Category Archives: University

Un regalo for your Host Family!

So, you’re going away! You’re gathering up your belongings and packing what you can into 1 or 2 suitcases (definitely not more!). You also get the wonderful opportunity to stay with a local host family. Don’t forget to stuff something into your suitcase for them!

You’ll get to share three meals a day with them and through their lifestyle learn the language & culture. The Host Family is one of the BEST ways to completely immerse yourself in your host culture. This will be your greatest and most intimate contact with the culture and people of your host country.

Now, what to bring them? Not only is it a nice gesture to someone welcoming you into their home, but it’s a nice ice breaker and also gives them a glimpse into YOUR culture 🙂

We have some ideas of gifts for your host family, but we also want to share with you what some of our students have taken to their host family.

Sol suggestions:

  • A small, inexpensive regional gift from the states (such as a coffee mug, postcard book, small bottle of maple syrup or hot sauce, etc.). Food items that the family can share always work well.
  • Something for the house (maybe a coffee table book from your state, a kitchen towel, etc.)
  • Family-style board games (that don’t require a language), local treats like preserves, candies, or maple syrup, a coffee-table photo book of their hometown, or a dry baking mix like blueberry muffins, biscuits, or scones

Alumni advice:

  • “I bought my Mama Tica an angel chime... She hung it by the door, and still tells me she thinks of me every time she hears it! I got a fashion watch for my sister and toys for mi hermano! Food is always good too! My second time I brought my moms Xmas cookies and a pretty picture frame. Ok I want to go back now!”- Emily Mullen (Wisconsin)  – Costa Rica
  • “I brought my Mama Tica a waffle iron… waffles are my favorite breakfast…. once I showed her how to make it she made them almost everyday… her daughter is like in love with waffles now and if was a nice start to the time being there… I also got the daughter her own gift and the family some picture frames…” – Lauryn Green (Southern California) – Costa Rica
  • “I bought my mama Oaxaquena a personalized spatula from my University because she loved to cook and also I bought a Christmas ornament!“- Brandi Moore (Kentucky) – Mexico
  • “I work at a boutique so I knew my family was religious and I brought them a handmade pearl cross for their wall”- Kasey Hirl (Texas) – Costa Rica
  • “I spent 3 weeks with 2 families in Japan in high school. I got each individual something small (like a Superman t-shirt for the teenage boy, jump rope for the 8 year-old girl), etc. As a family gift, I created a small scrapbook. It featured photos of my family, school, friends, and hobbies. The photos were then captioned (as best as possible) in both English and Japanese – so that they could show off where I was from!” – Karolyn Wotjowicz (Indiana) (Colleague &  Study Abroad Alumni)
  • “Spent a week in Costa Rica and I brought my family some maple syrup from home and they LOVED it.”- Ben Marx (New Hampshire) – Costa Rica
  • “I got a key chain of my state cause every student gets a home key in Argentina.” – Laury Valdes (Alabama) – Argentina
  • “I brought a candle to my host family. Somehow we lost something in translation and my host family thought it was something to eat. They liked it once they realized what it was though!”– Parker Tibbets (Texas) – Mexico
  • “I took a little photo album with pictures that i felt best resembled me. Also, being a Texan, it wasn’t hard to find souvenirs to take over to represent the Lone Star State; which they loved!!!”- Jory Garcia (Texas) – Spain
  • “I brought food that was only made in my state. and candy they loved it!”- Mat Walter (Minnesota) – Costa Rica
  • “When I went to Costa Rica I brought a few things like a coffee table book of my hometown and a t-shirt for the kid but my host mother absolutely loved the cook book that I brought!!”- Zoe Rianna – Costa Rica

The Host Family gift shouldn’t be anything too expensive or fancy, but it is a nice offering & an opportunity to share with them about your culture as well!

Please feel free to email us ( or post on the Facebook wall about an other suggestions you have and would like to see added to our list! Even things that didn’t work out – did you have a bust of a Host Family gift, and wish you would have had something as awesome as this helpful blog post to guide you on choosing an item? We’d love to hear your funny tales of the Host Family Gift that DIDN’T Quite make the cut. Or! Do you have a funny story like Parker? How did the communication go when you first presented them with your gift? Did they want to eat your candle? Let us know!

Texas Table Cactus – maybe not take this on the plane, but it’s an idea!

“Thanks, I got it at Rebajas!”

While living in Cádiz, I knew this girl whom we’ll call Bootstraps. When the new year of 2010 rolled around, it seemed every day she would come into the apartment with a new jacket on or new boots. She often carried new hand bags, scarves and always had some new & amazing store to rave about! What was this anomaly? Boostraps had stumbled upon the January mercantile tradition of Rebajas! Whenever we said, “Oye, guapa, me encanta tu vestido nuevo!”she would answer, “Thanks, I got it at rebajas”, or ask, “Rubia, ¿dónde compraste esa chaqueta nueva? es super güey!” She would answer, “Thanks, I got it at rebajas”. It was simply such an exciting time, our ears & eyes were flooded with rebajas! Big red signs displaying the magic word were everywhere.


Whether you’re a fashionista, love saving money or simply like being clothed, you will love the sales in Spain during January. Some of the most amazing sales you will ever see in your life begin around the second week of January, right after the Three Kings Festival (Los Reyes Magos). These phenomenal sales occur in three stages: first, rebajas, then an even BIGGER markdown for a second wave of rebajas, and then finally, the third portion: FINAL CLEARANCE SALES! Europe in general is always on the cutting edge of fashion, and for our students in Spain, you’ll definitely get some of this filtered down into the South East corner to our favorite Spanish city, Granada! Stores will be swollen with incredibly priced clothes, jewelry, shoes, hats, garments, watches, etc. Anything you can imagine for prices you cannot!

The English translation of Rebaja is reduction or discount. Imagine an entire month just dedicated to reducing prices on fashionable items! (Sure, many of them you may not find suitable as the Southern Spaniards can be quite eccentric in what they choose to put on their bodies or how they style their hair, but who’s to stay the mullet didn’t die in the 80’s? (There is a little bit of everything for everyone). Have you noticed the abundance of Spanish mullets still? During my time in Granada my friends and I would spend certain afternoons on what we called our Mullet Safari. How many Spanish mullets can you count in one day?

Here are a few images of local Granada customs, including REBAJAS:

You will find clothes & accessories of all kinds, from the classy & streamlined edges of Zara, to the young & frisky elements of Blanco, swooping around to the edgy, urban woman of Mango, your shopping in Granada will not be in vain! (Okay, it might be, but take advantage of your time there). Course there are countless independent stores as well, including souevnir shops of local Andalucíans & Northern Africans. As for the Gypsies that congregate in front of the Catedral offering you a sprig of their rosemary – CAUTION!  They will hand it to you as a friendship offering, however  this “gift” is not free, not even on sale! Simply smile, watch your belongings closely, and enjoy flipping through racks of discounted goodies.

The main shopping area in Granada is near Puerta Real in the streets Reyes Católicos, Recogias, Mesones y Acera del Darro.

I hope anyone lucky enough to be in Spain at this time, or really, just be in Spain, has the time & means to partake in this wonderful tradition 🙂

P.S. Scarves make great gits.


Sol Education Abroad – 2013 Photo Contest (Winter & Spring)

Dear SOL student,

Submit your best study abroad photo and win $250!

Sol Education Abroad Photo Contest Instructions:

1) How to submit:
– Email Sol Education Abroad at your best
photo at it’s original size (largest amount of pixels & largest size possible).
– In the subject of the email put:
Sol Education Abroad 2013 Photo Contest – YOUR NAME.
– In the body of the email please include: your name, your session, country, and
where the photo was taken.

2) How to vote:

– A Facebook photo album will be created titled, “Sol Education Abroad – 2013
Photo Contest (Winter & Spring)
“. Once we receive the photos via email they will be posted to the album, and then they are open for voting.
–  You will vote by clicking the “like” button for the photo.
–  Anyone is welcome to vote! Get your friends & family in on the voting to help
you win!

3) Dates:
– Dec 15th: Photo posting opens
– Dec 15th – May 1st: Open voting!
– May 1st: Photo posting closes (any photos emailed after 5pm CST will not be considered for the photo contest). Once a photo is moved to the album “Sol Education Abroad – 2013 Photo Contest (Winter & Spring)” album it is open for voting. You will have from Dec 15th – May 1st to get as many “likes” (votes) as you can!
– May 15th: Winner Announced!

4) Prizes

– 1st Place: $250 cash!
– 2nd Place: $150 off a future Study Abroad program with Sol Education Abroad
(not redeemable for cash nortransferable to other programs or students).
– Top 10 finalists will all have their photo included in the next catalogue.

4) Eligibility:
– The contest is open to Winter Break 2012/2013 & Spring Semester 2013
– The voting is open to everyone!

See last year’s contestants & winners: Sol Education Abroad – 2012 Photo Contest (Summer)

Good luck!

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.


Scholarship Winners! (Winter Break 2013)

The Sol Education Abroad family would like to announce the 2013 Winter Break scholarship winners!

After a nail-biting competition, and reading some wonderful short essays, we’ve selected our 2013 Winter Break candidates. In fact, our applicants were all so deserving, we were not able to choose just one and had to share a little bit with three winners!

Winter Break 2013:

1st place – Allan Mullin- $250!
University of Houston Costa Rica

1st place – Mica Murray – $250!
University of HoustonCosta Rica

3rd place – Erin Best – $150!
Oklahoma State University Mexico

*The above winners will receive these amounts discounted from their Study Abroad Program Fees. ¡Felicidades!

Sol Education Abroad celebrates Gilman Scholarship recipients!

Among the many scholarships specifically for Study Abroad is the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship. The Gilman Scholarship Program offers awards for undergraduate study abroad and was established in 2000. This scholarship provides awards for undergraduate students (from the U.S.) who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study abroad programs worldwide.

Among many other great qualities, the recipients of this award are high academic achievers, creative, hard-working and have a drive to explore and learn about the world and its abundance of cultures.

We’re very excited to celebrate & share the Sol Education Abroad scholars that have received this generous award in support of helping fund their Study Abroad experience.

  • Chelsea GravesTexas A&M UniversityCosta Rica Summer 2012
  • Edith CamposUniversity of HoustonCosta RicaSpring 2013
  • Michael GlowczewskiWinona State UniversitySpain Spring 2013
  • Jessica EndresTexas A&M UniversityCosta RicaSpring 2013
  • “The application requires a proposal of a Follow On Project to be
    completed the semester after the student returns that applies what
    they have learned and gained from their study abroad experience. My
    Follow On Project focuses on my community as well as my university. At
    Texas A&M, I volunteer at College Hills Elementary School and when I
    return, I am going to volunteer in one of the English as a Second
    Language rooms to practice my newly improved Spanish skills and to
    help kids in the community to learn English. I also volunteer at the
    Baptist Student Ministries teaching English to international students
    with other Aggies. My Spanish skills will obviously help me in
    teaching English; it already has helped me help others multiple times,
    but when I return, I will be able to have more in depth conversations
    in Spanish. I am going to keep a detailed blog and am going to try my best to get
    it promoted through Texas A&M’s Study Abroad website as well as the
    Baptist Student Ministries website. I think that my experience will be
    encouraging to other students to study abroad and that my story of
    funding will also be an encouragement!”- Jessica Endres

We would like to congratulate them on their hard work and look forward to having the future students join us this Spring!


Keep up the good work!

*To learn more about The Gilman Scholarship Program, click here!

Western Kentucky University is our newest Affiliation!

The Sol Education Abroad team is pleased to announce the newest member to our community of affiliated Universities: Western Kentucky University!

Make sure you contact us to learn about the amazing benefits of choosing an affiliate program and of course all of the amazing benefits to studying abroad!

WKU Study Abroad & Global Learning office:

128 Grise Hall , 1906 College Heights Blvd
Phone: 270.745.2571

Sol Education Abroad:

P.O. Box 523, Austin, TX 78767
Phone: 512.380.1003

SOL EDUCATION ABROAD offers summer, semester, academic year, winter break & Intensive Spanish programs as well as faculty-led customized programs for university students at the following locations (with the academic institutions where classes are taught). Our programs include everything except the flight (tuition, excursions, cultural activities, homestay, medical insurance, and much, much more!)

* Buenos Aires, Argentina (University of Belgrano)
* Oaxaca, Mexico (University of Oaxaca)
* Heredia, Costa Rica (Latin University of Costa Rica)
* Granada, Spain (University of Granada)

Join many other Hilltoppers to see & know more of the world!

Getting Ready?

Dear Future Study Abroad students & Travelers,

This is a work in progress (please forgive that!), but it’ll slowly grow into the best preparation document you could find 🙂 I wanted to share my experience & ideas with you while you’re preparing for one of the best adventures you will have in your life!

Again, it’ll be updated when I get time, and of COURSE I welcome any feedback and ideas. Lets help everyone have the best experience possible! Thank you!


A new country. Another language. New culture. Different food. And of course, distinctive dental work.

Distinctive to the perfectly, straight, bright & shiny, uniform smiles that us Americans get quite used to.


Are you getting ready for your Study Abroad experience?

Are you throwing clothes around you room and giddy with excitement? Has your Mom had it with you trying to invent your own Spanish tapas, or Costa Rican Gallo Pinto?

What to do…how to prepare….ways to organize.

First, stop & breathe! You are going to another country, and that is amazing! What a great gift that is to be one of the lucky people to get to jump on a plane and explore another world.

Alright, now here are some ideas & thoughts to help you get ready & prepared!


Get Prepared & stay excited!
– There will be paperwork. Get used to it. But any required forms, signatures & fees are ALL totally, and completely worth it. I’m just prepping you in advanced so you don’t let any unfriendly Financial Aid office people get you down, or deadlines stress you out. Keep yourself motivated by learning as much as you can about your country. When you have a free minute or two, read books, listen to music of your host country, online articles, Sol Education Abroad Country Handbooks, watch videos set in the country you’re going, and the Travel Channel! Never underestimate it’s power.

Here are a few examples of things that really helped fuel me prior to going (and help settle me back into the States upon return are):

Literature & Guides: Lonely Planet, Hostel World, Rough Guides, Mood Guides & Let’s Go!
Shoe String Budget Guides (Lonely Planet)

Rick Steeves, Fodor’s & Frommer’s!

Off the beaten path Travel Guide: Vice Guide to Travel! “Dangerous, weird, and offbeat locations throughout the globe” – Now doesn’t that sound intriguing?

Movies: Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Spain), Motorcycle Diaries (South America)

Music: Rodrigo & Gabriela (Spanish influence), La Vida Buena ATX (Salsa & Latin influence),

Trip & Inspiration and Ideas:

– Guide Book Sites! – See above.
– Google: Independent Travel
– (tons of insights & tips!) (great review of all materials for travelers!) (catered for female travelers). (Go! And don’t come back….Just kidding! Your friends & family might be upset….)

Language: if you’re going to a country that hosts a different language (even English!), make sure you brush up on AT LEAST the basics! If you’re a beginner, great! You’ll have an achievable challenge ahead of you.

It is a GREAT idea to carry a little pocket-size phrase book (I carried a Lonely Planet one throughout Italy and used it about 13 times every day!)

All of the above suggestions are going to help you with language preparation, but stay as connected to your host culture as you can. Listen to music, read books, host country local newspapers, movies, and if you have any friends or family fluent in the language, use them as a great resource! They will be excited to help you and proud 🙂

Don’t brush off English prep. Of course we have our distinctive dialect. It’s a good idea to review greetings, salutations, and any word differences you might come across. For example, have you ever heard of the popular 80’s garment, a Fanny Pack? Well, check out what the British use the word Fanny for. There are PLENTY of other examples of phrases that might get you in trouble, so to avoid any troubles, check out the common language before you go!

– I like to use Word Reference for a quick word & phrase find.

– For Spanish (which is my forte) verb conjugation this has saved my life many times: Spanish Verb Conjugation

– Check out Sol Education Abroad‘s quick guide for Spanish Helpful Words & Phrases (you’ll find one at the end of every Country Handbook).

– Do a word of the day! Use your Smart Phone (Android, iPhone, Windows, whatever!) and download a word of the day app. You can wake up with it, and start your day right.
Then share it with us on our Facebook wall, so we can all work as a team to help all of our students to prepare.
*What’s YOUR word of the day?


One of the most procrastinated tasks of planning for your adventure abroad! But don’t put it off! It should top your list of priorities in preparation for your voyage.

My personal travel notion: “Put all the money you wish to take, and all the things you wish to take on your bed. Take half your things and twice your money!”

Make sure you think about all angles of the program! What are you going to need to budget for? What does your Program already include? With Sol Education Abroad programs you can count on EVERYTHING being included (minus airfare and personal spending money). Check out: What’s Included!

Lay it Out!

Program Fee: $#,### (make a list of what it includes!)
Airfare: Which country are you going to & when? How soon in advance should you book your flight? Generally, the best deals will be 2-4 months in advance.

Make sure you allow yourself enough time to purchase your flight, since ticket prices will only go up as you approach your program start date. We recommend the following sites to search for tickets:

– SideStep: (searches over 200 travel websites)
– Student Airfares:  &
– Orbitz:
– Expedia:
– Skyscanner:
– American Airlines:  (AA is no longer on many of the search engines!)

Personal Spending Money: – Our suggestions for our locations are as follows:
*Argentina:  $120-$150/week
*Costa Rica: $100-$130/week
*Mexico:      $100-$130/week
*Spain:       $130-$150/week

*These estimates are quite high, but it’s better safe than sorry! Also, make sure you think about if you will be do any weekend travel. Remember, in the summer there is a Sol led excursion every weekend! The semester sessions include one a month.

Some things to think about…
– What is your host country’s currency called?

Argentina: Argentine Peso
Spain: Euros
Costa Rica: Colón
Mexico: Peso

And what is the exchange rate? – Most up to date Exchange rates. (Use this site to compare and contrast the cost of living in different countries!)

What is my host country’s Country Code?
Argentina: +54
Costa Rica: +506
Mexico: +52
Spain: +34

Some helpful travel links para vosotros: (Travel Tips, Travel Planning & Discount Travel) (Help in choosing the best Credit Card for your international traveling)


– Bank

– Packing
– Phone

– Your school’s study abroad office
– Paperwork
– Flight