Monthly Archives: August 2012

2012 Sol Education Abroad Photo Contest Winners!


1st place ($250 cash prize):  Lety Avila!

Leticia Avila studied abroad with us during the Spring 2012 Semester session and her beautiful photograph was taken at the Poás Volcano during the excursion to the active volcano at Poás Volcano National Park and hike to the edge of the world’s widest crater.

Lety’s host University is the University of Texas – San Antonio.

Poás Volcano – Costa Rica

2nd place (discount on future Sol Education Abroad study abroad program):  Hanna Matikyu!

Hanna studied abroad with us during the Spring 2012 Semester session and this awesome shot was snapped at La Fortuna Waterfall. The students were away on the weekend excursion to the Arenal Volcano, Hot Springs, Rain Forest Zipline & La Fortuna Waterfall, where they experience the natural beauty of an active volcano and soak in the exotic hot springs, and zip line over the rain forest canopy.

Hanna’s host University is the Boston University.

La Fortuna Waterfall – Costa Rica

To view all of the fabulous photos our students entered, check out the Photo Contest album on Facebook!

Thank you for joining us ladies & for submitting such great photos 🙂

Fantastically Fun Fotos!

Have you voted for the Sol Education Abroad 2012 Photo Contest yet? The posting closes on August 15th. The grande prize is $250 cash money, 2nd place is $150 off a future study abroad program with Sol Education Abroad, and the top 10 finalists will have their photo published in the new Fall 2012 catalogues!

The Winner will be announced August 25th.

To help our students get their photos out there, make sure to “like” the photos in the Facebook Photo Contest Photo Album (Sol Education Abroad – 2012 Photo Contest).

Here are some beautiful examples of student photos.

2012 PHOTO CONTEST: Emily Lyons, Parque Central, Heredia, Costa Rica
2012 PHOTO CONTEST: John Going, Buenos Aires
— at Buenos Aires, Argentina.
2012 PHOTO CONTEST: Keith Slayden, Manuel Antonio
— at Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica.
Bella Cockerell – 2012 – Photo Contest
Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica
Julie Van Pelt
Costa Rica

Sol Education Abroad creates first study abroad program for oldest Historically Black University!

Morgan State University in Oaxaca!

“1867, forever engraved as a milestone in American history and noted as the birth year of Morgan State University, has come and past as a great year. With it have been various legacies and traditions. It is always amazing to be recognized as the “first” anything! Studying abroad with Sol Education Abroad and Morgan State University’s Spanish Professor, Dr. Lisa Gunn, has been an amazing experience! Knowing that we as a group, and in collaboration with many hardworking individuals, have become a first, shows that Morgan State is always growing and steadily progressing. This opportunity has shown me that your financial situation does not have to dictate what you can and cannot experience. It has shown me a larger scale of humanity and put me in touch with various emotions……”- Alisha Johnson (Morgan State University student, Sol Education Abroad alumni , Oaxaca, Mexico – Winter Break 2011).

Sol Education Abroad: Study Abroad & Spanish Immersion – dedicated to providing students with an enriching and rewarding educational experience. Morgan State University: providing opportunities of higher education to all people, regardless of their socio-economic status.  Historically Black College or University (HBCU): an educational institution established before 1964 with the intention of serving the education of the Black community.

Education, it’s in the name. Education is the catalyst that conjoins and propels these three entities. The desire to educate in an effective, individualized and affordable way is the prominent thread that Sol Education, MSU & HBCU’s share. About 35% of MSU student enrollment comes from outside of their native state, Maryland, and a large portion of the students from Universities outside of the US. With this international enrollment it is a surprise that the Morgan State Bears haven’t yet had the opportunity to embark on an overseas academic adventure. In 2011, they did.

Lead by MSU Spanish professor Dr. Elizabeth Gunn, 13 students, boarded a plane to Oaxaca, Mexico (pronunciation: [wa?xaka]), where they spent 2 weeks immersed in the beautiful and culturally rich world of south Mexico.

With almost 2 decades of experience, the Sol Education Abroad directors, US & overseas, created the very first Study Abroad program for MSU. Every aspect was carefully designed, not only to be splashed with Oaxacan culture, but to bathe in it, really absorb it. Carefully planned and perfectly executed by experienced directors, Sol Education Abroad created a 20-day adventure completely catered to what these students and faculty needed: Spanish classes for Morgan State credit, ability to use student financial aid, cultural activities, excursions in and outside the city, room & board with a local Oaxacan family (all meals), plus so much more.

Sol Education Abroad chose Oaxaca City as one of their Spanish immersion locations, because of its unique cultural life and reputation, prestigious University, and geographic location.  It is located in the southwest region of Mexico, approximately 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) away from the disheartening violence and fear of the US & Mexico border towns and northern regional towns. Oaxaca is an oasis that harbors a beautiful, happy and welcoming culture. The city attracts people for many reasons, such as its fundamental archeological sites, native culture, crafts, etc. The state of Oaxaca also has some of the greatest biodiversity in Mexico. For example, the area near the town of Mitla was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010 in recognition for the “earliest known evidence of domesticated plants in the continent.”

The history of this Mexican town serves for an amazing educational location. Settlements started in Oaxaca around 1200 BC and like most regions, over thousands of years it has endured and catapulted through it all:  various indigenous rule, Spanish conquistadores, the Mexican War of Independence, political and military struggles, a brief intervention of French imperial forces, the Mexican Revolution and multiple natural disasters. Unfortunately, Mexico’s current status has temporarily marred the economy in Oaxaca City, amongst most of Mexico.

Originally envisioned to be based in Oaxaca City, Sol Education Abroad was founded under the principles of promoting cultural understanding and the lifelong study of foreign languages. It is with these principles that Oaxaca was chosen as one its’ premiere location, because it bestows everything needed to fulfill all components of SOL’s mission: international education, language learning and cultural immersion. It is a safe, southern space for students and travelers to indulge in some of Mexico’s many wonders: people, language, food, geography, mountains, coastline, beaches, etc.

Sol Education Abroad creates experiences based on their core values for cultural immersion & Spanish language, and inaugurates the wants and needs of their individual participants and partnered schools. The Morgan State group had a chance to do and see it all:

In the mornings the students attended class at the University of Oaxaca, with small, very intimate classes, taught by professors native to Mexico. The students could choose any Spanish Language Class equivalent to their level (Beg I thru Adv II) or an elective course, Contemporary Mexico & Mexican Culture and Civilization. The University of Oaxaca boasts an extensive offering of Spanish Language & Elective courses for all levels and interests.

Of course there were city tours, an introduction to the Santo Domingo Church & Museum, a visit to the Monte Albán ruins, and Latino dance classes (mixture of Salsa, Merengue & Cumbia). On one weekend the group embarked on a trip to the Sierra Norte Mountains for a hiking experience, learned a bit of traditional Oaxacan cooking in a hands-on cooking class and even participated in one of the wonderful Volunteer & Community Service Projects organized by the SOL resident director. They also had the chances to visit the Tlacolula market and the ancient Teotilan Artisan village. There were many workshops, shows, dinners, hikes, tours, and of course, local host family time.

What does this mean for the University?

Since 1867 Morgan State has set been “setting the bar” for humanitarianism. It first trained young men in the ministry, which later transitioned into educating both black women and men. In its early years, music phenomenon, Andrew Carnegie, donated a large sum of money to help with construction and solidify the purpose and meaning of this institution. In 1939, the state of Maryland realized it needed to provide more opportunities for its black citizens. It was landmarks like these on MSU’s timeline that only reemphasized their goals, beliefs, and principle mission. In 1975 it was granted University status, and only continues to not only grow in itself, but to aid in the personal and educational growth of its students. These students are its community, its life.

Sol Education Abroad is extremely proud to have had the opportunity to integrate its education abroad expertise, and personal & educational values with those of Morgan State University. We are very honored to have gotten to provide them with yet another colossal landmark in personal and educational growth on their already, monumental timeline.

… – Alisha Johnson continued “……..The greatest lesson I have learned, is to follow through. Just because you may not understand how something will come to be does not mean you cannot work actively towards that goal or its completion. I have come to realize that the only difference between you and the rest of the world is the exact path taken to get to where we are now but at the end of the road, we are humanity. I would certainly encourage Morgan State students to participate in this program and others like it because a humbling experience can never hurt but it can always heal. 2011 marked a new milestone in our Morgan State University history and we can only venture further into success by ensuring our students are granted the opportunities and resources to partake in such lucrative, enjoyable and thrilling experiences.”

Sol Education Abroad student goes above & beyond in Community Service in Costa Rica!

Volunteer Project by Sol Education Abroad student, Laura Salvatore:


Maria Guadalupe is a seven-year-old girl with cerebral palsy; an incurable condition caused by damage to the motor control centers of the brain. Maria’s cerebral palsy is severe; she is unable to speak, move, or feed herself.  Maria also suffers from epilepsy, vomiting, chronic pain, and must be fed through tubes in her stomach.  She is totally dependent on her mother for her survival. Silvia Guadalupe emigrated from Nicaragua five years ago in order to save her daughter’s life. Without the appropriate medical care in their home country, Maria was slowly slipping away. They now rent a ranchito, a tiny house made of corrugated tin, in an extremely impoverished neighborhood in Costa Rica. Their home often floods during the rainy season, covering their floor with up to two feet of dirty river water.  As Maria grows, it becomes increasingly difficult for Silvia to care for her.  There are no ramps for Maria’s carriage, and Silvia has to carry her daughter to and from the restroom.  Silvia has scoliosis and is in dire need of a back brace and pain medication, but all of her resources go to supporting and caring for her child. Due to Silvia’s scoliosis and Maria’s increasing weight, activities like Maria’s daily bath are a constant struggle. What Maria and Silvia need most is a special chair that contains a portable toilet, wheels, and has the ability to recline. With this chair, Silvia could transport her daughter around the house without subjecting herself to constant pain. The chair would also allow her to bathe Maria and dispose of her waste with ease. This chair would transform the lives of both Silvia and Maria, but they have no hope of purchasing it themselves. It costs 350,000 colones, or about 700 dollars. Up until last month, Silvia was receiving no government compensation, no child-support from Maria’s father, and no help from her family. They lived month to month as Silvia petitioned her landlord to lower her rent and worked everyday baby-sitting, selling miscellaneous items on the street, and even begging with Maria by her side. They often went without food, only scraping together enough money for milk. Silvia applied for a pension for her daughter, and now receives roughly $360 a month. Because Silvia has to take Maria to and from school, as well as neurology and gastroenterology appointments several times a month, she is left with very little time to work. Silvia works as a babysitter on average about three hours a day, three days a week, making three dollars an hour; and because Silvia is the sole caretaker of her daughter, she has to take Maria with her wherever she goes. In total, Silvia and Maria live on about $460 per month. About $90 of this is spent on Maria’s medications, hospital and school visits. Silvia relies on the public bus for transportation, which costs another $30 per month. Another $80 goes to special foods for Maria, and rent is $140. This leaves them with just about $100 each month for other necessities–not nearly enough. Our ultimate goal is to provide Maria and Silvia with the special chair that they need for Maria’s everyday functions. With your financial support we hope to raise enough money for this chair, a back brace for Silvia, and also a proper showerhead (at the moment their water sprays directly from the pipe). A donation of any amount would greatly impact the lives of Silvia and Maria for the better.

In the SPRING SEMESTER 2012 Laura wrote this letter:

“For the past two months I have been working with a non-profit organization called Niños Sin Fronteras, also known as Children Without Borders. I have been given a special project, to advocate for a young girl who is in need, and my goal is to complete this project before I return home to the United States on December 17th.

I visited the home of a mother and her seven-year-old daughter Maria, who suffers severely from cerebral palsy. Maria needs a special wheel chair that contains a portable toilet, and has the ability to recline, for easier bathing. Maria’s mother Silvia has scoliosis, and currently is relying on her own strength to carry Maria around the home, and Silvia has practically reached the point where she can no longer physically pick up her child. After visiting their home and hearing their story, I felt compelled to attempt to make a difference in their lives. I have written their story and posted it on the Children Without Borders website, as well as created an event on facebook to raise awareness and ask for donations. I am in the process of translating my story into Spanish so that I can ask local hospitals and wheelchair companies for help here in Costa Rica as well. As of today, I have successfully raised $350.00 dollars for Maria and Silvia. The special wheel chair costs $700.00 dollars, but if possible I would like to raise a little more so that I could also supply Silvia with a back brace for her scoliosis.

If there is any way that you can donate something to this family, I would forever be grateful. I have never personally seen such poverty, nor such a dire situation in my life. Below is the story I wrote about Maria and her mother Silvia, and how you can donate. Please take the time to read it. I have also attached photos of Maria and Silvia, and their home. If you cannot donate, you can still help by forwarding Maria’s story to others you know, who may be able to help. Thank you for your time, energy, and support.

All my love,

Laura Salvatore”



Dear Family and Friends,

I am writing to inform you that I have far exceeded my goal of raising $700.00 for Maria Guadalupe, thanks to your generous donations. I cannot thank you enough for your help and support. Through donating and sharing Maria’s story, you have not only helped a little girl and her mother in need, but you have helped me to make a difference. Before leaving Costa Rica, I was able to purchase Maria’s special wheel chair and deliver it in person, as well as have Silvia fitted for the back brace she needed. The excitement and gratitude on both Silvia and Maria’s faces filled me with the joyful, heart-warming, satisfaction of being able to truly help. I will forever be thankful for having the experience of changing someone’s life for the better; a dream I could not have fulfilled without all of you.

Silvia wrote a special thank you to all of you as well, which translates as:

“By this mean, I am writing to thank you. Thank you to the collaboration of all of you, who made possible the dream of buying the bathing seat that was needed, as it was necessary for bathing my daughter. Wishing you success in your jobs. May God bless you abundantly.”

As of now we have roughly $500.00 extra dollars. Chrissie, the director of Children Without Borders in Costa Rica, and I, are currently working on finding Maria and her mother a more comfortable home through another charity organization. The extra money may be used to make a down payment on the home! Otherwise the money will be used to buy diapers, food, and other necessities for Silvia and Maria. I will keep you updated.

I have attached photos of the chair delivery, as well as the thank you note from Silvia and a picture frame Maria made for me in her class. Thank you again for your help.

All of my love,

Laura Salvatore

2012 Sol Education Abroad PHOTO CONTEST!

Dear SOL student,

Submit your best study abroad photo and win $250!

Sol Education Abroad Photo Contest Instructions:

1) Prizes
– 1st Place: $250 cash!

2nd Place: $150 off a future Study Abroad program with Sol Education Abroad (not redeemable for cash nor transferable to other programs or students).
– Top 10 finalists will have their photo included in the next catalogue

2) Post your BEST photo to our fanpage wall (
a) In the caption of the photo make sure to type: “2012 PHOTO CONTEST: Your Name, Photo Location”
 b) Only submit 1 photo (if you submit more than 1, we will only use your 1st photo)

3) Dates: 
– Jul 7th: Photo posting opens
– Jul 7th – Aug 15th: Open voting!
– Aug 15th: Photo posting closes (any photos posted after 5pm CST will not be considered for the photo contest). Once a photo is moved to the album “Sol Education Abroad – 2012 Photo Contest” album it is open for voting. You will have from July 4th – Aug 15th to get as many “likes” (votes) as you can!
– Aug 25th: Winner Announced!

4) HOW to vote: You will vote by “liking” the photos in the album “Sol Education Abroad – 2012 Photo Contest”.

– You do NOT have to be a SOL student or alumni to vote! Get your friends & family in on it too and get them to help you win!
– You must like our fanpage to post a photo or vote
– Eligibility: any student who participated in a Sol Education Abroad 2012 Study Abroad program (January 2012 – August 30th) students will be allowed to enter photos.

*Photos sent by email will NOT be accepted.

Photo and Video Release: I consent to the use of photographs or video footage that I am in and my comments about the Program to be used by Sol Education Abroad for publicity purposes and to the distribution of
information about the Program to my parents or guardians whom I have specified in my Sol Education Abroad paperwork.

Good luck!