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A castle to call one's home

Posted by Emily Graham on July 29, 2014 @ 06:23 p.m. EDT
Tags: BISC, Castle, England, Travel


Have you ever asked yourself, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?” This summer, I answered that question.

In November, when I was accepted to attend the summer term at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC), affectionately known as “the castle,” flying across the Atlantic Ocean seemed like a lifetime away. As the days until I left decreased, my excitement increased exponentially.

I had absolutely no idea what to expect, other than I would be studying in a 15th century castle. Little did I know an incredible adventure awaited.

The two months I spent at the BISC were academically intensive, sometimes socially awkward and a wonderful whirlwind of epic proportions. Not only was completing three courses in six weeks a daunting task, but making friends was even more intimidating.

You’re essentially in first year ...

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Sky-high learning

Posted by Emily Gong on July 29, 2014 @ 05:39 p.m. EDT
Tags: Sky burials, Tibet, Travel

Sky burial

Above one of Tibet’s three greatest Gelukpa school monasteries, Sera Monastery, is an abandoned sky burial platform. Located at the top of the mountain, this platform was once the main sky burial site in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

Sky burials are the Tibetan Buddhism tradition of carrying the deceased to mountaintop platforms and preparing their bodies to be eaten by vultures. Tibetans believe in reincarnation and the transmigration of spirits, hence the body is only an empty vessel. It is therefore virtuous to offer one’s flesh to sustain the life of other living beings and complete the cycle of life.

As part of my Queen’s Research Fellowship, I spent 40 days travelling from the Gobi Desert to the Himalayas while exploring Buddhist art. Before embarking on the trip, I planned to track down a ... Read more...

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Penniless student travel tips

Posted by Samantha Ortibus on June 24, 2014 @ 09:44 a.m. EDT
Tags: Cheap, Travel

Eiffel tower selfie

After a long school year spent trudging to 8:30 classes in the bitter cold and slaving hours away in the dungeons of Stauff, no idea could be more welcome than concocting the perfect getaway. For many of you young, wayward vagabonds out there, summer vacation seems like the perfect opportunity to let out your inner Bilbo Baggins and declare to the world: “I’m going on an adventure!”

Unfortunately, unlike Mr. Baggins’ fanciful travels, we students have more to worry about than just the casual fire-breathing dragon or a few blood thirsty orcs. Instead, students are faced with the reality of paying student loans, working multiple part-time jobs, and surviving the summer off of more than just strawberry pop-tarts and toast, which leaves most of us with nary a spare dollar or minute in sight.

However, like ...

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Far-reaching field trip takes flight to Cuba

Posted by Nicolaas Smith on June 24, 2014 @ 09:31 a.m. EDT
Tags: Cuba, DEVS, Travel


Often undergraduate students aren’t able to apply classroom knowledge to real-world scenarios, but DEVS 305 — Cuban Culture and Society — offered just that opportunity.

The course offered two incredible weeks of tours and nightlife events across Cuba, as well an intensive lecture schedule, following a semester of lectures beginning in January. The trip to Cuba provided a light at the end of the tunnel for me as a Global Development Studies student by allowing me to see, hear, touch and taste the topics I studied for months. In attempt to better understand the transformations impacting contemporary Cuba, the class focused on Cuban gender identity, economic policy, film, food security and music.

Many students felt that the most formative learning experience came not from the tours and lecture portion, but from meeting local Cubans and discussing policy and political ... Read more...

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Pre-exchange to-do list

Posted by Victoria Musial on June 11, 2014 @ 03:43 p.m. EDT
Tags: Exchange, France, Paris

Come September, I will be spending a full year studying in Paris, France. Hopefully, I will return to Queen’s speaking fluent French with a killer sense of style. For now all I can do is daydream about sitting in posh cafés sipping French roasted coffee and walking the narrow streets of the city with a handful of shopping bags.

As my departure date creeps closer, I have to start preparing for my trip. Here are a few things on my pre-exchange to do list that fellow outgoing exchange students can relate to:

Saying adieu to Canadian favourites
Unfortunately, Tim Horton’s hasn’t made its way to France. Before I leave, I’m indulging in an Iced Capp and some Timbits. There is definitely no poutine being served in France, so I’ll be stuffing my face with fries, gravy and cheese curds as well. The French may have their world-acclaimed gourmet ... Read more...

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Post-exchange to-do list

Posted by Chloë Grande on March 19, 2014 @ 06:00 p.m. EDT
Tags: Post-exchange

Welcome back to Queen’s. It’s cold, wet and the sidewalks are slicked with ice. After a semester abroad, readjusting back to the Canadian winter is no easy feat. Kingston may not be lined with Parisian cafés or nestled in the Swiss Alps, but it does have its charms. From postcard writing to pubs, here are some ways to settle back in after exchange:

Revisit Canadian favourites
Whether it’s a Timmy’s coffee to-go or a deep-fried BeaverTail, there are some foods so engrained in Canadian culture that it wouldn’t feel right eating them anywhere else but here. Peanut butter, Kraft Dinner and late-night poutine also top my list of comfort snacks.

Make friends with exchanges students at Queen’s
The International Programs Office (IPO) and Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) both offer resources for connecting returning and current exchange students with networking nights, social programs and ... Read more...

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Exchange Diaries: The final countdown

Posted by Chloë Grande on December 12, 2013 @ 12:09 p.m. EST
Tags: Exchange Diaries. Christmas, Lyon, Travel

The final countdown is on. With two weeks to go, there’s just enough time left to cram in some last-minute sightseeing and travelling. Luckily for me (and my budget), I won’t have to go far to see one of the largest festivals in France this weekend.

The Festival of Lights, which attracts over three million visitors a year, takes place in none other than Lyon. From what I’ve heard, it’s an event well worth checking out. For four nights, historical buildings across the city are showcased with elaborate lighting, video and musical displays. It’s no wonder that Lyon’s been nicknamed “the City of Lights.”

Another local attraction I’m planning to explore is the Christmas markets in Lyon. More than anything, I’m looking forward to sampling all sorts of food – roasted chestnuts, hot wine and German-style fried potatoes especially. The markets feature local artisans and Christmas decorations galore. ... Read more...

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Holiday abroad in Canada

Posted by Jessica Chong on December 5, 2013 @ 06:00 p.m. EST
Tags: exchange students, holidays, Montreal, Quebec, Toronto

Traveling can be the perfect reward after term papers and exam studying. I remember when I was studying abroad at the castle in first year, the looming decision was whether to stay over the holiday break and travel or go back home and visit my family.

I started to wonder whether traveling in Canada had the same appeal that Europe had for me – so I spoke with three exchange students, Melanie Braith from the University of Konstanz in Germany, Lena Ilg from the University of Tuebingen in Germany and Alice Marechal from Sciences Po in France, to find out how they`ll be spending their holiday break in Canada:

Q: What`s the most Canadian thing you`ve experienced so far?

Braith: Eating poutine was one of the most Canadian things … I’ve never heard of it. I’ve never seen of it, and when I heard about it I thought, “That must ... Read more...

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Exchange Diaries: The Canadian reputation

Posted by Chloë Grande on November 27, 2013 @ 12:57 p.m. EST
Tags: Canada, France, Lyon

The French love Canada. I knew we had a fairly respectable reputation abroad, but I seem to have underestimated how positively Canadians are perceived.

Take this encounter, for instance:

While strolling down the Champs-Élysées in Paris this weekend, I stopped by a crêpe vendor for lunch. The vendor casually asked where I was from and I told him Canada (clearly my camera and backpack were an obvious indication that I was a tourist). I don’t think I’d ever seen a reaction as enthusiastic as his. “Canada? That’s amazing!” I could see from his huge grin that he was genuinely excited. “I love that country! That’s so interesting!” Each time I see such a positive reaction, I’m filled with Canadian pride. Yet it also sparks a tinge of homesickness. Even though I’m enjoying my time here, there are things I miss about Canada. Family, friends, Thanksgiving, Homecoming and poutine, to name ... Read more...

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Exchange Diaries: A vegetarian in Hong Kong

Posted by Brindan Baskaran on November 25, 2013 @ 08:01 p.m. EST
Tags: Exchange Diaries, Hong Kong, Vegetatrian

For those who don’t know me, I’m a vegetarian.

My maternal grandfather, who I’ve never met before, became a vegetarian in the name of animal rights during a time when the animal rights movement wasn’t as prevalent as it is today. Therefore, my mother was raised a vegetarian from day one, which led to my sister and I being raised the same way. Even my dad, a devoted meat eater, made an independent decision to become a herbivore about 15 years ago.

So, there are only two hurdles preventing me from becoming an omnivore: One, I find it a little gross to eat (though I have no problem staring at the carcasses hanging on the streets of Hong Kong), and more importantly, my body just won’t accept it. It’s true. About two months ago, I had quite a bit of chicken (because I was assured it was fake chicken, even ... Read more...

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