27 Jun | Athena | No Comments

Fall 2012 Scholarship Winners!

Athena is excited to announce the winners of our fall 2012 semester scholarships! We received the most applications for these categories we’ve ever seen and many that were extremely impressive. The most impressive, were submitted by the following recipients, and were this selected as the winners:

Vincent I. Benander Learning Scholarship: $1,000
Fall 2012 Winner: Diana Crandall, Capital University

Diana has just finished up her sophomore year at Capital University studying Psychology and perfectly exemplified a “true love of learning”. We are excited to help her study abroad in London, England during the fall ’12 semester.

Through her extensive research studies, participation in Psi Chi, the international honor society of psychology and the Model UN, international studies of marine biology in the Bahamas, and an overall genuine interest in psychology and neuroscience, Diana is a clear lover of learning!

Marie McKay Global Citizen Scholarship: $1,000
Fall 2012 Winner: Jake Maio, University of Cincinnati

Jake is studying Industrial Management with a minor in International Business, entering into his senior year at the University of Cincinnati.

We are excited to help him study abroad in Florence, Italy this upcoming fall ’12 semester. Jake has volunteered and been an active participant with the Habitat for Humanity, worked as a captain and team leader for the Special Olympics Organization and plans to continue his service work during his semester in Italy.

He without a doubt best demonstrates an interest in and intention to promote the concept of social justice at a city, state, national, and/or global level.




New Program Location Scholarship: $500

Fall 2012 Winner: Emily Wold, Columbia College Chicago

Emily is getting ready to spend a semester in Dublin, Ireland, and we couldn’t be more excited to help make this possible. She is currently a junior at Columbia College Chicago studying illustration. With a strong interest beyond the pubs of Ireland, she expressed a sincere draw to the incredible Irish culture specifically noting the history, music and language. Articulating specific courses she’s eager to learn from in an Irish setting, including photography and media marketing, and what specifically she plans to gain from each, Emily is a well deserved recipient.

We would like to thank each and every applicant for taking the time to share such thoughtful essays with us. With so many strong applicants, this was one of the most difficult decisions yet!




18 Jun | Brianne Baldree | No Comments

Buses, Beaches, and Ferries, Oh my!

Time here seems to have flown so fast and before we knew it, we were at the end of our second week. Looking back it seems that our time so far had been a blur of meeting people from all over the world, learning conversational Spanish, experiencing the local hangouts and nightlife popular in Seville and just overall getting to know our new environment! The Spanish class at CLIC is like one I have never had before, with small classes of 6-8 students centered around consistent speaking and absorption of various Spanish phrases and grammar. It became a comfortable place to open up and really explore the Spanish language with fellow classmates that are at the same level and at the same time you are also learning about where they come from and the differing life experiences that they may have had! The teachers are very open and friendly, so encouraging when you are speaking that you immediately feel more comfortable and less worried about how many possible grammar mistakes you can make. They are genuinely interested in making you a better Spanish-speaker. 

Before we had even fully finished applying for this trip Cinthya and I had decided that if it was possible we must try and make a trip to Morocco due to it’s close proximity to the south of Spain. We found a ferry (outside of our program) that would not only take us to Tangier, but give a full guided tour of the city complete with lunch and bus transportation. We were sold on it, so that on the 8th of June, a Friday morning, we found ourselves on a bus to Malaga, and province further to the South than Seville and to a small coastal city called Marbella. I had been there once before and remembered it being small and charming and indeed it still was! We were lucky enough to come the same weekend as they were holding their Feria so the city was flooded with people of all ages and families dressed in traditional Flamenco attire as varying types of music filled the air catering to everyone’s taste. 

The next morning we were picked up by our tour group and whisked off to our ferry in Tarifa, Spain located right at the straight of Gibraltar and so close to Morocco that you can actually see it not too far off in the distance! My notions of Tangier and the actual reality of it didn’t match at all, a pleasant example of how travel can effectively dismiss incorrect preconceived notions and replace them with the truth. The buildings in Tangier are built on winding streets that were used as a defense mechanism against possible invasion, and close together in order to create shade so that one may run their errands during the day without becoming overheated. On the outside, the homes look unimpressive and bland, however this is an intentional impression that the people in Tangier are trying to give off as it is discourteous to show off your wealth for you neighbor may not be as well off as you are.  Essentially they look down on bragging and this is a tradition that really resonated with me as it’s a really great example of not judging a book by its’ cover or a house by its’ exterior. Our trip also included riding camels on a cliff overlooking the sandy beaches below and exploring a mythological cave said to belong to Hercules that has a crack opening the rocks below to the exposure of the ocean that now beat against them. Morocco was an experience unlike any other and would have never been possible had we not come to Spain!

Our last day in Marbella was spent lounging on the beach, taking in the sunshine and waves, as well as the laughter of children as the splash into the ocean and wondering at the various scenery that Spain has to offer. For this it was bittersweet to leave, and because we had made some great friends with our hostel owner and his employee with all the wonderful experiences and stories that they had to share. On the other hand though, I was relieved to be going back to Seville because more and more it was starting to feel like home.


17 Jun | Cinthya Salinas | No Comments

De Sevilla a Marbella, ¡Venga!


Brianne and I promised ourselves that once we were in Spain, we would try to travel to as many places as our wallet would allow us. And so the second weekend of our Sevilla adventure arrived. As a means to test our selves and see how resourceful and daring we were, we bought bus tickets and on a Friday morning headed to Marbella (trip not endorsed by Athena Study Abroad). For years, I had heard of Marbella through song lyrics, always referenced as a beautiful, enchanting and exclusive place to be in. The bus ride lasted about 4 hours, give and take, and the mere sight of the sea was all we had been hoping for. Marbella is in Costa del Sol, on the Mediterranean Sea. We hauled a cab and made it through the narrow streets of the “casco viejo”, old neighborhood of Marbella, and stepped into Hostal del Pilar (accommodations not arranged by Athena Study Abroad).

Right off the bat a laid-back atmosphere surrounded this place; the streets full of energy and life. Brianne and I wasted no time, changed into our bikinis, bought a liter of water (you can never have too much water over here) and with two new friends headed to the beach. We were starving so we had some delicious paella by the beach and all that was left to do was to relax and take it all in. Serenity was all I could hear coming from the waves crashing on the rocks. Everyone was on their own zone at that beach, some people topless, free and happy. To our immense luck it was feria weekend in Marbella. We headed back to the hostel, showered, changed and with two guys staying at the hostel made our way up the town and enjoyed every second of the feria. People of all ages were there, from babies to grandparents. People our age hopping from bar to bar, us dancing until our feet could no longer take it, and time stopped all together. That night as we got back to the hostel, we climbed up the stairs to the terrace and just observed the city. It was alive, full of love, noise and freedom.

The next day Brianne and I headed to Tarifa and took a ferry to Tangier, Morocco (trip not endorsed by Athena Study Abroad). We spent the day there, walking through the streets of the Kasba, were harassed by several street vendors and got an amazing tan. Of course we rode a camel and got to see amazing places like the Strait of Gibraltar and La Gruta de Hercules. It was a great experience. We made it back safe and sound to Marbella and walked the beach at night. We had dinner at a place called Casa Lola which had great tapas and mojitos. Sunday morning we sunbathed one last time under the scorching Marbella sun and I read some chapters while Brianne people-watched. Believe it or not, Brianne and I were ready to go “home”, or as we like to call Sevilla for now. The bus ride back was highlighted by the passengers listening to the Spain v. Italy game and as soon as our bus arrived in Sevilla, Spain scored and tied the game. Walking up to our house was a sense of relief; I guess that’s how much we’ve come to love Sevilla.


¡Hasta la proxima!


 Paella from Crusoe Restaurant in Marbella


 Marbella, Costa del Sol

The water was freezing. ¡Que frio!


 Little girls debuting their Flamenco skills at the Marbella Feria.


 The Marbella Feria at night.


 The Strait of Gibraltar: where the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea meet.


 You guessed it: I am riding a camel!


 With Brianne having lunch at the Moroccan restaurant. 


10 Jun | Cinthya Salinas | No Comments

Sevilla Fever

I have caught Sevillian fever. Never had I thought I would be in Europe or Spain for that matter. My friend Brianne convinced me to come with her to Spain a few months back and I will never regret it. We decided to work on our Spanish speaking and grammar skills and could not think …


7 Jun | Brianne Baldree | No Comments

Spanish Dreams

I thought this trip would never come, the day that I would board an airplane with a very good friend, Miss Cinthya Salinas, to spend an entire month in the enchanting city of Seville, in the southern part of Spain also referred to as Andalusia! To be able to immerse myself in typical Sevillian culture while at the same time exploring the intricacies of the Spanish language had me anxiously waiting for this trip to begin for six months, from the time I started the paperwork to the date my flight was scheduled!

The flight in itself was an experience as we were delayed in Lisbon, Portugal and got to experience first hand the effects of the strikes going on by the airport’s air traffic controllers, which delayed our flight around 45 minutes and made it tentative until 30 minutes before it actually left! We finally arrived in Seville in a small, almost toy-like aircraft and were immediately mesmerized by the start of the weekend night life, the streets crawling with people young and old, moorish styled architecture complimented by colorful mosaics mixed in with a modern train carrying its passengers from one side of the city to the other.

The plazas were filled with the sounds of friends meeting up intertwined with the random guitar player and glasses clinking in outdoor cafes and bars! The city was magical and our first impression was one that left us impressed by how successfully the old and new mixed so well to make up such a dynamic place. The Plaza de Espana, with its wide half moon courtyard, romantic bridges rounded over the river that rings the inside of it, and the high archways and columns, were our first taste of grandiose architecture in Seville, attracting tourists and locals alike who were looking for a special backdrop to their evening.  

Living in a dorm style house, the opportunity came to mix with people from all over the world, like England, Sweden, China, and Scotland. The international school, CLIC, located in the center of Seville, in a modern, clean building with an open courtyard in the center, would further expose us to more nationalities and provide social opportunities through excursions and meet ups, giving us a taste of what socializing in Seville is really all about, sitting outside with a cold beer or Tinto Verano, chatting about the day, or grabbing an ice cream at one of the various heladerias that dot each street, offering a temporary respite from the heat that is still lingering from the day.

On a day trip to a beach called Matalascanas in Huelva with our school, about an hour away from Seville, Cinthya and I were able to mix with our various classmates while enjoying a typical Spanish day at the beach, observing and participating in the soccer games going on, watching the little kids running around and splashing in the water, and take in the relaxed atmosphere very much apart of the Spanish culture!

The days here are long, with the sun setting around 10 pm, and warm, making a seista in the afternoon not just a luxury, but a necessity as a way of beating the Spanish heat and maintaing the ability to keep up with the popular night-time socializing that keep most Spaniards up well past midnight. Adjusting the first week meant long, leisurely naps in the afternoon that make you feel almost guilty at first, but content, as the Spanish lifestyle takes ahold of you and forces you to relax, enjoying the flow of life and taking in your surroundings as they become present to you, one at a time. 



5 Jun | Adriana Christesen | No Comments

Benvenuti a Firenze!

So here I am. I have just completed my first week in Florence, Italy. I can honestly say that this has been one of the scariest and most exciting experiences of my life. It is so amazing that I came to a foreign country, without knowing a single person, and already feel at home. This city just has a captivating way of making the unknown seem so familiar. The art, the food (and wine), and the people are all so interestingly diverse and wonderful. It is impossible to become complacent here.

 The door to our apartment building. Fit for a queen.

My apartment is amazing and in a great location. I have four roommates from all over the country. Luckily, we get along really well and have had some amazing adventures together already. We live about ten minutes from the Duomo and close to a ton of great restaurants, bars, and shops (though I am learning that nothing in Florence is particularly far away). We have been experimenting with different restaurants, trying to find the most authentic Florentine cuisine. It is challenging, especially because we are on a student’s budget but so far we have had some delicious pizza and pasta dishes. Luckily we have been working off all of the carbs by walking endlessly everyday…

A view of the Foundling Hospital at the Piazza SS. Annunziata

Over the past week, I have experienced so much. Not only have I had class in the mornings at Lorenzo de’ Medici, but I have done much exploring and have a fairly good handle on the layout of Florence. It’s not a huge city and somehow I always find a familiar street or shop for guidance. My Early Renaissance art history class is really interesting. My professor is sweet and hilarious. I really enjoy spending time with her in and out of the classroom on our many field trips. She is so Italian and so interesting. On Thursday, she took our class to see the Piazza Santissima Annunziata and the Foundling hospital, an orphanage designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. It is really incredible to learn about historical works and then to see them in person directly after. It is as if my art history studies are all starting to come full circle in my mind.


 My roommates and I at the Piazza San Marco in Venice.

            My roommates and I also took a day trip to Venice. It was so incredible. The city was beautiful and the weather was amazing. I loved all of the canals and tiny streets. We tried to the infamous Venetian drink, the Spritz. I may never drink one again but at least I tried it once! We also took a water taxi through the Grande Canal and a short gondola ride, watched a glass blowing demonstration, visited the Piazza San Marco, and took a long walking tour around the city. At the end of the day, we shopped through the markets. It was exhausting but so much fun. I would recommend a trip to Venice for anyone visiting Italy. It is a breathtaking city.


 I was so excited to find the Ponte Vecchio!

            Another great experience back in Florence was visiting the Ponte Vecchio. My roommate, Adrienne, and I accidently stumbled upon it one day while we were walking around and it was such a great discovery. We took a bunch of pictures, did a little jewelry shopping, and enjoyed the great view. A couple of days later, we brought our other two roommates to Ponte Vecchio and it was just as exciting the second time. Everything seems so surreal there- the people, the sparkling jewelry stores, the amazing Arno River.

            After a week in Florence, I have to admit that I still in awe to be lucky enough to have such a mind-blowing experience. Some things are different like paying 2 euros for water at dinner, drinking coffee at a “bar,” and attempting to translate Italian for my three roommates. But I am coming to realize these things are not unbearable, they are just different. I wake up every morning and think, “Is this really happening to me?” Well the answer is YES, this is happening. And I am so excited to see what my future in Florence holds. I can’t wait to share my experiences here with all of you!

Beautiful Venice.



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