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Dreaming of Santorini

 Santorini, Greece. I dreamt about this place since I was 10 years old when I watched a movie about a pair of pants… and as lame as that sounds, it was worth the build up.  The place with white houses that resemble clouds, with roofs as blue as the Aegean Sea.  The place with an assortment of black, red and white sand beaches.  The place where the seafood melts in your mouth and the jewelry shops twinkle and sparkle in the Mediterranean sunlight. This place was heaven.

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When I first arrived to my hotel in Kamari, Santorini, which is home to the most famous black sand beach on the island, I was blown away by the stunning view that would await me from my room. My hotel was up on a hill and had the most incredible view of the town of Kamari and the Sea looking straight out, the famous cities Fira and Oia to my left, and the Volcano to my right. I was in heaven. Right away I went out on my balcony to Facetime my parents and share my excitement. After assuring them I had arrived safely, and bragging about my awesome setup, I was off to explore the capital of Santorini, Fira.

Fira is located on the top of a hill in the center of the island, and has all of the best restaurants and jewelry, souvenir, and clothing shops. I got lost exploring the town, weaving in and out of the small cobblestone paths. But I didn’t care. I didn’t care if I would stay lostin this place forever. It honestly felt like I was wondering through the clouds and I couldn’t get over how blue the sky and the sea were. Eventually, after a few purchases and the most delicious Greek salad, I found my way back to the bus stop to take off for my next destination, Oia for the sunset.

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If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” (best movie, ever), then Oia is the place you picture when you think of Santorini. This is the classic depiction of the island, with the breathtaking view of the whitewashed homes and blue roofs overlooking the sea. This also happens to be the best place on the island for the sunset. Once again, when I arrived to Oia I got lost exploring through the paths to try and find the best spot to sit back and enjoy the view. I found a place at one of the highest points in the city in the ruins of the old Oia Castle. The view, yet again, was amazing.

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The next day I spent the morning laying out and swimming at the black sand beach. I decided to spend the afternoon in Oia again to do some more exploring. I ate a delicious gyro, bought some beautiful gifts for my family, and wandered down the hill to find another slice of heaven. I stumbled upon the port that is known as the fisherman’s port, filled with colorful little boats and small seafood restaurants sitting literally right on the edge of the sea. This place just kept amazing me. I took a walk around the port and found the perfect spot to go for a swim. The water was cool, and the view was… you get it. I ate the best calamari that I’ve ever had in my life at one of the small restaurants right on the edge of the water. Then I had the opportunity to check something off my bucket list that I’ve always wanted to do – I rode a donkey back up to Oia. Life was so good.

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My trip to Santorini was without a doubt the best weekend I’ve ever had, and I can’t wait to return to this island. This piece of heaven.

 By: Sylvia Moulthrop, 2015 Forum-Nexus alumna

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CERN: Particle Physics Galore

Few people ever have the pleasure of seeing the largest particle physics laboratory in the entire world with their own eyes, but I’m happy to say that I’m now one of those lucky people. CERN,  the European Organization for Nuclear Research, with its thousands of dedicated staff members and miles upon miles of gigantic circular particle accelerators running underneath the surface of Geneva, Switzerland, is undeniably a scientific wonder of the world. Visiting it in person felt like peeking into a huge, mystical corner of the particle physics community, and I absolutely loved it.

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Our tour guide was a passionate young scientist who explained CERN in an eloquently simple way, making it easy for us all to understand at least the basic idea of how the whole thing works. It was exhilarating to be in the same room as giant machines that have played such a huge role in the advancement of science and technology. We weren’t able to visit the Large Hadron Collider due to the radiation it was emitting, but knowing that we were so close to it was thrilling enough in itself. And even without having the privilege of descending to the famous Collider, it was fascinating to see the other equipment that is used in the facility.

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One of the most interesting parts of this visit, though, was getting to see the first particle collider ever created, which was introduced to us with a flashy high-tech video. The history behind CERN and the exciting evolution of particle physics was effectively and concisely explained at the same time. It really brought to life the rich background of the laboratory, and of the entire field of particle physics, in an engaging and thought-provoking way.

Not only was this visit a chance to see a famous laboratory with famous equipment, it was also highly scientifically educational. Because our tour guide was so good at talking to us on our level, I feel like I gained a nice, basic understanding of how particle physics works. I’m still not quite on the level of a professional scientist (close, though, of course), but I do know at least a smidge more about this scientific field and the history of it than I did before having the chance to visit the glory that is CERN.

By: Molly Kaup,  2015 Forum-Nexus alumna

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Village Hopping in Cinque Terre

Before I left to study abroad with Forum-Nexus, I knew that I wanted to visit Cinque Terre.  A couple of years ago, I visited northern Italy with my family and didn’t make it to Cinque Terre because we ran out of time. Rome was my favorite by far and I was counting down the days to get back. When I saw that I would be going back to Italy with Forum-Nexus, I was so excited.  Before Rome, we stopped in Milan for a short weekend visit and saw the perfect opportunity to visit Cinque Terre on the Sunday before we left Milan.

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Me and one of my friends, Gianna, went to Cinque Terre together and the journey there was quite an experience.  We wanted to be in Cinque Terre for most of the day, so we booked the 6:10 am train that would arrive in Cinque Terre around 9. (Note to future students: there aren’t too many departure options, so the sooner the better!). After the 3 hour train ride, we arrived to Monterosso, the beach town out of the five small villages  that make up Cinque Terre.   The beach was so beautiful and it was very very hot. We hung out at the beach for about an hour then moved to the next villages.  The next stop was Vernazza. It had a bunch of colorful buildings and an area to swim.  We hiked up the mountain and took some beautiful pictures.  We grabbed some lunch and then we were on our way to Manarola.  This was also such a cute small town. We grabbed a souvenir and then took more pictures and relaxed by the water. Each city was different and unique in its own way and I felt like I could have stayed there forever. After that we went to Riomaggiore.  This city had such a cool place to swim around and we debated on going cliff diving, but we did not have enough time.  We grabbed some gelato and then hopped back on the train that transferred us to each city.  It was very easy to get around Cinque Terre quickly, which was nice considering that we were not going to be there for a long time.  We left Cinque Terre from La Spezia, the last of the five villages.

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Cinque Terre was such an amazing place and I am so glad I finally got to see it!  I would recommend it to anyone and I wish I could have stayed longer.  I hope to return again some day, so that I can go cliff-diving and hike from city to city.

By: Kim Brinati, 2015 Forum-Nexus alumna

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How visiting the FAO of Rome re-inspired my career goals

The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) branch in Rome was my favorite professional visit with Forum-Nexus because I think that working there would be a dream come true. I really admire the goals and objectives the UN has and how it promotes cooperation between countries to solve problems. Their motto is to, “Achieve food security for all… to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.” The Food and Agriculture department of the UN is extremely important because it is combating world hunger, which is a huge controversial issue. Any individual who works at FAO knows that they are making a difference in the world and that their job has a real purpose.

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Just the FAO campus itself was extremely impressive. The amount of large conference rooms was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  I really enjoyed learning about how each country gets to design its own office and make it unique to its culture. Cooperation was clearly represented throughout the campus through the presentation of multiple flags all over conference rooms and multiple interpreters speaking 6 different languages, symbolizing that language is a barrier that will not keep nations apart.

During the visit I learned a lot about how the UN works together with large corporations to try to end world hunger. Prior to the visit, I assumed that the UN would fight against big food companies due to their poor nutrition content, use of GMO’s, and greedy reputations. I was definitely surprised by what I learned, but it made sense that it is better for individuals to have low-quality food than no food at all. Due to the amount of money and power these large corporations have, the UN needs to work together with them if they have any hope of solving this world hunger issue. I also learned how much influence money has over the food industry. Subsidies in the U.S affect the industry immensely. Honestly, I was unaware that the UN had a Food and Agricultural branch before participating in Forum-Nexus. I actually knew very little about the UN in general. After these two visits (the human rights branch in Geneva and the Food and Agriculture branch in Rome) I feel much more knowledgeable on how our world works together to combat huge issues. As Hugo, the director of Forum-Nexus, would say, my “International IQ” has increased significantly thanks to these visits!

This professional visit is extremely applicable to my area of study because business is all about cooperation and having meetings to solve issues and get work done. The UN Food and Agriculture branch functions just as a business does to solve issues. When running a business, the goal is always to be as efficient as possible. The Food and Agriculture Organization is always brainstorming to find faster and better ways to provide healthy food to more people, just as a business is always coming up with new ways to make their product better and cheaper. FAO also stresses the importance of cooperation with different countries and cultures. In my business career, I will most likely at some point have to work together with people of different backgrounds to solve problems. I would love to work for a corporation like the United Nations and fight for world issues that I’m passionate about so much so that I am going to look into their intern program for next summer. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations truly left a lasting impression on me and has motivated me to have a career in which I am helping people and making this world a better place, for us and for generations to come.

By: Liz Hawkins, 2015 Forum-Nexus alumna

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Bon appetit from Le Cordon Bleu!

You know when you walk into a restaurant and something smells amazing, but you can’t quite put your finger on what it is? All you know is that all of a sudden, you are incredibly hungry. Well, that is exactly the feeling I had when walking inside Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts School. Of course, I would expect nothing less walking into the most famous cooking school in the world.

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It was our third day in France, and I had already experienced some of the best cuisine of my life. After all, one of the best parts of traveling is getting to try a lot of food every day! No one can argue that France isn’t one of the most well-known places to get a great meal. Crepes, croissants, baguettes, escargot, chocolate mousse — the list goes on and on! Now, I have always been a rather picky eater. When I was young, I had Kraft macaroni and cheese just about every day because it was all my mother could get me to eat. Nowadays, I still love my mac and cheese, but I have broadened my diet to pasta, chicken, red meat, chocolate, and ice cream. Not the healthiest, I’ll admit. When I walked into Le Cordon Bleu, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t like what they made for us. We were going to watch a cooking demonstration of a Mediterranean dish, which to me meant one thing…vegetables. You see, veggies and I have never gotten along very well, so I knew I was in for an interesting experience. However, the first whiff of those vegetables sizzling in the skillet had me changing my mind. The vibrant colors and fresh scents were enough to make anyone’s mouth water. I watched the chef effortlessly toss the ingredients into the air, while adding a pinch of salt here and a dash of pepper there, and it was one of the most impressive things I had ever seen. Some people have a knack for cooking, but I am not one of them. Everything that I touch in a kitchen either ends up burning or on the ground. The chef taught us some valuable lessons about cooking that evening, which gave me hope that my future family may be able to eat more than grilled cheese and warmed up chicken tenders!

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Still, my favorite part of the evening was yet to come. One of my personal goals in life is to learn as much about wine as humanly possible. I find it to be a fascinating subject, and to my delight, a wine connoisseur came out to help us pair the perfect wine with our Mediterranean dish. He put a lot of thought into his choice, and he took the time to explain to us why he chose exactly what he did. He chose a white wine over a red because our food was lighter with more fresh flavors. Normally, I am a dry red wine kind of girl, but I surprisingly loved this white wine! After  the chef completed his crafting of the samples, everyone was given a small portion to test. Every piece looked like a masterpiece. The chef took great pride in making sure that all the food was presented in a way that made the clients hungry with their eyes as well as with their stomachs. I sipped my wine to cleanse my palette and took a bite of the chef’s creation. The pesto sauce complimented the veggies and cheese mixture perfectly, and as soon as it was gone, I was craving more. The chef beamed from ear to ear as he watched us enjoy our food, and you could see the passion for cooking in his eyes.

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I enjoyed every second of our professional visit to Le Cordon Bleu. I even considered applying to their wine program in the coming years! Overall, it helped me learn to broaden my horizons and try new things, even if I am skeptical in the beginning. Thanks to this visit, I am now determined to keep trying new foods and eventually expand my diet! Paris is commonly called ‘The City of Love,’ but in my mind, it will always be ‘The City of Amazing Food!’

By: Kristi Yazvac, 2015 Forum-Nexus alumna

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Happy International Education Week!

International Education Week (IEW) is a celebration of the benefits of education abroad. At Forum-Nexus, international education is at the core of everything that we do. Our mission is, “To provide a first-class international educational experience and to foster an appreciation for the richness of other cultures, by offering unique and life-changing summer programs that encourage the exchange of ideas with individuals from around the world, and create a community of students with a passion for learning and exploring the world with an open mind.”

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During our summer program, all students participate in our 1-credit International IQ Seminar course. We define international IQ as the minimum level of international knowledge that a student should have in order to come across as a cultured and educated individual in an international situation, such as a gathering of professionals from around the world, or an international negotiation.

IQS3Our alumni network includes over 3,300 people from around the world who have stepped outside of their comfort zone and studied abroad with us. In the spirit of International Education Week, we asked some of our alumni what international education means to them:

“Learning about and experiencing other cultures! International education is vital to being a global citizen – to understanding, appreciating, and recognizing the ways in which people around the world live and considering their perspectives.” – Gabriella, Summer 2012

“To me, international education is taking the initiative to broaden your intellectual horizons by stepping outside of your own ‘bubble’ while also making a conscious effort to become a better global citizen.” -Alyssa, Summer 2014

“International education is the path to a more culturally respectful and empathetic society. It is the end of ethnocentric attitudes and the beginning of enhanced globalization. Effective international education, in my opinion, is a key component in attaining world peace. For me international education meant abolishing all of the prejudices that I was conditioned to believe as I grew up a privileged white male. Additionally, international education is a gateway to personal enlightenment because it is a great way to learn about how privileged we are to have the opportunity to access education.” – Nick, Summer 2015

“You can only learn so much from reading a book, watching a video, or conducting research about a particular subject. At one point or another your imagination is capped, because you have not divulged into that subjects culture and environment. International education is just that, stepping outside of your habitat and exploring someone else’s.” – Selin, Summer 2014

Tell us what international education means to you by posting on social media with the hashtag #IEW2015 and tagging @ForumNexus.

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To learn more about our summer 2016 program, visit www.forum-nexus.com/summer2016

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When in Rome

Rome was definitely my favorite city of all of the places that we visited, and for a multitude of reasons.  Rome’s historical background plus the Italian people and culture culminated from the daily life created a peaceful and proud city.  The food was amazing.  There was a general sense of togetherness when dining in many of the ristorantes and cafes that helped you feel at home.  The locals seemed very helpful and luckily for us they spoke more English than many of the cities that we had been to before.  I enjoyed walking through the city just to explore and to see many monuments that I had no idea even existed.

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The city is beautiful from almost any angle or location.  Much of the city still contains historical remnants from ancient times.  Sometimes we would be walking through a park or close to the Colosseum and we would see ancient ruins.  This was pleasing to see because it reminded me of the fantastic era when Rome was the center of intellectual thinking.  The streets had a different atmosphere than many cities that I have been to before.  There were many cafes and shops and street vendors.  The streets were bustling with activity; streetcars, motorists and jaywalking pedestrians filled the streets.  There were ancient obelisks, columns, and fountains in a multitude of plazas that were exciting to see.  Many of the large buildings had a renaissance style to them, creating a deep sense of historical presence.  I loved the sidewalks and streets; many of the streets were of brick that were created with a design that I had seen in many other European cities that make it look like they are arching to the left and the right.  Many big cities are too busy and impersonal, but this city gave me a sense of community that I appreciated.

While in Rome I was able to visit many of the places that I have read about for years.  I first made sure to see the Forum and the colosseum.  The colosseum was on the top of my list for things to see.  When we got there I could feel the energy in the air.  This was it, I was looking at the magnificent arena that was built in 70 A.D. where gladiators fought to the death in front of thousands.  I was truly moved by its presence.  The Forum was very interesting.  True, it was mostly ruins that were hard to imagine as they once were, but I still found them very interesting.  This was the mecca of ancient Roman culture and congregation.  On another day we made our way through the streets to discover the Pantheon.  Upon arrival I was stunned; the great size of the Pantheon, the columns, and the enormous pediment were breathtaking.  The inside was also very interesting.  It was decorated with religious meaning.  It was cool to see the construction of the dome, but I couldn’t help wondering how much of the interior had been renovated through the centuries.  We also had a night tour of the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel.  The museums were stocked full of stolen artifacts from around Rome and other countries.  It was interesting to be in the midst of these grand collections of ancient Egyptian and Roman artifacts and statues.  The Sistine Chapel was the main highlight of the night.  I gazed upon Michaelangelo’s  magnificent creation for a long time.  The details, the contrast, the color and light mastery and the realistic effect played on my eyes while I was mesmerized.  I felt truly blessed to witness such art.

Although there was much that I was able to see, I would still like more time to enjoy more of what Rome has to offer.  It would have been nice to get more in touch with the locals or even to visit the beach that was not too far from the city.  If I had the chance I would definitely return in the future.

 By: Geoffrey Eppler, 2015 Forum-Nexus alumnus

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