My name is Erica Surgeary (yup, just like the operation). I am a senior majoring in Event Management. I am from Long Island, New York so I’m already used to traveling across open waters to go to school (haha). At SCSU I live on campus as a Resident Advisor, I am a Peer Mentor Coordinator, Orientation Ambassador, and a tour guide.

I am studying abroad in Liverpool, England from September 14th – January 6th. I will be an exchange student at Liverpool’s John Moores University. I will be sharing a suite/flat with five other SCSU students in a building called Capital Gate.

Livin n’ Liverpool
You say goodbye, & I say hello!

Wednesday’s occur 53 times a year, it’s the hump day of a long workweek, and it’s commonly known among teens as the day you wear pink. I’ve spent years of dreaming, months of planning, and days of counting down to this Wednesday.

Well, this Wednesday is finally here! On September 14th, I leave the owl’s nest for four months to study abroad in Liverpool, England for the fall semester! But, I’m not just studying abroad… I’m proud to say that I am a pioneer for Southern Connecticut State University’s student exchange program and Liverpool’s John Moores University.

Liverpool JMU

I’ve been waiting on standby for almost two years for this “Atlantic Crossing” program to take off.  Now, you may ask, why did I wait for fall semester of my senior year? (FYI, college really does fly by). Well, my insightful advisors in the Recreation, Sports, and Event Management department were the engineers of this exchange program. They put the pieces together and paved the runway for students like me to be the test pilots for this adventurous flight.

I’m feeling excited but nerves are kicking in. I am ambitious and optimistic. This experience will help challenge me to become more adventurous and live more independently. It still hasn’t settled in yet that I’ll be away for four months, but as my twin sister said, who studied abroad in Prague last semester, it will hit me when I arrive. (BTW Allee, my sister, has been the best resource & guide to me throughout all of this!)

In March 2016 I spent my spring break in Prague visiting Allee. We went to Vienna, Prague, and Budapest in 10 days. My short time in these three European cities gave me new perspectives. I was overly exhausted, my shoes were stuffed with band-aids and tissues from countless blisters on my feet, and we probably got lost twenty times, but it was the best trip I’ve ever had.

Office of International Education

So now I am thrilled to take these lessons learned into my own adventure abroad.  I will be joined by 5 other students from SCSU who are also test- piloting the program.  We really don’t know each well yet and we have different majors, but we decided to share a six-person suite. (Check out Chris’s blog too!).

Did I mention we each get our own room and bathroom??!!?!

In preparation for my flight, I returned home last week to Long Island, New York after spending my entire summer at SCSU working for New Student Orientation and interning with the Office of Student Involvement. I’ve been in the driver’s seat all summer steering the Peer Mentoring program in a new direction.  My summer experiences were challenging and incredibly rewarding (making it a million times harder to say goodbye).

But now, it’s time to say hello to OWL the places I’ll go!

*I’ll apologize in advance for the OWL puns… can you tell I’m in love with Southern?

Oh the Places You'll Go!

So like a hot air balloon, I’m going to hop on and ride across the pond. These next few months are filled with unknowns, but I can’t wait to see how much I’m going to learn and grow. Follow me along the way because this blog is intended for OWL WHOOO want to know what it’s like to liv across the sea and call Liverpool my home!

My adventure is waiting.  I’m on my way.  Bon voyage USA!

Signing off….
AmErica n’ Liverpool

It’s finally sinking in that I’m leaving home tomorrow. On Sunday, September 4th, 2016, I, Chris Rowland will be departing from the International Terminal of Boston’s Logan Airport. My destination: Liverpool, England. I am spending the first semester of my senior year away from SCSU studying at John Moore’s University. The past 6 months have been spent preparing myself for this journey: obtaining my passport, working with the OIE, securing funding, finding the best deals on airfare, etc. But until I started packing as much of my life as can fit into one suitcase and one carry-on backpack, it hasn’t felt real.

At this moment, I’d quickly like to thank anyone and everyone who has helped me to realize this dream of mine. My parents, family and friends for supporting my decision; the OIE for being so helpful in sorting out the details; and my friends at the School of Business who helped me to afford it. This blog is dedicated to all of you because without you all I certainly wouldn’t be about to embark on this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Now, I must confess that as excited as I am at all of the prospects which await me overseas, I am equally as nervous. I have never been out of the United Staes before except for a brief foray into Canada, and therefore I honestly don’t know what to expect. I’ve read countless articles online about others’ experiences with study abroad, the culture of Liverpool and the UK, and tips for traveling in general, but until I touch down in a foreign land where I know no one, I am a ball of nerves.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean final exam nervous dread, it’s more of a before the big game excited nervous energy. The chance to trace the Beatles’ footsteps, to feel the buzz of a football (soccer) stadium on matchday, and to study British Literature in its native land all await me, and I can’t wait to experience it and more. I also can’t wait to share it with you all through this blog. By my next entry, I will be in Liverpool, and I look forward to bringing you along with me. Until then, I hope everyone has a safe and productive start to their semester.

Wish me luck,

Museum of Amsterdam

By Rebecca Weinberger

You may or may not already know, but Amsterdam is one of the most fascinating places to visit. Why? Amsterdam is rich in culture, historical monuments, and politics.

Today in class we focused a lot on religion and politics in the Netherlands. Our guest speaker, David J. Bos, Ph.D., took us on a journey through the history of Amsterdam. Some interesting aspects I learned were the differences between religions, and how religion plays a major part in today’s votes for office, such as parliament. Pillarization (a separation of society) still takes place even today. In comparison, one might look at the requests catholic, orthodox protestant, socialists, and liberal protestants made when demanding that their religion deserve the most privileges – good education, health care, and media were the aspects each religion had most in common. Throughout the ages, segregation and religious battles continued. Today anyone can vote for parliament, providences, and the European parliament.

Amsterdam has come a long way from hundreds of years ago. After class we winded down and ate a short lunch in the University of Amsterdam’s cafeteria. Later, we visited the Museum of Amsterdam. There were audio recordings, which talked about the history of Amsterdam, as well as rooms that depicted modernized culture and artwork. Spoiler alert! Inside the museum are many artifacts and knowledge about gay heritage, and the effects of Amsterdam’s drug and brothel culture. As the night ended, we came together as a group and chatted in the courtyard of our dormitory, then took a walk to get a “late night” snack near the infamous Red Light district.

First Day in Amsterdam

By Erica DeBlois

We’ve been here since Friday and the weekend gave us all a great opportunity to get the lay of the land and explore different parts of the city.  Settling in and getting comfortable for the month-long classes, we all have been talking about what we’ve seen and how interesting the Dutch people and their culture are.

The most interesting thing to me so far is how many bikes there are and the many different and creative ways I’ve seen people riding them. There have been some bikes with single riders while on other occasions, there have been one bike with three people on it: the person peddling, a small child on the back wheel, and another on the handle bars.

Since getting here, we’ve explored many different restaurants and tried many new foods.

Today marked our first day of actual class and we got to meet Mirjam, the program director here at the University of Amsterdam. She gave us an introduction to Dutch life, told us what to expect from the program, and gave us our welcome packets of information. She talked a little about how that the Dutch built Amsterdam on the sea and we are actually below sea level.

We reconvened after lunch to discuss our overall experience so far here in the Netherlands and specifically what we are going to learn about. We got our first reading assignment and are all set to kick off tomorrow with our first guest speaker!

One of the many buildings decorated with graffiti murals on the streets of Reykjavik.

Day in Reykjavik

By Alexa Gorlick & Becca Hubley

It’s safe to say that everyone was excited to finally be able to explore the city of Reykjavik after two long days of driving through Iceland.

It was peculiar to wake up hearing sounds of the hustle and bustle of a city, as we have become accustomed to waking up to silence – with the exception of birds chirping.

We started our morning with showers that had an endless supply of hot water but a very strong smell of Sulphur, which was due to the geothermal energy power plants in the area. Once we were convinced the smell didn’t linger on us after our showers, we made our way downstairs to enjoy complimentary breakfast provided by the hotel. The croissants were so delicious, but we practiced self-control and only had about ten each.

We gained the strength to leave the breakfast table and ventured out to visit some of the many museums in Reykjavik. One of our favorites was The Settlement Exhibition. Here, we learned that in 2001 there were ruins that were discovered, which turned out to be the oldest remains of human habitation in Reykjavik. We were also able to witness how the Vikings lived their daily lives.

In between museum visits we explored numerous shops, art galleries, and cafes.  We really got to take in the culture of the city and get understanding of the everyday life in Reykjavik. There is bright, beautiful, and detailed graffiti displayed all over the city, giving an artsy and cozy feel to the entire area. Reykjavik is one of those cities you could walk around for weeks and find something new every day, never getting bored or tired of it. Even pollution is kept at a bare minimum, something we aren’t very used to as Americans.

After meeting back up with our entire group for a quick meeting regarding the remainder of our time in Iceland, we all ventured out for a place to eat dinner. Some of us went to a ramen noodle house, others to a bistro, and the rest to a fish and chips stand. All dinners were equally amazing in taste and quality. Those of us who were legally allowed to in Iceland spent the rest of our night checking out the wide array of bars and clubs downtown.

We still aren’t sure if Reykjavik has any imperfections… we couldn’t find any.

A turf house that former SCSU students built during their Iceland study abroad trip.

By Kelly Bickell and Jacob Gant

Breakfast was a treat this morning in Grímsstaðir, Iceland where we stayed in a guest house on a sheep farm for a single night. The Icelandic couple who owned the house served fresh smoked lamb, hand-picked goose eggs, fruit and pastries with a variety of hot and cold drinks.

SCSU students by the waterfall Dettifoss
SCSU students Hope Finch, Jacob Gant, Kelly Bickell, and Emma Knauerhase enjoy the view of Europe’s most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss.

After enjoying the view during breakfast, we set off for our first legendary stop of the day: Dettifoss. This is Europe’s largest waterfall by volume of water. Dettifoss is the product of runoff from the glacier that we hiked almost two weeks ago, called Vatnajökull. Next stop was a rare Icelandic forest called Ásbyrgi National Park. Ásbyrgi is full of Iceland’s native birch tree along with fragrant flowers and grasses. A short while into the hike, the trail led to an unexpected pond. The pond is situated beside a basalt cliff and is home to a few ducks, fish, and birds.

Fish and chips
Fish and chips

By the time lunchtime rolled around, we stopped in the town of Húsavík for an hour. Some students ate fish and chips on a patio overlooking the harbor. The fishing and tourist industries are important to Húsavík’s economy. When one hour time was up we drove to turf houses that SCSU students have built in years past. I found it interesting to see how little land is required to build a turf house, so really they are sustainable houses. Blocks of soil and rocks are used for the walls while soil and wood are used for the roof. Icelanders did live in turf houses until the 1960’s. These houses are now used to hold and feed sheep.

In the late evening, we reached the campsite called Tjaldsvæði. Here, we set up five tents, ate dinner either at the site or at the local Hard Wok Café, then hiked to see the midnight sun coast over the horizon.

Dettifoss, a powerful waterfall in Northeastern Iceland.
Dettifoss, a powerful waterfall in Northeastern Iceland.

A view of Harpa concert hall, famous for its amazing acoustics.

By Emma Knauerhase, Charles Comstock

Today was the last day with our close friends because they left for the U.K from the egilstadir airport. A few of us woke up early to say goodbye to them as they left to go home. Once we said our goodbyes to a song from the breakfast club “Don’t you forget about me” as they drove off, we went back to bed. After sleeping in for the first time this entire trip, Dr. Heidkamp told the SCSU students the last job we were ever going to do at Skalanes. This job was to move three huge plastic fishing tubs and clean the black sand beach. We carried the tubes on the rocky beach while dodging the artic terns who were attacking us and then we climbed a steep hill back to skalanes with the heavy plastic fish tubes. Once the dreadful task was over we said our goodbyes to the very close friends we made at the farmhouse and took lots of photos with the remaining two U.K students who we would later see at the Icelandic capital. Once we left skalanes for the final time we headed to the gas station in egilstaditr and ran into our friends who left for the airport earlier that morning! After a long reunion (even though we just saw them earlier in the morning) we said our official goodbyes and went our separate ways.

We headed to the highlands of Iceland where the wind was so powerful it rips car doors off the hinges. After a nice car ride with SCSU students we found ourselves in Grimstadir where we resided in a “haunted” farm house for the night. After settling into the haunted house we left for the Jarbodin Natuerew Baths where we stayed for 5 hours to heal our sadness of leaving Skalanes and our friends in the U.K.

When we left the baths to go back to the house Emma and Kelly began to cook pasta for the majority of the hungry SCSU students but then the power went out just as we put the pasta in the boiling water. Since we did not know what to do, we travelled down to the haunted basement only to find out we had to go to the owner’s house to fix the power. Therefore Emma trekked out in the powerful winds to help her friends. Once we gained power we ate our soggy pasta and went directly to bed a 3 in the morning. Even though we went to bed at three in the morning, the sun did not set and was already rising by the time we went to bed.



Icelandic National Day

Today we started out early with a hike up to the local sound sculpture known as Tvísöngur, where some of the louder members of our group used its unique construction to speak even louder (which I honestly thought impossible – Hope). Luckily, the beautiful view and wonderful weather helped to offset the ear piercing singing and tedious selfies. After we soaked up some art and nature, Dr. Heidkamp decided to enlighten us with a field lecture of the town’s economic history and geography followed by a sightseeing tour of Seydisfjordur. We then decided to help the amazing people of Iceland celebrate their independence from Danish rule by observing the annual shooting of the town’s canon into the harbor, and eating piles and piles of delicious pizza (not a very traditional Icelandic meal, but it got the job done). We closed out our day at Skálanes, by spending time with our new friends from the UK, who we will end up parting ways with tomorrow.


By Hope Finch and Steven Cardinal

As our time at Skalanes begins to come to a close, Steve began to recruit some friends for a reindeer stalk to study the animals. As this was a much anticipated event from the group, excitement was at an all-time high. The crew departed the house with a look of determination in their eyes. Initially they began at a waterfall where they had previously seen the herd, after surveying tracks and scat it was clear they would be best to try another area. As time passes the hopeful explorers had searched the hills, valley, and mountains with nothing but tracks to show for it. After seven long and grueling hours the group began to lose hope…the trail mix and fruit stores that had sustained them had been depleted, and their initial excitement began to morph into disappointment. The group returned, reporting their comparably mundane findings back to the house. After a good meal and a few rounds of cards the three had almost forgotten the long and fruitless day… That is until Professor Heidkamp entered the room with a sinister smile on his face…. In a 20 minute drive to town Heidkamp happened to “stumble upon” a herd of 12 deer who were a mere feet from his vehicle. The following day on a walk into town to celebrate Independence Day, the unsuccessful herd trackers were delighted to spot the herd unexpectedly walking the hills above them.