Category: Student Blog

Kendra Shepard’s Russia Blog

Read all about Kendra’s experiences in Russia on her blog! Kendra is a CALS student on the Russia Study Abroad trip.

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Megan’s Blog (France)

Megan was the past president of the Teach for Madam students group teaching French in three elementary schools (after school). She is now in Royan, France teaching English.

Visit her blog now!

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Michael Fulcher: Traveling

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

One of the best parts of my study abroad experience has been traveling. It could be as simple as going to a nearby city to see a famous landmark, or it could be a whirlwind tour of the countries nearby. Either way, you get the chance to see and experience something new.

One of my favorite experiences this semester was going to Istanbul. It was only an overnight bus trip away, but i got to see an entirely new country, culture, and people.

It’s easier to travel on a student’s budget than you might think. Traveling on local airlines or taking buses keeps transport costs down. There are plenty of youth hostels in most places that have cut rate prices, and if you’re really adventurous you could try out a service like couchsurfing.com.

When my classes end, I will get to a few more countries before I come home.

How many times will you have that opportunity in your life?

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Michael Fulcher: Greek Food

MikeGreek_Salad_ChoriatikiWikimediaCommons

Greek salad, Choriatiki. Photographer Zone 41 (wikimedia commons)

No offense to Souvlaki down on Main Street, but they really don’t do justice to Greek food. The Greeks by Taco Bell are pretty authentic, but even what they’ve got doesn’t hold a candle next to what I’ve been eating here. Like most people, I love eating. Naturally I have been doing a lot of it here, and I am also taking a class on the Greek Palate.

Once you get past the greek salads, feta, and gyros, you have the chance to explore a wonderfully diverse food culture. Different parts of Greece have their own unique specialties and takes on popular dishes. In the northernmost part of Greece the food is very Balkan, in the east it is very middle eastern, and in the south you find the typical “mediterranean” type foods. Some of the common threads are: olives, pork, cheese, and eggplant. Pork is king here. One of the first questions I was asked when I got to campus was “You are not a vegetarian, are you?” It would be very hard to live as a vegetarian in Greece. You’re dining options would be limited, and the Greek salad would get old pretty quickly.

Food plays a very important role in Greece. Meals can last over two hours and you almost never just “grab a bite to eat.” There is fast food, but it is not as popular as it is in America. A common way to eat here is to order lots of small dishes, mezes, and share them in a group. This is definitely the best way to sample the flavors since you get to try a little of a lot.

Some of my favorite dishes have been pan fried calamari from a restaurant in the city, and a rabbit and onion stew that was a village’s specialty. I especially love the customary free dessert most places serve. Sometimes it even comes with an after meal drink to help you digest.

Of course, sometimes you just have to have that greasy gyro overflowing with fries and topped with ketchup, mustard, and tzatziki. Luckily, you can find corner shops with great gyros for just a couple euros all over the city.

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Michael Fulcher: Night Life in Greece

MikeNightlifeNightlife in Greek cities is similar to what we do in the States, but there are definitely some noticeable differences.

First of all, the night starts a whole lot later and goes a whole lot longer. A typical night might start with dinner or coffee at 9. Then around 11 you will probably head to the bars or a club. Staying out until the next morning is pretty standard. At first, I thought getting home at 4 a.m. was an accomplishment, but then I’d see my room mate routinely coming in two hours later.

Another big difference from Virginia Tech is the absence of house parties. People here like to go out when they go out. There are lots of bar districts and plenty of clubs to check out. The options are pretty diverse, I’ve been in dive bars, Belgian ale houses, and loud euro dance bars. If you like to dance there is plenty of good house music at the clubs.

There is plenty of other live music if you’d rather catch a rock show, blues, jazz, or -and this is not to be missed in Greece – rebetiko. Rebetiko is the traditional music of Greece and can be heard live in lots of taverns. Going to one of these places is a lot of fun. They are cheap, you get served good food all night, and usually you order lots of wine and spend the whole night talking, eating, and dancing with the people who live here.

If none of that interests you, you can always hang out in a coffee shop. The coffee shop culture is huge. There are whole streets with nothing but cafes. I have only seen one Starbucks in the city, and it is usually deserted. People will sit drinking coffee, smoking, and talking for hours. Many of the cafes double as bars late at night, so they can get pretty packed.

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Michael Fulcher Student Blog: Dorm Life at Perrotis College

Dormitory at Perrotis College

Dorm life here is really different from my experience in Pritchard Hall my Freshman year. Many of the 200 students at this school live on campus, but it is still very quiet in my building. I have lived off campus for a year and a half so it is an adjustment sharing a bedroom with some one else again.

This dorm building is practically brand new. Our rooms are suite style; two rooms, each with two beds and a bath, are connected by a lounge area. This common room has couches, a table, chairs, a sink, and a mini-fridge. Each bedroom also has a sliding glass door that opens onto a shared porch with a great view.

There is a large lounge on the ground floor just inside the front doors. There are lots of couches, tables, and chairs. There is a flat screen T.V. and an Andy Warhol portrait of the school’s benefactor.

There is a roof top garden that people spend late nights in when it is warm. The wi-fi is good in the common rooms but spotty in the bedrooms. Most important of all though, is the FREE on site laundry.

The biggest difference is that no one here seems to go all out decorating their dorm room. The walls in my room is pretty bare so to make it feel more like home I’ve bought some little things: a cactus, a candle, and ice-cube trays. Little things like that go a long way towards making a place feel like home.

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Mike Fulcher Student Blog: Comparison of VT and Perrotis (Greece)

Dairy Cows at Perrotis

The school I am attending is a private college accredited by the Cardiff Metropolitan University in Wales, so it follows their rules to the letter. This means small things like using the Harvard citation method and also big things like only attending college for three years. However, this school in pretty unique in the way its majors operate. There are only a few options and everyone in the same major takes the same classes at the same time.

The directed learning paths are the result of the school’s size, which is especially tiny when compared to VT. There are only 200 students here – the size of a lot of my classes Freshman year. None of my classes have more than 30 students.

Dairy Farm at Perrotis

The classes have little or no homework and no quizzes, instead they typically rely on a large final exam or term project to determine your grade.

A similarity between VT and Perrotis College is the inclusion of farm land on campus. There is a sizable dairy farm, a large chicken house, vegetable plots, land for field crops, two olive groves, and a lot of greenhouses. Some fun facts: the dairy farm here was the first in all of Greece to pasteurize its milk and it was also the first farm in Greece to offer Omega-3 chicken eggs.

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Michael Fulcher (Student Blog) Guest Post

I am a junior year horticulture major studying in Greece this semester. Yesterday I arrived at the American Farm School in Thessaloniki where I will live and study until May. I am staying in a suite style dorm room with three room mates. Yesterday, I was introduced to my room mates and the director of my program. Today, I registered for my classes, got a schedule, and went on a tour of the campus. This trip has been a long time in the making so I am very excited to finally start my semester abroad! It was a real challenge packing for three months and even harder to say goodbye to my friends and family. I was happy, sad, nervous, and excited when I left home. I have already had a lot of good adventures just getting here. There were cancelled flights, missed buses, and of course trying to learn a new language.

Temple of Poseidon, The Acropolis behind

I will take four classes this semester: Plant Physiology, Weed Science & Management, Precision Agriculture & Environmental Sustainability, and The Greek Palate. I am also doing a service learning project with the professor of Precision Agriculture. This is a bi-lateral exchange program which helps ensure that all my credits will transfer smoothly back to VT. With no class Monday and nothing scheduled for Friday afternoon, I am hoping to get some traveling in on the weekends. I have actually been in Greece for a couple weeks already (an extra long winter break is just one of the many great things about study abroad).

I am keeping a personal blog and I also post photos at this tumblr page. Those will give you a pretty good idea of what I have seen and gotten to do so far, and I’ll try to update the blog once a week.

 
Michael Fulcher
Jr. Horticulture
mikefulc@vt.edu

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