Winter can be a hard season to embrace, especially if you’re studying abroad and aren’t used to a cold climate and frosty conditions. But once you load up on layers, fill your belly with hot tea and find a favorite outdoor winter activity, you’ll find yourself longing for snow and ice all year round. Here are a few of the best outdoor activities you can try out this wintertime.
Also called sledging, sleighing or tobogganing, a “sled” is a general term for any kind of low-friction vessel that you sit on to glide down a slippery snow bank. Sledding is highly popular because it’s so easy to get started with; just find a hill in your neighborhood (start on a small one), climb to the top of it with sled in hand, and launch yourself down in a surprisingly fun-filled ride to the bottom! Once you’re feeling bolder, you can graduate to bigger hills; these take longer to climb, but the payoff is well worth it once you’re flying downhill for what feels like an eternity.
For many people experiencing snow for the first time, downhill skiing is the ultimate winter sport. Unlike sledding, there are chair lifts at ski hills that carry skiers to the top, so it’s a bit easier to start with. Getting to the bottom of the hill, however, isn’t as simple! It might seem challenging, but you can actually use your knowledge of some of your favorite junk foods to help you learn. Just remember “French fries” to go (skis are parallel to each other) and “pizza” to stop (ski tips pointed towards one another). If you’re studying in British Columbia or Alberta, you’ll find some of the world’s best skiing at resorts like Whistler and Banff, respectively, that are easy to visit over a weekend.
Is there anything cooler than snowboarding? Trickier to master, snowboarding involves strapping both feet to one board and surfing along the powdery slopes. It can take a few attempts to master the art of turning (also known as “carving”) but once you’ve got it, you’ll be seriously addicted to this trendy popular winter sport.
While it might look the same as downhill skiing, cross-country skiing is a totally different experience. Because you’re moving across a flat surface, instead of letting gravity do the work with downhill skiing, cross-country skiers use their own locomotion to move themselves along. You’ll normally do cross-country skiing out in the quiet of the woods, making it a more peaceful and natural outdoor activity compared to a busy ski resort.
Invented roughly 6,000 years ago, there’s a reason why snowshoeing has stuck around for so long — it’s easy to learn, fun to do, and a great way to explore the great outdoors! Similar to very large tennis rackets with foot straps, all you have to do is strap on a pair of snowshoes and start walking (carefully at first!). The wide base disperses your weight across feather light snow, making it easier to explore untouched backcountry areas where the most beautiful landscapes are.
It’s not all about the snow! Ice skating is one winter activity that everyone should try at least once. While skating rinks can be found all over the world, there’s something uniquely special about skating outdoors — even better if it’s on a frozen lake, pond or river! Once you’ve strapped on skates and done a few wobbly laps, it’s a great idea to warm up with some hot cocoa with marshmallows. Some of the best places to try skating outdoors is Lake Louise in Banff National Park, just a short drive away from Calgary, or Somerset House in Central London.
Not for the faint of heart, this winter activity involves far less actual “activity” than the other recommendations on this list. Hopeful fishermen and women drive to the middle of lakes that are frozen solid (around five to eight inches of ice, so it’s guaranteed not to break), where they drill holes into the water below. From there, it’s a waiting game, as you watch for an unsuspecting fish to take the bait. Small houses called ice shanties are often set up on the ice, which are heated with a number of amenities like electricity, cooking facilities and bunks to sleep in. If you can endure a multi-day ice fishing trip, consider yourself a certified cold weather enthusiast!
In America, Christmas is a big deal. First originating as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the holiday is now celebrated by 9 out of 10 Americans each year, making it one of the most popular national holidays. Although Christmas Day is on December 25th, the entire month of December is a period filled with festive traditions and cozy activities in anticipation of the holiday. Here are a few key things that make Christmas so special in America, so that you can also celebrate the holiday while studying abroad:
Decorations everywhere you go
During the Christmas season, many Americans adorn their houses with beautiful decorations. The standard is an evergreen tree placed in the living room, decorated with lights, tinsel, and ornaments. But some choose to go all out, decorating the outside of their homes with wreaths and twinkling lights.
In many American cities, breathtaking Christmas displays are erected in public for all to enjoy. The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York City, for example, is one of the most popular trees in the nation. Every year, the lighting of this tree is broadcasted live and viewed by millions across the country.
It’s the season of giving (and shopping)
As is traditional in many countries, Americans celebrate Christmas by giving gifts to their loved ones. Presents are placed underneath the Christmas tree, and smaller treats for children are placed inside stockings which are hung in front of the fireplace. Groups of friends or coworkers often participate in gift exchanges by drawing names at random and giving a present to whomever they chose.
With the abundance of gift giving, it comes as no surprise that Christmas time is the busiest shopping season of the year. Stores entice shoppers by offering special sales on toys and electronics, blaring festive music from their speakers, and expanding their selection of products to include limited-time-only holiday items. Some stores even begin setting up their Christmas departments as early as October!
Sweet treats galore
Favorite Christmas foods vary widely, and most households have their own go-to dishes that are served at their holiday dinners. But across the board, sweets are a must. In many households, baking cookies is a fun activity enjoyed by adults and children alike. Sugar cookie dough is cut into shapes, baked, and decorated with frosting and sprinkles. Gingerbread men are also baked and decorated with icing and candy. To wash it all down, the most iconic Christmas beverage is eggnog, which is a rich dairy-based drink made with milk, cream, sugar, and eggs.
But the most popular sweet treat around Christmastime is the candy cane. Shaped like a shepherd’s crook, this hard candy traditionally has a peppermint flavor, and is often put in children’s stockings as a gift.
Visits from Santa Claus
Always sporting his signature red suit and hat, Santa Claus is a major figure in Christmas festivities. Legend has it that his team of flying reindeer pulls his sleigh full of gifts around the world as he delivers them to children on the night before Christmas Day, known as Christmas Eve. As the story goes, Santa squeezes down each house’s chimney and leaves presents under the tree. Traditionally, children set out Christmas cookies and milk near the tree in case Santa gets hungry! Parents in America teach their children about Santa Claus and tell them that he’ll only bring them gifts if they behave throughout the year. Actors dressed as Santa Claus can often be found at shopping malls, and eager children line up to sit on their lap and inform them which gifts they want for Christmas.
These are just a few of the many terrific traditions you may encounter during Christmas time in America. With all the spectacular scenery, tasty treats, and fun folklore, it’s easy to see why many here fondly call it “the most wonderful time of the year!”
We all know New York City to be home to Times Square and the Empire State Building, but what does New York City look like from the perspective of a local? Have you ever wondered what else there is to see besides the usual tourist locations? If you decide to study abroad in New York, then here are some places to visit so you can live like a true New Yorker!
Your NYC adventure begins as soon as you step foot in the Big Apple. The way I like to explore — and how the locals do — is through the different neighborhoods in the city. To me, New York is split into two areas: Brooklyn and Manhattan.
In my opinion, Brooklyn has a certain charm that no other place in New York has. It includes neighborhoods like Williamsburg and DUMBO, which are known for their hip and quirky culture. If you like coffee shops, vintage stores and street art, then Williamsburg is the perfect place to spend some time. At the intersection of Roebling Street and Fillmore Place, you’ll find lots of graffiti and street art by local artists. If you love a good sunset photo opportunity, one of the best and most relaxing spots to go to is Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO. There, you can sit amongst the rocks and view the Manhattan Bridge and skyline. There are also different piers near the park where you can grab some food, watch local residents play sports or even have a picnic at the peninsula. There is so much to do in Brooklyn — if you like unique and quirky attractions, this is the place for you.
In contrast, Manhattan is known for neighborhoods such as the Upper East Side, Chelsea, and — my personal favorite — Chinatown. You may recognize the Upper East Side as being the place where Gossip Girl’s Blair and Serena spent most of their time, or as the location of Columbia University, where former United States President Barack Obama attended. If you decide to study abroad at Columbia University, there are many things that local college students love to do nearby. For example, if you’re a fan of sunrises and going on runs, many students love going to Morningside Park. Compared to Central Park, it’s less packed and much more quiet.
Another fairly quiet and more peaceful place to go is Chelsea. There, you'll find a local market fittingly named after the neighborhood it’s housed in: Chelsea Market. You can check out the local restaurants and go to a flea market called Artists & Fleas.
But my absolute favorite place to go to has to be Chinatown. To get a taste of home, head to Great NY Noodletown for some of the best and most authentic Chinese food in New York City. The restaurant is open until 4am, so if you’re ever craving chicken fried rice and chow mein, you know where to go!
If you get the chance to study abroad in New York City, be sure to grab it — you won’t regret it. Though the city can be busy and loud at times, you’ll always be able to find a place for you. And there is always a new adventure to face every day — especially the local way!
If you're an animal lover, southern California is the place to be. The region is home to some of the best zoos and aquariums in the world. Visiting a zoo or an aquarium is a great way to spend a weekend while abroad, and seeing some of your favorite wild animals and marine life up close and personal can be an absolutely thrilling experience. Here are 5 of the best zoos and aquariums in southern California that are definitely worth a visit:
1. San Diego Zoo
With more than 3,500 animals, there’s something for everyone at the San Diego Zoo. A pioneer of cageless exhibit zoos in America, this zoo puts animal enrichment and safety first, so the animals remain perfectly happy and healthy. There’s plenty to see and plenty to learn, so many visitors recommend taking a Guided Bus Tour to see all the exhibits. People come from all over to see this world-famous zoo, so it’s easy to see why this is the most visited zoo in America! Plus, it’s located only 25 minutes from the University of California in San Diego, making it a popular, accessible spot for animal-loving college students.
2. SeaWorld San Diego
Also located in San Diego is SeaWorld. One of the most popular sea parks in the world, SeaWorld San Diego features an impressive collection of sea creatures. If fish aren't your thing, there are also plenty of water slides and roller coasters. The park features interactive exhibits and shows where visitors can touch sharks or let tiny fish nibble at their fingertips. For example, at Orca Encounter, you can see massive killer whales up close and personal while learning about the majestic mammals. Another favorite is SeaWorld’s Dolphin Days shows, where spectators get to watch dolphins do all sorts of crazy antics.
3. Los Angeles Zoo and Botantical Gardens
For anyone who loves plants as much as they love animals, visiting the Los Angeles Zoo and Botantical Gardens is an absolute must. Home to over 1,400 different animals, the zoo also includes a wide variety of beautiful plants. Located throughout the zoo are 15 different plant collections, for a total of over 7,400 individual plants! The Los Angeles Zoo is less than 30 minutes away from the University of California in Los Angeles, making it a perfect weekend destination for nearby students.
4. Aquarium of the Pacific
Aquarium of the Pacific is located in Long Beach, and it houses a wide variety of fish and marine creatures that are native to the Pacific Ocean. While viewing all the different animals housed at this aquarium, you also have the opportunity to learn a lot about marine life, as plenty of tours and other educational materials are offered there daily. Over 12,000 ocean animals are kept at the Aquarium of the Pacific, and the various exhibits include a shark lagoon, a forest aviary, and a colony of Magellanic penguins.
5. The Living Desert
Located in Palm Desert, The Living Desert’s mission is “desert conservation through preservation, education and appreciation.” This zoo provides a habitat for many exotic and endangered desert species native to North America and Africa, such as cheetahs, hyenas, and golden eagles. Many educational shows and activities are offered at the zoo, including a free-flight exotic birds show and a reptile show. However, the most popular by far is an exhibit where visitors are allowed to feed giraffes!
The Brits love their tea. So much so that they've turned it into a 60-billion cups a year kind of love affair. There is the very formal drinking and appreciation of tea, but it is also a fundamental part of everyday UK life.
In the UK, you’ll hear the word ‘tea’ used for several things. There’s afternoon tea and cream tea, then a cup of tea and high tea (or just ‘tea’.)
What is afternoon tea?
Afternoon tea started life in the 18th century when upper-class ladies struggled to get from lunch to the fashionable 8 o’clock dinner without eating anything. Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford, started taking a light refreshment in her rooms, then invited friends to join her, and within no time, the most fashionable members of society made afternoon tea the thing to do.
Still today, the formal afternoon tea is special and very much an occasion. Sandwiches and cakes line the table, and a pretty teapot takes pride of place in the middle of the table.
Thanks to the south-western counties of Devon and Cornwall, afternoon tea now also has an excitement of scones, jam, and clotted cream—or scones, clotted cream, and jam, depending on where you’re from . . . and the arguments will never cease over the ‘correct’ order of jam and cream on a scone. The only answer is to try both and decide for yourself.
Have a cuppa
If there’s one thing the Brits and the Chinese can agree on that’s “A day without tea is a day without joy.” And while you can’t—unfortunately—have afternoon tea every day, every day can be a tea day.
Those 60 billion cups of tea a year happen in every household across the country. Whatever the question, tea is the answer.
Living in a student house in the UK, everyone works together to create a friendly community. So if you’re making a cup of tea—or a cuppa, as it’s known—you should ask everyone else if they want one, too. You could easily end up making six-plus cups, but tea is a social thing that cheers you up, calms you down, and prepares you for everything.
When you ask people if they’d like a cuppa, your next question is simply: “Milk? Sugar?” and the answers will flood in: “Just a splash” means only a little bit of milk and “I like mine milky” means they want quite a lot. “Just one” is one spoonful of sugar—and some people ask for three or more spoonfuls of sugar. Most people, though, just have “Milk, no sugar,” which makes things easy.
To create the perfect cuppa experience, buy some biscuits to ‘dunk’ in your tea. One study claims Bourbons are the best for dunking, but there are many biscuits to try when you study in the UK.
. . . and ‘tea’
You may also hear people take about ‘eating tea,’ which will probably be very confusing. Many families call their evening meal ‘tea.’
Traditionally it was ‘high tea’ because when the working father got home, families would eat at the dining table (rather than on sofas as people would for afternoon tea) a meal of bread, butter, cheese and meats, washed down with a pot of tea.
Over the decades, the evening meal became a hot meal, but many working families still called it tea. So if someone asks you to ‘come to tea,’ it will probably include a meal, not just a cuppa.
SAF Correspondent Yue Shao from Xiamen University is reporting from UC Santa Barbara.
After a long time without porridge, I had the happiest time having morning tea.
The last time I had Cantonese morning tea was a few years ago in Shenzhen. Food in southern China is characterized by its delicacy; there are about four or five bite-sized pieces of food per serving. Even though the morning tea served in Santa Barbara is not as good as the morning tea served at home, it is enough to bring happiness and satisfaction.
Let’s take a look at one of our most popular schools, The University of Calgary. ‘UCalgary’ as it’s known, might not have the name cache of McGill or U.B.C., but don’t let that fool you; this premier institution is known internationally for its research, education, and a campus with a view that’s second to none. Here are five reasons why ‘UCalgary’ should be on the top of your list!
5. It’s a top-ranked university worldwide
This publicly funded, research-intensive university reliably ranks in the top 200 universities worldwide by Times Higher Education World Rankings. It’s also recognized as a leading institution by other prestigious ranking systems, like CWTS Leiden Rankings and the Center for World University Rankings, which ranked UCalgary 128th and 196th, respectively.
4. Calgary’s Chinatown will make your mouth water
One of Calgary’s coolest and most character-filled neighborhoods is Chinatown, sitting pretty on the picturesque banks of the Bow River. Here you’ll find some of the city’s best food, from authentic Chinese noodles and dumplings to innovative Canadian-Chinese cuisine that’s won the hearts and stomachs of many a visiting student. In particular, locals will insist you try the ginger beef, a dish comprised of deep fried strips of beef tossed in a sticky ginger-garlic sauce with carrots and onions. Super popular in western Canada, many restaurants have tried to lay claim to ginger beef, but most would agree that bragging rights go to Calgary’s own George Wong, who created the recipe in the mid-70s at the Silver Inn - which is still open for business right in the heart of Chinatown.
3. It’s one of the most progressive campuses you’ll set foot on
Young at heart, this is one campus that likes to embrace new ideas and do things a bit differently! University of Calgary became Alberta’s first Fair Trade campus back in 2015, after a group of engineering students wanted to provide students and faculty with goods that came from people working in safe environments and being paid fairly. Since then, the university’s continued dedication has earned it awards for its leadership on social responsibility. It’s also a national leader in sustainability, investing in a multitude of high-performance green buildings and other green tech, earning it a spot as one of Canada’s top 10 most sustainable organizations.
2. You’re in good company when it comes to alumni
We mean it when we say University of Calgary is a seriously good school – and the proof is in its graduates. It’s produced a Canadian prime minister (no, not Justin Trudeau), a record-holding astronaut and the father of Java programming language. It’s also where Garrett Camp graduated with degrees in electrical and software engineering, just before he went on to co-found a little Silicon Valley start-up known as Uber. There’s also a really diverse student body here – around 20% of students are international – so even if you don’t run into a famous tech mogul on campus, you’ll still be in good company.
1. You get to live in Calgary
Dynamic and never boring, there’s something about Calgary that wins over every person that sets foot in its city limits. Home to several oil and gas firms, this is the energy capital of Canada, and the city is one of the fastest growing regions in the country with a strong job market to match. Calgary is also the sunniest city in Canada, with around 333 sunny days per year. That might have something to do with why it was named the most liveable city in North America, according to the 2018 Global Liveability Ranking, Economics Intelligence Unit. Just a stone’s throw (or 90 minutes’ drive) from Banff National Park, you can actually see the world famous Rocky Mountains from the UCalgary campus; getting away to the mountains for some hiking, camping, or skiing is one of the best parts about living in Calgary – and it’s so easy to do!
Calgary might not have been on your radar before, but with a top-ranked university and a city that’s easy to fall for, what are you waiting for?
From Soongsil University, SAF Fall Correspondent Heeyeon Ryu is chronicling her experience at American University.
I was able to grow and meet people who share common interests.
I’m sure that if you’re considering D.C. to study abroad, you have probably heard about the many opportunities to attend seminars organized by famous think tanks. So today, I will share my experiences about attending such seminars and events in D.C. I have always dreamed of becoming a diplomat, so I am very interested in politics and international relations. Thus, I attended seminars related mainly to those fields.
One of the most famous think tanks in D.C. is the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and they have representatives from Korea, Japan, and China. They have held a lot of seminars and events about Modern East Asia. I attended in September, and the topic was the importance of the U.S.-Japan-Korea Trilateral Defense Cooperation. In response to Japan’s export regulation on South Korea, South Korea broke the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). Through this seminar, not only did I learn about how the United States viewed the situation, but I also realized the power of CSIS — a lot of the Korean media was present to record and document the event. After the seminar, I chose this topic for my research subject.
I also participated in the “Mentoring Seminar for Young Korean American Leaders,” organized by the embassy of South Korea at the Korean Cultural Center. It was a private event, but I was able to attend because a friend who interned there invited me (if there’s an embassy located near you, be sure to check it out, as they often hold programs and events). At the event, they talked about our lack of representation in America and taught us about Korean American rights. After seeing how many Korean Americans suffered from the L.A. Riots, the Council of Korean Americans and the Korean American Grassroots Conference (KAGC) were created in hopes of avoiding the same situation from happening again. The event speakers also touched on the differences between the first and second generations of Korean Americans, and how to continue moving forward as a young Korean American leader.
The advantage of these events — think tank seminars, embassy events — is gaining knowledge while also meeting people with similar interests. I met a lot of my Korean American colleagues who were studying or working in D.C. I shared my thoughts and difficulties, and we were able to help one another. There are seminars on various topics; if there’s one in your area of interest, I highly recommend participating. You can check out the schedule through email — just be sure to wear business attire when attending!
Missed out on Part 1? Check it out here:
Don’t forget, London is a great place to eat. Today, we’re looking again at the best street food London has to offer. As one of the most exciting capitals in the world, London not only offers some of the nation’s top universities for studying abroad, but also has thousands of restaurants, markets, food trucks and street stalls that reflect the city’s vibrancy. When you’re ready to experience the best the city has to offer on a budget, it’s the streets you need to hit.
Here are 5 of the top 10 street food stalls for you to explore, from grilled cheese and lobster rolls to vegan wraps, hipster food carts to age-old street side institutions – here’s part 2 of 2 – make sure not to miss them when you’re studying in London.
Fin and Flounder
Shrimp, lobster, tuna… not exactly typical street food. For foodies on a budget, this street food joint inside Broadway Market is definitely not one to miss. Enjoy fresh oysters shucked in front of you, panko-breaded king prawns with a sweet chili dipping sauce, or a lobster roll with juicy Scottish lobster served in a freshly-baked brioche bun.
Where? Broadway Market
30 minute tube ride from the University of Arts, London
More information: finandflounder.co.uk or @finandflounder
The ‘grilled cheese’ sandwich is a classic western comfort food. America’s grown up eating this with tomato soup. However, this is not your standard grilled cheese sandwich spot – Meltsmiths is creating masterpieces, with just the right ingredients and grilling tricks. Try ‘The Classic’ with its combo of mature cheddar, mozzarella and onion jam, and you’ll understand why people are so crazy about simple bread and cheese sandwiches. There’s also ‘Ham About Town’ with mature cheddar, mozzarella, Wiltshire ham and English mustard; and ‘Spice Boy’ with cheddar, red Leicester, Sriracha, jalapeño and crispy fried onions if you fancy a hot kick. Don’t skip the sweet potato fries with Stilton mayo and Frank’s RedHot sauce!
Where? Victoria Park Market, Kerb (locations vary)
Make a day of it! Visit Victoria Park and check out live music.
More information: meltsmiths.co.uk or @Meltsmiths
The Rib Man
This little food stand is surely one of the most talked about street food vendors in London. The one-legged rib master sells his smoky, succulent baby back pork ribs drizzled with his homemade hot sauce called Holy Fuck, and with floury buns. Be sure to give it a go and get there early.
Where? Brick Lane, Outside London Stadium (before every West Ham football club home game)
More information: theribman.co.uk or @theribman
This vegan-friendly food truck at Flat Iron Square sells Middle Eastern-style wraps and salads. The name comes from the word for Lebanese flatbread. You’ll be able to find this food truck easily, with its appealing light blue color and hipster design. The food brings customers back again and again. On the menu, there are salads, slaws and marinated meats wrapped in laffa flatbread. You can also find vegan options such as the Grilled Summer Vegetable Wrap, with veggie sumac slaw, rocket and pomegranate salad, tahini sauce, chili and herbs all wrapped in a Lebanese flatbread.
Where? Flat Iron Square
More information: laffafood.com or @laffastreetfood
The Piadina Project
Fried chicken? Yes, please! This street food vendor not only sells its specialties at local food markets, but also roams around cool music festivals such as Glastonbury. Try ‘The Hot Honey’ with a fried chicken thigh, hot honey, pickled cucumber and smoky bacon mayo; and their Lincolnshire special with local sausage, burrata cheese, streaky bacon and wasabi rocket.
Where? Kentish Town, The Rose & Crown
More information: thepiadinaproject.co.uk or @thepiadinaproject
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what we're thankful for, spend time with our loved ones, and (maybe most importantly) eat a lot of delicious food. We encourage you to get together with your friends you've made abroad, your study abroad family, and celebrate this American tradition!
SAF Scholars and Alumni