Welcome to the Pitt SAO blog! Whether you still need to be sold on study abroad, you're already planning your trip, or you're back home and want to make sure you get the most of your experience, there's something here for everyone! To submit a post to be published on our blog and social media platforms, click here.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018 - 14:45

Keeping Up Your Language Skills
Submitted by Courtney Cavanah

For those of us who have gone abroad and learned a lot of our host country’s language during our time away, it’s safe to say that we’d rather expand on our language abilities than forget everything we’ve learned upon returning home. I myself have experimented with different ways to not only continue practicing language in all four essential areas (Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening) but to also find friends with common interests along the way. Below are some of effective methods I’ve personally employed to maintain my language skills, so for those of you who don’t want to forget, I implore you to try them out yourselves!

  • Join a Club: There are so many different clubs and organizations here at Pitt that cover a wide
Tuesday, January 9, 2018 - 14:34

Transportation 101: South Korea
Submitted by Courtney Cavanah

So you’re going to Seoul, and you’re worried about how to navigate your way from Incheon Airport to your host university. For those of you as “transportationally inept” as I was, I can’t boast enough about Seoul’s infrastructure and how kind it was to me. Not only are the subways and buses clean, spacious, and efficient, but they are also incredibly cheap and foreigner-friendly, with each one-way trip anywhere around the city costing you only a little over one dollar.

With that in mind, there are various resources to help you navigate through the city with little to no hassle. There are two main things you’ll need to be zipping around the Seoul in no time: smartphone transportation apps, and a transportation card.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - 12:52

Rise Against Hunger 2017

On November 15, SAO teamed up with the School of Nursing and Global Links—a Pittsburgh-based medical relief and development organization—to put on a “Rise Against Hunger” meal-packaging event. The Rise Against Hunger program began in 2005, and coordinates assembly-line packaging of highly nutritious dehydrated meals, which are used primarily to support school feeding programs in developing countries. The event gives participants the opportunity to participate in a hands-on international hunger relief program and to become educated, engaged advocates for the world’s hungry.

The participants at Pitt’s event were no strangers to these issues. Many of the 60 volunteers were alums of the

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 - 10:57

Animali Italiani: Site Animals at Ancient Attractions
Submitted by Allie Roos

There is a unique, largely unknown feature of ancient sites referred to as a "site animal." These are animals that roam about various attractions, greeting and guiding hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. I participated in two archaeology-focused study abroad programs - one in Sicily and another in Rome - and I encountered many a site animal. So I figured, what better way to tell my study abroad story than with pictures of cute Italian animals? Here is a collection of some of my favorite site animals throughout Italy and Sicily: 

Morgantina, Sicily:


Friday, November 10, 2017 - 13:30

Exercise to the Extreme: The Cape Town 3 Peaks Challenge
Submitted by Dana Calabrese

Any country you choose to study abroad in will have famous landmarks plastered over every single advertisement and piece of information that is given to you before your departure. For Cape Town, the image of Table Mountain was everywhere—and rightfully so, considering it is one of the “7 Wonders of the Natural World!” As soon as my flight into Cape Town began to hover over the city, I could immediately see the ocean meet the bustling city, and then Table Mountain rising up in the backdrop. However, I noticed two other mountains on either side of Table Mountain, which I soon learned were called Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head. Wherever I went, I could always catch a glimpse of at least one of the mountains stretching tall above the city, and during the second week of classes the entire group climbed to the top of Lion’s Head for

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 - 11:27

Thoughts from an Alumna: London’s Color Palette
Submitted by Rikki Li

I once watched a video of a color-blind man seeing purple for the first time after he received a special pair glasses for his birthday. It was heartwarming to watch him tear up over what most of us would consider otherwise mundane objects: a Lysol can, the leaves of a potted plant, a wall covered in Post-Its. The video ended with the man venturing outside, breathing heavily as he knelt on the stone path and ran his fingers through the green, green grass.

I felt the pressing need to reevaluate my surroundings after watching that video, perhaps to see if I could capture an inkling of the same awe and clarity that the man must have felt after seeing his world represented in a whole new light. Looking back, studying abroad in a city like London, both so old and so new,

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 - 10:16

New Friends in New Places: South Africa’s Garden Route
Submitted by Dana Calabrese

I landed in Cape Town, South Africa, on a Tuesday afternoon after 19 hours of traveling the day before, and—needless to say—I was exhausted! However, that exhaustion was overcome by the excitement I was feeling since I was finally in the city that I had been dreaming of for the past 3 months. After getting a ride to our accommodations in the suburb of Rosebank, all 30 students on my program attended an orientation session to go over program details, service-learning placements, and our course load. At the end of the session, we were given details of a three-day trip along South Africa’s Garden Route that we were all leaving for on the following day—much to my surprise! I was so excited that we were diving head first into all that South Africa had to offer, though also a little nervous because I still didn’t know my peers yet.

Monday, November 6, 2017 - 10:41

Balancing Checklists with Spontaneity
Submitted by Melissa Hager

When I was abroad, there were definitely days where I wondered, "Am I really taking advantage of being here in France as much as possible?" And it's a hard thing to evaluate when you're there trying to find a balance between planning and going with the flow.

I'm a planner at heart. I went into my study abroad experience with a history of making plans and even needing plans in order to feel satisfied with whatever I was doing with my time. Unexpectedly, studying abroad taught me how to balance my need to plan with my desire to be more spontaneous and laidback.

I'm not sure when my

Monday, November 6, 2017 - 11:05

“Can I Ask You For Directions?”
Submitted by Valerie Quickel

Ah, the ultimate compliment. In your travels, if someone asks you for directions – consider yourself lucky! Being looked at as a local who seems to know what they’re doing is pretty impressive for a study abroad student. However, you may also sometimes find yourself struggling to fit in. In that case, allow me to offer you some advice.

The most important part of fitting in with the local culture is how you present yourself. It’s not difficult to pick up on some of the local norms, specifically what the locals wear. I often joke about how when I went to Paris, the one thing I learned was to wear all black and never smile. It might not be a bad idea to buy a staple piece or two that will instantly make you look like a local. Presentation also

Monday, November 6, 2017 - 11:21

Eating Abroad with Food Restrictions
Submitted by Elsie Zuch and Emma Freedman

It can be difficult to find food to eat abroad when you have an allergy or dietary restriction. But fear not, vegetarians and gluten-free eaters: we’re here to help!

Gluten-free in Paris

Some countries are better than others about gluten-free options. Unfortunately for me, the French were relatively unaware of celiac and gluten allergies, while Italians were surprisingly on top of it with gluten-free pasta galore. Even as someone who must eat gluten-free in a city like Paris—where baguettes are an accessory—there are always options. I used blogs as a resource to find restaurants and bakeries that