Service-Learning Abroad

29 07 2011

Whether participating in community service is your primary motive for travelling or you’d simply like to get involved in a service activity during your time abroad, there are many options and resources you should consider!

Perhaps you’re travelling with a group that has a history of working with a certain project or service group, or maybe you’re really passionate about a specific cause that you’d love to pursue. If you’re open to different options, doing a quick Google search brings up countless organizations that offer volunteer abroad opportunities in fields ranging from environmental sustainability to poverty elimination. You need to consider not only the destination but what opportunities exist there. For instance, it would be next to impossible to find a program that works to preserve rainforests if you were set on travelling to Alaska.

At MSMF, our School4School program’s trips to Peru focus on service-learning, and our program offers a variety of community service projects. Many travel abroad trips are based around community service, but you could also research specific projects run locally in the place you’re going to go if your chosen program isn’t service-based.

If the project or program that you’re passionate about doesn’t already exist, create your own! For example, if you’re studying abroad for a semester and are dedicated to helping homeless animals, create a plan for how you can serve this purpose abroad. Do some research regarding different people and resources that could assist you. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to partner with a local animal shelter. If you’re going with a group, try to get some other students involved with your project – it’s usually easier to work with a team!

Whatever you think you want to do, stay open-minded and know what’s out there before you make a big decision! Service-learning provides worthwhile experiences that could significantly impact your outlook on life.

By: Megan Salvia, MSMF Intern


5 Tips When Preparing for Trips

13 07 2011

Having gone on many trips – some wonderful, others not so wonderful – I’d like to share these five pieces of advice with anyone who’s getting ready to travel abroad…

1.) Bring as little as possible! As you’re wandering around in a foreign country, the last thing you’ll want to worry about is dragging multiple bags along the cobblestone streets. And you certainly don’t want to pay extra airline fees for checked bags or have to worry about everything not fitting in your suitcase on the way home once you’ve acquired countless souvenirs. So try to keep it to the necessities while packing for a trip abroad.

2.) Prepare a detailed itinerary! Even if you like flexibility and going with the flow when you travel, it’s always best to plan ahead and just make changes along the way. In your itinerary, you should include contact information for your accommodations, your flight numbers and departure/arrival times, and any destinations that you definitely want to see while you’re abroad. For those places you absolutely must get to before returning home, research some important information and write it down so you can best decide when to go where. For example, it’s crucial to know if museums are closed on Mondays in a certain city so that you don’t plan to go to one only to find that it’s not open. Also, while you’re preparing this research, you’ll find out if there are any tourist spots you want to see for which you need to make reservations far in advance.

3.) Determine your means of transportation once you’ve arrived! You may know that you’re flying to wherever you’re going, but how are you going to get around when you’re there? Will you be travelling with a tour group on a bus? Renting a car? Riding a train? Walking? If the answer to these questions is “I don’t know,” you should spend some time determining the most efficient and cost-effective way to travel at your destination. If you’re travelling in many countries in Europe, for example, trains are often a fantastic way to get from city to city and a wonderful opportunity to see the countryside. People in some cities primarily use bikes to get around. Learning a little about transportation before you travel abroad can be very beneficial both financially and temporally.

4.) Get your travel documents EARLY! You may know you need a passport for your trip abroad, but do you know how far in advance you need to apply for one? The process of applying for passports, along with other necessary travel documents, is often lengthy and unpredictable. There is usually a suggested time deadline when applying for these documents, but I would advise you to get them as early as possible. My mom applied for her passport just before the suggested date when we were going on a trip a few years ago, and she didn’t get her passport until the day before we left! Needless to say, you can save yourself a lot of anxiety if you leave ample time for receiving your travel documents.

5.) Pay attention to currency! If you’re travelling abroad, the currency of the country to which you’re headed is probably not the same as the money you have saved up in your room. You should spend some time considering what your best option is for spending money abroad. While some vendors will accept the U.S. dollar, others may not, and exchanging for another currency with available machines or banks may leave you with excessive fees to pay. Using a credit card is often a good option when travelling so that you’re not charged an exchange fee each time you purchase something. Figure out what you should use to make purchases abroad ahead of time so that you can arrive prepared!

 Don’t forget to comment and share your own travel preparation tips!


By: Megan Salvia, MSMF Intern

Celebration at the Lost City of the Incas

5 07 2011

July 24th will mark the 100th anniversary of the rediscovery of Machu Picchu! On July 24, 1911, American explorer Hiram Bingham came across the “Lost City of the Incas” in Peru. Thousands of people visit this historic site each day, and a major celebration will occur during the month of July to commemorate this Wonder of the Modern World. The centennial events will last for five days beginning on July 7th.

Machu Picchu is believed to have been created around 1450 when the Incan Empire was at its peak. 7,500 feet above sea level in the Andean Mountains, this ancient city is filled with farming terraces and built with large stones. The Incas built thousands of miles of roads, 600 terraces, sixteen fountains, several temples, and thousands of steps. Speculation about the purpose of Machu Picchu remains inconclusive, yet it is believed by many that it was created for an Inca emperor. Regardless of the city’s purpose and the questions surrounding its abandonment, Machu Picchu is undoubtedly a breathtaking site to see and the Centennial Festival will certainly be a major tourist attraction in July!

By: Megan Salvia, MSMF Intern


Sources: and

Apprehensions About Travelling Abroad?

29 06 2011

So you’ve found the perfect Travel Abroad opportunity – congratulations! You’re about to embark on a fantastic journey; while this is extremely exciting, travelling to a foreign country may also be daunting. Adjusting to a new way of life, surrounded by people with different customs and experiences from you can be overwhelming. But don’t let your fears or worries get in the way of enjoying your experience! Below we’ll list some common travelling fears as well as tips and solutions to help you prepare for your trip abroad!

I’m not fluent in the language of the country to which I’m travelling!

Just be willing to learn and respect the people in the country you’re visiting. Many people will be glad to help you learn, and as long as you have an open mind, you’ll inevitably pick up some vocabulary words while you’re there. If you’re still worried about encountering people with whom you can’t communicate, learn a few important words in the native language of your destination (such as “bathroom,” “please,” and “thank you.”) Also, don’t be scared to ask questions! As long as you’re not asking them in an accusatory way, people will gladly answer you if they can.

I’m a picky eater – what am I going to eat when I travel abroad?

Travelling abroad is the perfect time to try new foods; though this may make you nervous, you honestly don’t know if you’ll like something unless you try it, and the delicious, fresh, local food made in the town in which you’re staying may surprise you. If you really don’t like much of the food in your host country, politely ask for simpler dishes that consist of foods you know you do like.

I get homesick easily.

If you get homesick when you go out of town, one of the best things you can do is immerse yourself in the culture and activities of the place you’re visiting. If you’re making new friends and enjoying different events abroad, you’ll be less inclined to think about all the people and objects you miss from home. Also, while it’s good to contact your family occasionally to let them know what you’ve been doing, don’t call or write to them every few hours! The less time you dwell on the things you miss from home, the more likely you are to get the most out of every minute you spend abroad.

I’ve never travelled internationally before – I don’t know what kinds of clothes to pack!

Just do a little research before you go, and you’ll be fine! First, be sure to check the weather forecast the week before you leave, and research general information about the climate in your destination country. Pack clothes based on the usual weather, and don’t forget things like umbrellas and jackets if you’re going somewhere that’s typically rainy. Also, you need to think a little about how conservative the people in your destination generally are, and consider the places you’ll be going while abroad. For instance, if you’re going to visit cathedrals in a place like Italy, many will require that tourists dress with pants at least below the knees and that they not wear tank tops. Take a few minutes to learn this basic information about the place you’re going, and enjoy your trip!

Don’t forget to share your own worries or suggestions for going global!

By: Megan Salvia, MSMF Intern

How do you like them potatoes?

25 05 2011

Potatoes have been dated back to 500 B.C. in ancient Peruvian and Chilean ruins by archaeologists. It is known that the Incas cultivated them at 12,500 feet above sea level in the Andes mountains near lake Titicaca in between Peru and Bolivia. Today there are over 5,000 potato varieties still grown in the Andes today ranging in hundreds of sizes from a small nut to an apple and in color from red and gold to blue and black.

Not only was the potato a food source for the Incas, but it was a way of life for them. Along with growing and eating them they seemed to have actually worshiped the potato as it was their main source of healthy food intake. They not only would simply eat the potato but they would in instances place the potato on broken bone as they believed it would help with healing, carry the potato with them as they believed it would help prevent rheumatism, and eat the potato with other foods to help prevent indigestion to name a few. They potato was a way of life in the great Andes mountain range. The Spanish conquistadors even saw the benefits of the potato as they took back with them as an incredible treasure, the potato (they would have also taken gold or silver but none could be found).

From Spain the potato traveled throughout the rest of Europe arriving in England and Italy around 1585, Belgium and Germany in 1587, Austria about 1588 and France in 1600. There is an Irish legend that has it as a Spanish Armada ship wrecking near the coast of Ireland which cause the potatoes that were being carried aboard to be washed ashore. Finally, potatoes are believed to have made their arrival in the US around 1600.

However, not all believed in the good powers of the potato. For instance, the French accused it of causing leprosy, syphilis, narcosis, early death, sterility and rampant sexuality as well as destroying the soil where it grew.

Today the potato is the fourth largest crop in the world.

“How do you like them potatoes” was written and submitted by:

Suzana Sagy Macario

Support students that have a keen interest in a global education and studying abroad by donating to the MSMF School For School Program (S4S). Any donation – no matter the size – will go a long way to support global education. Please click on the following link and donate. You will be glad you did.

For more information access  

The Michael Scott Mater Foundation is dedicated to providing a Global Education Exchange for all. Simply visit our site to find out how.

The Michael Scott Mater Foundation partners with ACCION USA

11 05 2011

The Michael Scott Mater foundation has partnered with Accion USA, the national leader in microlending in the United States. The partnership hopes to open up $500,000 of capital within the first year that will be available for entrepreneurs as a resource needed to ensure their sustainability. With the partnership Accion will not only bring along with them the capital needed to meet the needs of entrepreneurs, but an extensive credit knowledge and twenty years of experience in lending. This is a new exciting opportunity for Charlotte entrepreneurs as they will be able to have their capital needs meet with the backing of Accion USA while also being able to receive extensive business support from the Michael Scott Mater Foundation who have made their home in Charlotte, NC. The plans between the new partnership hopes to be able to extend a lending hand to 3,000 entrepreneurs in the United States within the first three years with an anticipated $500,000 available throughout the first year and an average loan amount averaging around $9,000.

With the new partnership the Michael Scott Mater Foundation hopes to extend its lending boundaries all throughout the state helping hundreds of entrepreneurs realize their dream and create a sustainable business.

Interested entrepreneurs should sign up for an information session at or call (980) 207-3260.

A little global etiquette

2 04 2011

If there is one thing you could tell someone who was about to embark on a global exchange adventure what would that be? Personally, from the little experience that I have with and from the other students I have met that have studied abroad in the past, my one piece of advice would be to respect cultural diversity!

It is a must!

Every individual is entitled to their own personal cultural diversity, ESPECIALLY when you are the one participating in a global exchange program. My first piece of advice is to study up on the country in which you are planning to visit. This may sound like basic knowledge, but you would be uncomfortably surprised at the number of individuals who travel abroad armed with nothing more than a passport, some cash, and a weeks worth of clean clothes. It’s not that hard nowadays to study up on a country especially with the Internet at the hands, or at least accessible, to most individuals. Plus, a global exchange is an exchange of knowledge. For your time spent in the country you are able to represent America in all of Her glory and exchange your cultural knowledge with an individual/individuals from the country you visit. It is imperative that you visit these countries with an open mind as in some cases, depending on which country you visit, their views will be completely, 100% different

that yours. Moreover, ignorance is not necessarily a free pass neither.

Just a suggestion…

I would suggest staying away from political or religious talks as well, unless you are genially curious. But certainly do not point out the difference between your religious views and theirs, and then begin to try to convert them right there on the spot. That would be as they say, NOT GOOD. I can remember on my global education exchange that I was fortunate to be able to attend during my junior year at college, when I showed a bit of cultural ignorance in Belfast, Ireland. You see, I like to wear hats, especially New Era hats just because they fit my head good, but that’s beside the

Belfast Castle

Belfast Castle

point. Well me and two of my really good friends who play baseball and also where these New Era brand hats were going into one of the many Irish pubs to gain to cultural experience! Fortunately I was not wearing my New Era Atlanta Braves that night, but my two friends were sure enough wearing theirs (I had a beanie on because it was about 20F if I remember correctly). As soon as we step into the bar, my two buddies are met by the bouncers and have their hats immediately removed by them. I was getting nervous because I had no idea what was going on at this point in time. It turns out that the only people who wear those types of hats in that area were part of a gang! Talk about confused! We had no idea what was going on. But as soon as they found out we were just “Americans” everything went back to normal. The lesson had been learned though. It doesn’t pay to be ignorant!

Well there’s one of my memorable moments when ignorance reared its ugly head at me. Is there anyone else that is brave enough to tell us of an incident in which you might not have been caught up on all of the cultural difference of the place you were visiting? We would love to hear them! You never know, you may even help someone out who will be visiting that same place. Don’t be shy!!


“Support students that have a keen interest in a global education and studying abroad by donating to the MSMF School For School Program (S4S). Any donation – no matter the size – will go a long way to support global education. Please click on the following link and donate. You will be glad you did.”

For more information access