Study Abroad – See sports you NEVER expected!

A lot of attention is paid to sports in the United States, but the craze for competition goes well beyond American shores. For those of you who love sports and can’t imagine a semester without the sports pages, ESPN or sports talk, don’t worry there’s hope abroad. In America we love our football. In Europe they have..well, football and in Australia they have.. well football. The Aussies may also call it Footie and the Europeans may call it The Beautiful Game and for those of you considering study abroad it is yet another chance to experience cultural immersion.

From Finland to East Asia let’s explore some of the silliest, wackiest, and most outrageous competitions around. At first glance these sports will make your head spin, but pull up a chair, pop open a beverage, stoke up the grill and join the global tailgate, because sports abroad can be as entertaining as it gets!

photo courtesy of The Georgetonian

photo courtesy of The Georgetonian

First stop Finland:

Land of fine chocolates, fiord hockey and cheerful shoes. Finland has been the butt of many jokes about cultures both strange and exotic. But really, she’s a good country and one that plays host to one of the world’s most triumphant competitions known, in Fin-speak, as Eukankanto. Translation: Wife Carrying.

The pictured ‘carry’ is known as Estonian style. Wife Carrying is a heralded sport in it’s European home that not surprisingly has penetrated other cultures across the continents. On competition day, an annual event, wives will enjoy having their husband lunge through sandy, fenced, and wet obstacles all while just inches from their partner’s bum. Ultimately, the prize to gain is not the glory of “World Wife Carrying Champion” but rather the grand prize of your wife’s weight in beer.


Next stop, Japan where you might have thought Sumo was as strange or bizarre as it gets. No, we found a sport that may have started as a training regiment for Power Rangers. It is called Bo Taoshi and it looks something like this:



The object of the game is for the defending team to keep its pole at full mast for as long as possible. As you can see from the video, there is an attacking team that will scrape, claw, fight, and even walk on you to bring it down. The match ends when the pole is tilted to a 35-degree angle from its 90 degree start. It doesn’t seem like there a lot of regulation but there is surely a lot of participation. It cannot be for the faint of heart since the Japanese military uses it as a training exercise for recruits. This bizarre sport should probably be reserved for adults considering its extremely physical nature, but I for one would love to be in the Fujitsu super box watching this one replayed over and over!


Moving away from the made for TV sports, our last comes from Central Asia, the region consisting of countries like Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan. There you will find something very out of this world and something that I can assure you the NCAA will never sanction on campuses. It is a very widely played sport in this area and also the national sport of Afghanistan called Buzkashi. Translation: Goat Bashing.

photo found on

photo found on

Okay so it isn’t exactly how it sounds. Goat Bashing is more of a relative translation. The sport more so involves the use of a goat and probably more bashing of other riders instead of the goat…which starts the game dead. The fierce competition begins with a dead goat lying on the ground and 10 men on horseback. Basically the object of the game is to snag the goat up from the desert ground and carry it to the goal. Matches can be played as teams or individually where every rider plays for their self. Some of these matches see hundreds, maybe even thousands, of spectators during the season that spans from November to mid-spring. Before anyone gets too judgmental, try to imagine what your typical Central Asian resident would think of the BCS Championship or the Final Four and all of its unbridled enthusiasm. Fun fact about Buzkashi, it was actually banned by the Taliban regime but since their ousting from control, the sport is being enjoyed by Afghanistan’s people once more.

If you love sports like I do, and you want to study abroad, let me assure you that missing one Iron Bowl or Red River Shootout, Holy War or World’s Largest Cocktail Party (all annual rival Football games for you non football lovers) for the likes of Buzkashi, Bo Taoshi or Eukankanto is, as they say, PRICELESS! People everywhere share a love for competition and it can be a way for you to connect with the new environments that lie ahead of you. Competition is in our blood and can often be very healthy, unless you are the goat! If you’re headed for a part of the world that Fox NFL Sunday doesn’t cover then I’d say explore what kinds of sports satisfy the locals. You can bring your culture to them, tailgate and chant and maybe even participate if you try hard enough. If not, then no worries. Kick back, see the sights, and have faith in the thought that you definitely aren’t the only one to do a double take at some of these bizarre events.

Interested in exploring sports abroad? Visit for programs all over the world.


Restaurant signboardPerhaps you’re sitting there staring at the computer worried about money. I know the feeling because I just graduated school a few months ago. But if your money troubles are study abroad related than you have a unique situation to exploit. For my study abroad bound friends it’s likely you’ve discussed where you’ll want to visit that isn’t where your host family resides. One former study abroad student I know was able to meander from France, through the Netherlands, and into Italy’s Venizia (or Venice). Traveling outside of your study abroad city is definitely to be encouraged.

Every town, whether you’re traveling in the vast Australian Outback or the frigid city of Moscow, has a little bit of a different flavor. I can’t stress enough that Study Abroad is your chance to explore and step outside of your comfort boundaries. Sounds an awful lot like a college acceptance brochure, eh? In lieu of your chance to spend freely and dabble in the not-so-oft seen treasures of this world I’m offering just a few tips of how to save cash so you can spend it wisely.

First tip is to plan way in advance. Fortune was not a favor of the man who dropped everything to go sailing from Spain. Planning ahead does the favor of telling us where we’ll already be spending money so we don’t have to constantly count how much is left for fun things. Keeping a watchful eye on your particular currency exchange rates will help too.

Let’s talk about food. I love it and I love going out to eat. My Koreatown home in Los Angeles offers many Korean BBQ’s and Taco trucks that I’d love to indulge in every afternoon and night. Yet, much like most people, I must brave the kitchen and make my own confections in the interest of saving a little cash. This should be your norm as well. Just go to the grocery store instead of going out to eat every night on vacation. Let’s say you’ve made it to Paris for the week. Good luck paying for French wine by the glass and little omelets every morning without going broke. Do yourself a favor and maybe look up some localized recipes and explore the town market before opening your wallet for a little extra fromage.

So you’ve got an itinerary and a way to save on food. But where to stay? As a student you probably won’t be staying in any Trump hotels or fancy shmancy accommodations. That is, unless you feel like and can, spend the money on it. For those of us tight on a budget but oozing with adventurous sentiments we can always go to hostels. I know Eli Roth had his version of one but in reality they aren’t so bad. You’ll meet some interesting travelers, take selfies in the shared rooms, and even have a little kitchen to cook your own meals. That way when the weekend comes you’ll have fun times lined up and cash to back it.

– Mark Melchior


image of mark melchior

Mark Melchior has a B.S. in Television and Film Production from the Park school of Communications, Ithaca College, and is a contributing writer and staff Sommelier at Abroad101. While he’s not telling you how to quell your travel anxieties you can find him at the local record store, stuck in traffic, or quietly eating a slice of pizza. He is based in sunny Los Angeles, CA.

Connect with Mark through LinkedIn. 


Study abroad advice from the talking picture box.

Image of a man on a TV looking for a study abroad program



Studying abroad is about more than just picking a cool place to bed down for a semester. It’s also about what you get from the whole experience. But you don’t want to be caught in such a culture shock that the trip ends up being a bad time. If baguettes and wine make you queasy than you can cross France right off your list of choices. If kangaroos are a source of torment and anxiety than perhaps Australia isn’t for you. But as the Aussies would say, ‘no worries.’ I would be a bad American if I turned to anything other than television shows to tell me what to do. Thus, here are a few shows to help facilitate your choice of Study Abroad destinations.

Parts Unknown

If you didn’t think Anthony Bourdain was going to be on this list then shame on you. This guy has made the better half of his living on the Travel Channel’s No Reservations but now has an even more compelling program on CNN titled Parts Unknown. The two shows are like a PC and a Mac; mostly the same except they are not.

Parts Unknown follows the familiar voice of Bourdain throughout many exotic locations. Some notable mentions include Copenhagen, Johannesburg, Spain, and more. Unlike his previous TV stint, Bourdain takes a little bit of a back seat in this series and lets locals squire him about town. What? You don’t like the idea of watching a famous celebrity chef and entrepreneur eat at Sizzler in L.A.’s Koreatown? The food on the show is stellar and takes the stage while witty humor, local flavor, and an overwhelming sense of unfamiliarity make this show perfect for a preliminary dissection of your potential host city.

PBS Nature

Yes I said it. PBS. Please, hold your cries of boredom back because public broadcasting can do you a lot of good. It’s surprising how many fellow 20-somethings I know don’t indulge in the wealth of material available through the Public Broadcasting Service.

Nature could actually be what reveals some of the most enticing beauty about where you’ll be studying. I had a friend go to Africa for a while and his instagram turned into a tangible form of all that stuff you see during “The Circle of Life.” Here’s the lowdown on the PBS nature docs. First of all, they are spectacular and have a fair amount of production value. They’re shot beautifully. Second, they are free to watch so for those of us (raise your hand) Netflix junkies will have no problem watching them online.

These docs have gorgeous pictures of the landscapes and wildlife in the regions they’re filmed. I already know that if possible you are all going to Snapchat everyone with the obligatory shot of the plane’s wing when you’re airborne but how about when you actually land? If aesthetics are important to your vibe and you need an idea of what the rainforest really looks and feels like then you can turn to PBS and the Nature series for a helpful preview.

Music Voyager

This show is more of a bonus because as far as I know it’s only available on Amazon Instant Video. You can probably score the service for free temporarily if you haven’t exhausted an Amazon Student account (free Prime and Instant Video). Music Voyager features Ethnomusicologist Jacob Edgar around the world as he explores foreign beats. The slogan is ‘Tune in to the World.” Sounds “Study Abroad” enough for me.

The locations he’s covered include the West Indies, India and East Asia, Louisiana, and beyond. Music is a spectacular way to explore a region and culture due to the fact that even instruments are location based objects. The rhymes and rhythm of another country can tell you the history of its people, and its future. For those of us that want to capture the true essence of a specific region and culture Music Voyager is there to offer some guidance.


– Mark Melchior

image of mark melchiorMark Melchior is a recent graduate of the Park school of Communications, Ithaca College. 

Connect with Mark through LinkedIn. 



Strategies For The Directionally Challenged


image of signpostBy guest author: Mark Melchior

Remember going to the grocery store with Mom as a kid? She wanted to get paper towels and lunch meat but the only reason you went was to try your hand at snagging the Reese’s Puffs. Then all of the sudden, everything changes. What was once a glorious, colorful, and enticing environment of snacking perfection became a carnival of madness the second you realized you’d strayed away from Mom. Traveling abroad can have a similar feeling of desperation. With time changes, jet lag, strange languages, and that guy that is way too persistent in selling you a botched painting, Abroad 101 understands how being a little ‘Directionally Challenged’ can affect both your experience and willingness to travel over seas.

Not to worry because we’ve decided to come up with a few tips to make getting lost on your adventures a little less stressful.

Travel Light

You’re moving temporarily, yes. Do you need that industrial strength hair drier? No. Traveling light will save you both time and energy when it comes to moving about the globe. Try to visualize your daily routine abroad and ask yourself, “What do I need now and what can I get when I’m there?” Generally I’d say that a French toothbrush works just as good as an American version. Essentially this tip makes our list because traveling light means traveling easy. No extra weight to lug about and no need to find space for all the bags.

Sometimes you can fit more things into smaller spaces. Youtube has plenty of packing techniques like the Bundle Fold or the Army Ranger T-Shirt Roll. You’ll be glad you packed well in the event you get truly stuck on your journey abroad.

#2 Write It Down

For this tip I call once more on a beloved childhood memory when Mom, Dad, & family go on a little trip. Somewhere along the way the car strays into the, “Oh no, I just realized I have no clue where anything and everything is and I’m lost,” zone.

This is the main ingredient in the Nobody Gets To Have Fun cocktail.

So let it be known simply as WRITE IT DOWN. Have an itinerary when you travel. Copies of boarding passes, payments, destinations will help. If you don’t speak Portuguese but have the address of your host family’s residence, in Portuguese, then I’m confident you’ll be able to find help easier. Also, do yourself a little favor and learn some key words like ‘left’ and ‘right.’ Maybe even know of some major landmarks in the area just in case it gets serious. Preparing beforehand will always help so do your research before you land in China. It’s like G.I. Joe always said, “Knowing is half the battle.”

#3 The Airport

This place will either make or break your ability to nap happily on the long flight to Australia. I’m talking about the Airport. These structures are notorious for their confusing nature; just ask my mother who was practically ready to build a fort in the Cincinnati airport after a debilitating change to the whole airline’s flight schedule.

I’m usually fine with any car travel but there’s something about flashing my ID every nine feet, belt-less, shoe less, and patience-less that makes me hate waddling through airport security. Once again clothed I make my way through to the different terminals while simultaneously dodging every bewildered individual with their head captivated by the majestic flight board. Not so majestic when you realize the gate number keeps changing. Or the terminal. Which one is which again? This is my point exactly.

Airports are meant to be both easy to navigate and over stimulated which causes you to forget which direction you’re moving. It’s like a Vegas casino that actually wants you to leave but there is no clear way out. For example, an airline once changed my flight’s terminal and gate number seven or eight times within 15 minutes at Chicago-O’Hare. Not only that, but how am I supposed to keep track of where the flight is when there is a perfectly good airport T.G.I. Fridays that needs my patronage? My solution? Twitter. The flight was changing so much that I decided that I would ask via tweet to the airline when I finished my meal. It worked famously!

If your itinerary, Twitter, and patience fail you, and you decided that you could just carry on the industrial strength hair drier, your last resort is to ask for help. This surprisingly is very difficult for some folks. Good news, in an airport even the janitor can help you. The staff are navigation experts, especially airport security, and even the various restaurant staff. Plus as a bonus, if you try and look desperate enough they might even take you right to the flight deck. I once had a kindly man whisk me away on a golf cart across Philadelphia International just because I looked lost.

These tips will not guarantee a hassle free travel experience but most certainly will help in a time of stress. The best thing you can do is embrace the spirit of going abroad and meet the stress of traveling with a good attitude…and maybe a few directions too.

– Mark Melchior

image of mark melchiorMark Melchior is a recent graduate of the Park school of Communications, Ithaca College. 

Connect with Mark through LinkedIn.