II in 1886, the castle was opened to the public and now does daily tours.  In this castle, no photography is allowed inside, but the modern architecture outside is still worth your camera’s lens.

View from the path leading up to the castle

As of Monday, I have 8 days until I arrive in Europe.  I am kind of nervous so I sent out an email to my friends who have gone abroad, and this is the general consensus:

  • Dublin: my friend, Jenny, said I had to go because she “loved it there. It’s way more laid back then London, which you will need when you have been there for a bit.”  She also recommended going on the countryside bus ride because “it is so beautiful.” My other friend, Steph, said that Dublin was fun.  She heard Glasgow is cool and not so touristy, but she never got the chance to go.

  • Italy: Steph said, “If you’re going to go anywhere in Italy go to Rome, there is so much to see and do there.”  Sophie also suggested going to Rome, if anywhere in Italy.  She said she really enjoyed the history, and things to see there.

  • Greece: I have heard great things about the islands, but the mainland is “dirty” and “touristy.” Steph said, “Santorini and Mikonos (the Grecian islands)…is a far plane ride but it was the best trip I’ve EVER taken and I know you will love it! My friend, Brooke, says to avoid Greece.  She said that it was just too hard to get to, and you really don’t have enough time to enjoy it.  She said “save it for the honeymoon!”

  • Barcelona: This is the #1 place my friends said to visit.  Three of them said it was one of their favorite places in Europe.  Sophie said, “I’m not sure if I’m biased but my favorite city is Barcelona by far!” Steph said “It’s amazing and if you go, go to CHUPITOS.  It’s a shot bar and its unbelievable!” Read the rest of this entry »

A new statue in Senegal has been causing a stir this week (read this CNN article for more). The 164-foot copper structure (which features a man, woman, and child with arms outstretched) has been criticized for everything from its expense to being the product of the Senegalese president’s self-indulgence.

Yet it is not the first statue to receive widespread attention for its dramatic back-story. A number of statues around the world have become tourist destinations because of their creator, height, or history. From the multitude of online lists ranking the most popular or tallest statues around the world, I picked out a few sculptures that I would like to see someday (along the lines of my post from a few weeks ago about quirky buildings worldwide).

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen

Photo courtesy of

1. The Little Mermaid. Inspired by the popular Hans Christian Andersen children’s story, the mermaid has sat curled in the harbor of Copenhagen, Denmark, since her creation by Danish sculptor Edvard Eriksen in 1913. But the lady has not led a peaceful life: she has been the victim of vandalism, three decapitations, and an attempted drowning in 2003. (Time your visit carefully: According to The Daily Mail, the mermaid will leave her home for the first time in 100 years to visit the World Expo in Shanghai from May to November this year).

2. David. Michelangelo’s contemplative interpretation of the Biblical figure took three years to complete and, according to, the sculptor continued to work on the piece even after it was revealed to immediate acclaim in Florence’s Piazza della Signora in 1504. The statue was moved from its original location to the city’s Academy Gallery in 1872 to protect it from the elements (a copy was put in its place). The success of David is said to be what inspired the Pope to invite Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel.

Photo courtesy of the China Culture Center

3. Great Buddha at Leshan. There are innumerable Buddha figures around Asia, but this 71-meter-high statue has a unique claim to fame as the largest carved stone Buddha in the world, according to The serene figure occupies an entire hillside of the Sichuan Province in China, and its construction took nearly 100 years, beginning in 713 AD during the Tang Dynasty. The Buddha’s giant fingers are about 11 feet long, and its bare feet are each large enough for 100 people to sit on.

4. The Statue of Liberty. Although it is right here in the U.S., our 105-foot-tall statue, created by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, represents an international friendship. A gift from France for America’s centennial celebration in 1876, this symbol of democracy and freedom raises a torch covered with 24k gold, holds a tablet inscribed with “July 4, 1776,” and stands upon the broken shackles of oppression, according to Her iconic green color is actually the natural weathering effect of her copper covering, which is less than the thickness of two pennies.

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