Adventures abroad

USF students living in Greece this semester have experienced the three-week celebration of Carnival — a celebration of wine, dance and meat before the 40-day sacrifices of Lent. Sounds like a fantasy vacation, but it’s all a part of Education Abroad. The program is hosting five USF students, as well as another 80 students from various cities in the U.S. The program offers academic credit and excursions to various cities around the enchanting Mediterranean country.

USF students Shannon Rowe, Faith Eakin and Alicia Sparks are studying Greek culture and language, along with traditional courses, at an American college in Thessaloniki, Greece. They live in off-campus studio apartments that are only a 10-minute bus or taxi ride from archaeological sites, monuments, Roman churches and museums.

“By doing a semester exchange, you see for yourself how a different culture is rather than the image society has painted for you,” Eakin said.

She said the experience forces people to adopt a new perspective.

“Every day is an adventure,” Sparks said. “The music and food are invigorating, the shops are hip and the nightlife runs into the morning.”

None of the girls knew Greek before their trip, but each said she learns more every day. Thessaloniki people learn several languages — including English — in grade school. The girls said the locals are laid-back and understanding when Americans try to pronounce Greek letters.

“This will be the longest time away from my family, but the experience has made me grow up more,” Rowe said. “Everything happens at once and can be overwhelming at times, so I have a new appreciation for international students attending USF.”

Rowe, Sparks and Eakin received scholarships from the American College of Thessaloniki, and Rowe and Eakin were awarded Compass Study Abroad Scholarships from USF.

Madrid, Spain, a city of daytime siestas and nighttime fiestas, is home to summer and semester programs. Tapas and dinner are served late, after which one can choose between going to a flamenco bar, a nightclub or a pub full of international students and Spaniards.

Violetta Yevstigneyeva, a junior biomedical science major, completed six credit hours toward her Spanish minor in a monthlong program in Madrid last summer.

“The most memorable time of my study abroad experience was the unplanned trips into the heart of Madrid to explore its old cobbled streets, ornate buildings, sounds and faces. We would listen to musicians in the plazas and finish the day with a cup of authentic Spanish hot chocolate with churros,” Yevstigneyeva said. “These were the times that we didn’t worry about a thing because we were completely consumed by the magical charm of the city.”

Yevstigneyeva’s trip included a three-day stay in Paris. Students were offered weekend packages to Portugal, Barcelona and cities around the outskirts of Madrid. She said some students took advantage of being in Europe by flying from Spain to places such as Rome, Africa and Amsterdam.

“The trip was a deal even with the high monetary exchange of the Euro because meals and lodging were included,” Yevstigneyeva said.

Amanda Maurer, director of Education Abroad, said going abroad for a year could delay one’s graduation date but can also set students years ahead of peers whose academic and professional experience is limited to the U.S.

“More and more companies are looking for individuals with global perspective, and the only true way of getting an international view is going abroad yourself,” said Rene Sanchez, program director of Education Abroad.

The deadline for fall semester exchanges has passed, but spaces are available for some summer programs. The Education Abroad Office cautions students against procrastinating because of deadlines and limited space.

James Pulos, assistant director of Education Abroad, said he advises students to talk to directors, who act as advisors and counselors and help students narrow their search and decide what they want from the study abroad experience.

Education Abroad offers semester exchanges, dual degree programs, summer and short-term programs, international internships and service learning in more than 25 countries. Each year, approximately 1,000 USF students travel abroad for programs that range from one week to one year and offer academic credit.

USF’s Education Abroad aims to expand beyond traditional geographic destinations and areas of study. New to the list of available destinations is the United Republic of Tanzania — an East African country that borders the Indian Ocean and is home to Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti. New study abroad programs in China are also in the works.

The Education Abroad Office is located in Room 468 of Cooper Hall.

For more information, contact 813-974-4314 or visit