I know you all know this, but… I love my job. Like it makes me smile just thinking about how blessed I am. And sometimes it makes me cry to think about some of the amazing stories that come across my desk. We are not kidding when we say studying abroad changes lives – and sometimes it’s not just the lives of the students, but the ones that are blessed by their stories (me!).

Meet Reid. A student at George Washington University who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. A student who was flat out told that he could not study abroad because of his disability. A student who not only didn’t take no for an answer, but also kickstarted his way toward documentary about his time in Rome. A student who is literally showing all those people who told him no (and the rest of the world too) that even though he may be the one with the physical disability, we may be the ones who are truly limited. A student who had me at my desk trying not to shed tears at just how awesome he is (they weren’t tears of sadness). A student whose story left me speechless.

Check out the trailer for his documentary, Wheelchair Diaries. I can’t wait to see the full-length film after he’s traveled to Europe:


You won’t learn a language in a book…

…but maybe you can learn it in a song.  Don’t let your inability to speak the language of your study abroad destination keep you from going – here’s another way to pick up some useful phrases.

I studied Italian for all of  6 weeks before leaving for study abroad in Italy.  Up until that point I had taken 4 semesters of Spanish (I don’t even think HU offered Italian now that I think about it).  That said, how did I become proficient in Italian in less than 4 months??? I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t in a textbook 😉 We had an awesome Italian professor who would teach us idioms (especially the bad ones), refuse to answer us in English, and played games with us in Italian.  Perhaps one of the most fun things we did was learn Italian pop songs.  I would find myself singing the words and not even knowing exactly what they meant – but you can pretty much guess based on the mood of the music.  Eventually we would go over the meanings, but the important thing is that I was “thinking” in Italian.  Because I was exposed to all different uses of the language, and not just repeating phrases we learned in a book, my brain was much more quickly re-wired to learn the language.  Although reading books in other languages- even textbooks- will help you read and possibly write the language pretty well, what’s the use of a language if not spoken? Especially a language as beautiful and expressive as Italian. 

Next week when I get back from Atlanta (remember NC4GE’s campaign launch party is tonight!) I am going to start teaching my little sister and brother Italian pop songs.  I mean, the songs they listen to on the radio are pretty sad for an 8- and 11- year old to be walking around singing them.  If they are just going to repeat what they hear on the radio why not teach them something in the process.  The younger you are the easier it is to learn a language. And if you’re surrounded by it all the time, you’ll definitely start picking up phrases and words (by osmosis perhaps). Just imagine if your Pandora or iTunes was always playing Italian songs, if you watched your favorite moves dubbed in Italian (I did this with Coming to America – hilarious!), and even your ringtone was Italian – you would have to learn SOMETHING – and isn’t that more fun (and I bet more effective) than exercises in a textbook?

Here’s one of my favorites from a band called Lunapop – Un Giorno Migliore (The Best Day): 

And any discussion of Italian music without mentioning Andrea Bocelli would be useless so here’s one of my favorites – Con Te Partiro (I’ll Go With You): 

Spelman Student’s Call to Action

April Evans, a Spelman student who is currently studying abroad in Africa, vividly describes some of the highlights of her experience while urging her Spelman sisters to join her in taking advantage of this opportunity.  In an open letter in Inside Spelman, Evans, who is still abroad traveling through Tanzania, Kenya, and Egypt, writes,

“I write this to you my sisters of Spelman, urging you to study abroad, take advantage of the countless opportunities for international experiences and make them your own! Allow your greatest imagination to become your reality and define your time, as it refines who you consider yourself to be!”

That was just an excerpt, but click here to read her entire letter and to see a slideshow of her time in Africa.

Atlanta, Come Party with NCGE (and me) 4.7.2010

Who doesn’t like a good party for a good cause? If you are in Atlanta, you should definitely check out the launch party for the National Center for Global Engagement‘s (NC4GE) Annual Campaign. It’s from 6-9p next Wednesday, April 7, 2010.  Here are the details from EventBrite (where you can also purchase tickets):

Please join the National Center for Global Engagement (NC4GE) as they host the official launch for their Annual Campaign at W Atlanta Downtown’s DRINKSHOP. Hosted by media sponsor Urban Lux Magazine and corporate sponsors Shell Foundation, Sylvan-Laureate Foundation Inc., HSBC, and Marathon Oil Company. 

This launch party is designed to support the vision and mission of NC4GE: To increase access to worldwide educational, civic and career opportunities for working-class Americans of color from kindergarten to college and beyond.
Second Floor
W Atlanta Downtown
45 Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard
Atlanta, GA 30308

Tickets are $30 per person. The first 125 people to purchase their tickets will receive VIP tickets including complimentary valet parking at W Downtown Atlanta as well as one of DRINKSHOP’s signature cocktails! A silent auction with amazing items, including a cruise for two, will also be held.

You do not want to miss this amazing event which supports an even better cause! See you at DRINKSHOP! You may purchase tickets online here. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.


DRINKSHOP is a true hotel bar serving up custom crafted cocktails made with only fresh ingredients and paired with specialty ice so your last sip tastes just like your first. Experience a culinary approach to cocktails while supporting this worthy cause.


To learn more about the National Center for Global Engagement, click here or their blue header above.  They are actually putting into action the very ideas and beliefs that I (and this blog!) stand for.  I have been fortunate enough to volunteer with NC4GE for a few months and they have some really amazing trailblazers on board – people you will be reading about and watching on the news and the Biography channel and will want to post pictures of that time you met them at DRINKSHOP ;). Plus, I’ll be there! If you’re my friend, and you’re in Atlanta, get a ticket! I’ll only be in Atlanta for a day or two before heading off to Nashville – so this is like the guaranteed way that we’ll be able to catch up over awesome drinks and of course – a good cause. See you there!

Don’t be scared! (Part I)

Don’t be scared to study abroad. In the “Don’t Be Scared” series, I will highlight some of the most common concerns I’ve received about studying abroad.  If you’ve never considered studying abroad, I ask you, WHY NOT? If you are studying abroad as an undergrad, there will never be another time in your life when you have this kind of freedom – freedom from a job, freedom from bills (kinda), or the freedom to explore. 

 You say, “I CAN’T AFFORD IT!”

My Reply: If you can afford Howard University (or whatever school you go to), you can afford to study abroad.  All of the Financial Aid you receive and the tuition you pay toward HU can be transferred to your study abroad program in most cases.  So compare how much you are paying for tuition to the cost of the study abroad program.  There are going to be programs that cost more and if you’re lucky you can find programs that cost less.  This will all depend on the organization, the country, whether you’re staying in an apartment or with a host family, etc. The policy may vary from school to school but generally any financial aid you receive or the tuition you are already paying can be applied to the study abroad program that semester. This is an amazing system if you are on a scholarship – your scholarship money will go toward your program tuition and you are essentially spending a semester in another country for free (as free as scholarships go)!

Also, there are DOZENS of grants, scholarships, and other free monies out there to assist you – especially for minorities.  If you need help finding them, please don’t hesitate to call me.  I live for this and would do anything to help you experience something like this.  PLEASE RESEARCH THE BENJAMIN GILMAN FOUNDATION if you are currently receiving financial aid, because they have a grant specifically for this (http://www.iie.org//programs/gilman/index.html). Besides the scholarships and grants, there are some programs (such as the Fulbright mentioned in the previous post) that are at no cost to the participants to begin with.

Now that we know you can afford it, what’s holding you back?!

I know your bracket is all messed up…

So participate in the IES Abroad Study Abroad March Madness instead 🙂

Who's your Final Four??

I’m rooting for Milan since that’s where I studied abroad.  They are just barely beating Granada in the first round (51% right now!) 

Click here or the bracket above to play. So who do you think will take home the trophy as the most popular IES Abroad Destination – Barcelona? Cape Town, South Africa? Sydney, Australia? (This is an awesome way to find out about some of IES Abroad’s destinations.)

There’s only one thing…

… I love more than traveling, studying abroad, international exposure, etc.  And that is traveling, studying abroad, international exposure, etc. for FREE. Sometimes it isn’t even whether I’d like for it to be free or not – sometime’s the “free” is a prerequisite.  My summers in high school were filled with summer programs that were at no-cost to me or my parents. Now, my programs were at the University of Virgina and another at Carleton College outside of Minneapolis, but what if you had the chance to go to a program in London for free?? I know cost is one of the primary reasons many people don’t even seek out study abroad programs or even go on international vacations – but what if the cost factor was eliminated? Now what’s holding you back? The Fulbright Commission has two special programmes in the United Kingdom this summer – at no cost to the participants (they even pay for airfare!). Here are the qualifications and details:

  • U.S. Citizen at least 18 years old,
  • High School graduate but have completed no more than 2 years of college coursework (i.e. freshmen, sophomores or recent high school grads),
  • Program pays for round-trip airfare, fees to the university, daily food allowance (!!), housing, visa processing
  • Program open to students of all majors and courses of study,
  • Application deadlines are May 3 and May 14 (You still have plenty of time to apply)

Seriously, all you have to pay for is your passport (hopefully you already have one!).  And then you can Vai Via.  There are two separate programs: one at Roehampton University and the other at Newcastle University.  It doesn’t mention anywhere on the website that you can only apply for one or the other so I would definitely apply for both! If you need help with your application or don’t know where to start, I’m more than willing to help you out or give you some ideas.  I checked out the application and one of the options for the essay is “Describe a non-material thing that makes you happy.” Even if you don’t apply for the program, that’s definitely something to think about. 🙂

Here is the link to the programs: Fulbright  Special Programmes – Summer Institutes

If you or someone you know would be interested in applying, please forward the info – and let me know!

P.S. Did I mention this is a Fulbright program? Fulbright is an awesome organization to be a part of and I’m sure you will become a lot more familiar with Fulbright if you stick around the blog.

So What is This “Vai Via” Anyway??

Vai Via (pronounced vye veeya) is an Italian phrase that means Go Away. Simple as that. Go Away.

WAIT! No, not go away from this page! In fact, you should by all means stay around. When I say “Vai Via!” I don’t mean “Go Away” the way an older too-cool-for-school sister would say it to her younger annoying brother. Not at all. This is a much more encouraging Go Away,  meaning to leave your comfort zone, to explore other cultures and other countries, to study abroad. That’s right – this blog is about studying abroad an increasing your global exposure.  (It just sounds so much better in Italian right?)

While I believe that studying abroad is an awesome experience for any undergrad (or grad student or even K-12), I have a special interest in encouraging minorities who would otherwise not even consider a study abroad experience. 

I’m not quite sure of all the features the site will cover, but here are a few that you should definitely check back for:

  • Personal Advice – While I am not tied to any particular school, I still consider myself a “Study Abroad Advisor” (at least in my mind as Wendy Williams says). My experience studying abroad in addition to my sincere passion for getting students to take that one step has led me to get as much information about the study abroad process as possible – which  I will share with you here.  Whether it be about the visa process, getting a passport, finding friends (or hair salons!) in a new country, anything is fair game.
  • Student Spotlights – On these pages, I’ll highlight people who have studied abroad (sometimes multiple times in multiple countries) and get the low-down on their experience. We’ll talk good, bad and ugly and you’ll be able to ask questions too! Many of the students here will be students of color to show you that “we” do, in fact, study abroad! And have a blast doing it! 
  • Destination Spotlights – Interested in a particular country or city for your study abroad experience? Drop me a line and I will research it for you and get first-hand perspectives from friends (or friends of friends) who may have studied there.
  • Minority-focused International Organizations – I will highlight organizations such as the National Center for Global Engagement (nc4ge.org) that are working very hard to increase the access to international experiences for underrepresented groups.
  • Destination Comparisons – Much like the Destination Spotlights, I will do a side-by-side comparison of some of the most popular cities (or link to someone who’s already done it – no use reinventing the wheel here!)
  • Scholarship, Fellowship, and Program Information – I will let you know about new programs, especially those with scholarships.

I’m sure there will be many posts that won’t fit into any of the categories listed here.  If I come across something I find interesting, helpful, exciting, etc., I’ll be sure to pass it on. If you would like to see more of something, feel free to share.

Thanks for stopping by! Sit back, relax, and enjoy this global ride we are about to embark on together! 🙂

If you would like to e-mail me: vaiviablog@gmail.com. On Twitter, www.twitter.com/vaiviablog.