Lebanon Valley College Study Abroad


The first time I heard of the West Lake was during our trip to Beijing. We went to the Capital back in September during the first month of our study abroad experience. Our program visited the Summer Palace after walking most of the day through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, both political and cultural relics of China. The Summer Palace was beautiful; resting adjacent to a picturesque lake that I presumed was naturally formed. Little did I know that the entire grounds of the palace were seated on the soil that was dredged up to form this man-made lake. The lake was created by workers hauling buckets of earth and depositing them nearby, surmounting in a great hill that is at the center of the Palace grounds. I wondered what the inspiration was that would drive the Emperors of ancient China to build such a place. What were they trying to replicate? It was the West Lake in Hangzhou, over 1,300 kilometers south of the Capital.


Hearing of the Lake’s beauty, and considering how the emperors of old replicated it in the Capital I was eager to finally see the original lake. We departed from out dorm for Hangzhou around 8:30 in the morning last Saturday, taking a high speed train from Shanghai Hongqiao Station, arriving just in time for lunch. Meeting a local friend of our program coordinator, I was glad to have the chance to practice my Chinese and learn about the area. We headed over to restaurant near the station. There we had a family style meal chock full of local dishes including dumplings, seafood balls, meat, and vegetable dishes. There was not one thing on the table that I didn’t like, and my favorite was a peanut dish. They were soaked in a kind of vinegar sauce that made you pucker; they were so good I had to get a doggie bag to snack on them later.


From the restaurant we walked through the downtown area, past a canal and some old-style residential areas. I noticed the streets were much less crowded than Shanghai or Beijing, Hangzhou being a city of only 8 million. This comparison would have shocked me before coming to China, as the closest city to my home, Baltimore, has just over half a million residents. But now, having lived in a city of 24 million for over three months, the streets of Hangzhou felt relatively unoccupied. It was somewhat refreshing.


We passed Halal restaurants and western-style coffee shops, heading towards the lake. Here the crowds became denser, waiting to walk across a small arch bridge then along a zigzagged path that spanned part of the shoreline. Our group made it out onto the bridge and got a quick photo. Next to the lake shore, we saw the beautiful lake and surrounding mountains. Off in the distance to the left was a pagoda, and out on the lake there were many boats ferrying people about. We would find out where the boats would take us the following day. We ventured along the shore, walking through several parks where people were playing folk instruments, singing songs, and dancing. This is one thing I will miss about China, how the older generations fill social places with music and life. It makes me smile.


The next day we took a boat across the lake to an island where we found trees bursting with fall color encircling three small pools. The island was small and we were able to explore it in its entirety in about an hour, snapping a ton of great photos with the beautiful backdrop nature provided. Taking the same boat back to shore, a bus was waiting to take us to the next destination, one of the biggest Buddhist temples in all of China. Through a short spat of traffic around the lake, we made it to the temple grounds in good time. First we saw Buddha’s carved into a cliff face, I estimate there were as many as 20 of them strewn about the rock. A placard revealed that some of them were over 1000 years old. I enjoyed this place because it was truly ancient, whereas in some other tourist destinations the structures I found had been reconstructed within the last 20 years or so. As were the temples that we would see next, which were rebuilt during the 1990’s. Still they were a sight to behold, housing massive Buddha’s and occupied by the devoted. We burned incense, explored the temples, and headed back on the bus to our final stop in our tour of Hangzhou.


The Ancient Cultural Street that the driver took us to reminded me a lot of the area surrounding the Yu Gardens in Shanghai. Full of handicrafts and local treasures, this place was also crowded with tourists, even a few westerners. I tried to stay off the crowded main street, so I stuck with our local friend Tom for this part of the trip. He took me into some traditional Chinese medicine stores, which I found fascinating. They had a barrel of free tea and boxes upon boxes of natural remedies. People sipped tea and discussed with the shop’s proprietors (who wore white lab coats like doctors) about their ailments and such. I did not dabble in any of the cures, though. Maybe the next time I am in China I will. We left the cultural street late that evening and began our journey back to Shanghai.


It had been a long day, and the bus ride back was relaxing. I reflected on the city and our activities there, and I wish I had known about the treasures of Hangzhou sooner.  It would have made a great place to do some personal travel and really get a feel for the town. To me it seemed the people there were in less of a hurry than Shanghai, where the streets and metro lines are full of the daily rush hour drama. Having run the gauntlet of rush hour transportation in Shanghai, Hangzhou was a welcomed break. I enjoyed the trip very much and hope to go back in the future.

Parents Abroad

Spending four months living in an entirely new city, immersing yourself into an unfamiliar culture and engaging in a foreign experience abroad should be on the top of everyone’s to do list. Luckily, I’ve had the chance to embrace that livelihood. Spending this time abroad has opened my eyes to new adventure, my mind to a different understanding and surely made me wish that everyone I love could experience these same thing.

Theresa exploring Rome with Colin Albright and parents Gina and Mike.

Theresa exploring Rome with Colin Albright and parents Gina and Mike.

Since my arrival, my parents have been living vicariously through my pictures, Facetime chats and stories i’ve shared with them. To all of our excitement though, last week they no longer had to do that as they traveled thousands of miles across the ocean to visit me in my new, lovely, home away from home.

They’re lovers of Italian food, history and interested in culture, but what they weren’t big fans of were the hill top cities I trudged them through! On Friday, they arrived in Rome where I met them at the train station. We spent the day exploring a residential part of town, and when we weren’t out and about, my father always found time to rest his eyes sitting in almost any position. On Saturday, we adventured into ancient Rome where we explored the city that most definitely was not built in a day. Although beautiful and full of wonderful history, there was some competition for the most favorable city on their list.

Parents Gina and Mike at the Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy.

Parents Gina and Mike at the Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy.

Sunday we traveled to Perugia where I was able to show them around the hilltop city that is full of beautiful views and countless charming features. We checked out some of my favorite food places, hangout spots and aspects of everyday life. Later in the week, we took a trip to Florence and Assisi. Both admirable, but Assisi truly did steal my father’s heart.

Hanging out in front of the Colosseum.

Hanging out in front of the Colosseum.

Parents abroad is such an amazing thing to experience while studying in a new country. Not only did I get a little taste of home, some treats from the States, and loaded my parents with things to take back with them, but I got to introduce my favorite people to many of my new favorite things, and that is something I will cherish forever. Now not only will I share stories of my study abroad trip, I will share memories that will last with us forever.

With 18 days left in this amazing country, I have to admit that I’m sad to be leaving but excited to be returning to the people and places that I have missed so much.

Theresa M

Edmund Burke

I have been reading a lot lately. A philosopher named Edmund Burke, particularly. He was born in Dublin and worked in the late 18th century, a time of turbulence for most of the world. He supported the American Revolution and was noted for writings on conservative liberalism. The world again is changing before our eyes, so my dad dug up some quotes from this guy and it has been reassuring. When I got the news today I was sad, scared, confused, depressed but I was reminded by Burke that thought will not die. The beauty of democracy guarantees that. How I will face the rest of the time here I am not quite sure. The Chinese seem oblivious to this, perhaps rightly so as the have no involvement in their own political processes. Once I would like to share the idyllic mentality, but the world is waiting. It seems like everything hangs in the balance and could tip any day. The rules have been rewritten. “In a democracy, the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority.” That is Burke.


Something I’ve learned while studying alongside Chinese students and studying under the local professors it is that the world is about to be turned on its head. Their creativity, work ethic, and devotion to success cannot be compared to the students of the United States, who seem to have fallen far behind the rising global standard for education in my opinion. Additionally, any class taught in the U.S. on Asia and the Pacific cannot compare to the firsthand experiences gained from living here. The more visible indicators of Asia’s rise, including the increase in share of global GDP and prevalence as a manufacturing superpower are clear, but I do not think the capture the pace at which the change has begun to occur.

Any walk down a street in Shanghai and you will see young professionals, dressed to a T moving hurriedly through the swarms of pedestrian and electric scooter traffic, their phone conversations drowned out by frantic honking. Shanghainese spoken loudly by shop owners and slurred over intercoms at bus and subway stations, cab drivers hailing passengers rather than the other way around. Open stalls where peddlers sell fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and stranger things that I’d rather not mention are commonplace. Overladen scooter-bike hybrids full of bottles that can fetch 10 Mao (about 5 cents) take part in the hustle of city life, where each person is trying to earn their stake. Hurling themselves into a world of commerce and progress, some westerners would question the tactics these people are using to eek out a meager living under the feet of foreign brands. But I think it is for just that reason that these people will scrape and claw to gain ground in any way that they can. They have been under the Louis Vuitton boot, the heel of Prada, behind the screens of  our Apple phones, melted down into the plastic toys, sanded into the furniture and shipped to the west.  As long as this machine grinds unceasingly, the west may still have the advantage. But I think something else will happen. Chinese ingenuity can’t be kept under the thumb of the west for much longer. Collectively the people are advancing at a mind boggling pace. It is time we start teaching children in the U.S. Hanyu.

Fear of Missing Out

Despite the beautiful views, hundreds of pictures and indescribable experiences, I always have that feeling that I’m missing out on something. That “something” is essentially everything that’s happening at home while I’m away. As my junior homecoming quickly approaches and festivities kick off, I really don’t think there’s any place I would rather be. Of course, I love being in Italy and it is absolutely amazing here, but there are a few things I would trade to be able to spend this specific weekend at home.

Now when I think about it, I know that this feeling is just temporary. As I scroll through social media and realize that i’m not experiencing all of these amazing things at home with my friends, I then think to myself… “wait, but i’m in Italy”. Sure, i’m missing homecoming, but I’m spending my weekend adventuring around the next beautiful city that I decide to explore. This weekend happens to be Venice, and I get to spend the time with some of my favorite people.

There’s a few other things I miss about home…

Not paying for water:

Every time I go out to dinner, I can’t just expect to get water for free. It’s usually about $3.00 for a large fancy glass bottle. Even though I’ve been here for a month, it’s still tough getting used to that.

My car:

Public transportation isn’t the worst thing in the world, I’ve actually adjusted to it quite well. Even though it’s easy to navigate, there’s times that I wish I could just get in my car and go instead of having to wait for the next bus to come around!


Yes, football. I miss listening to people yell at the tv, going to football games, football season, the atmosphere and everything that comes along with it. With that being said, Happy Homecoming Weekend at the Valley!


Until next time,

30 Days

Thirty whole days have gone by since I’ve been home and I’ve found out that a lot can happen in thirty days…

We spent our first night in a hotel where we met our roommates. From that moment on, the memories, challenges and excitement began! Over the past four weekends, I’ve traveled around Italy and have even been out of the county to experience one of Germany’s largest festivals.

The start of my adventure: 
During the first week, the Umbra Institute provided us with four days of Intensive Italian so that we would become comfortable and more familiar with the language. They also provided us with a delicious night of pizza at a local restaurant. The rest of the week was full of exploring the beautiful city of Perugia, and attempting to remember the names of the other 90 students at Umbra!

First Italian Pizza

First Italian Pizza

Monday morning rolled around and all of our traditional classes started for the semester. It was exciting to get back into the swing of school, but I wouldn’t mind being in Italy to study Italian and spend the rest of my time exploring the culture. At the end of  the week, I went on my first excursion and visited the beautiful Firenze. Sights like this are unimaginable, and no picture could ever do the view justice.

View from the Duomo in Florence

View from the Duomo in Florence

“Family” dinners, school, traveling and memory book club are what occupy most of my time during the week. Surprisingly enough, every time my friends and I get together for dinner, we always end up cooking some type of traditional American food. Stove top burgers has been our favorite meal so far! At the end of the week, my favorite person and I decided to take a weekend trip to see the beautiful Italian Coast. On our way to Cinque Terre, we stopped in Pisa to take the cliché leaning tower picture of course. While at the beaches in Cinque Terre, we were able to visit four out of the five towns and it was amazing. The sights were beautiful, and it was so easily to float in the water!

Manarola, Cinque Terre

Manarola, Cinque Terre

Hanging out, holding up the leaning tower!

Hanging out, holding up the leaning tower!

The next week consisted of the usual: Breathtaking views of Perugia, attempting to understand Italian and eating a whole lot of food. The weekend on the other hand may be my favorite part of my entire study abroad trip so far! Colin and I traveled with the company Bus2Alps to Munich, Germany where we spent our weekend camping and attending the opening days of Oktoberfest! On Friday, we spent our day on a bike tour through Munich learning about the history and current customs of Germans. The bike tour wrapped up with a nice downpour and soaking wet clothing! On Saturday, we traveling to the festival (still raining mind you) in our lederhosen and dirndls! The best part was that we were in the Shottenhamel tent where the opening ceremonies were held. At noon, the kegs were tapped and we were served the Oktoberfest beer of the Shottenhamel beer tent! On Sunday, we stopped at the Dachau concentration camp to visit an important piece of history. The weekend in whole was amazing and although it consisted of long bus rides and cold, rainy weather, I wouldn’t have wanted the experience to be any different.

Celebrating at Oktoberfest!

Celebrating at Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest Camping!

Oktoberfest Camping!

While I will have so much to share about my time abroad, that’s all for now. Over the next few weeks I’ll be spending more time traveling and taking advantage of every exciting opportunity that is offered to me.

– Theresa Messenger



Being here for three weeks now, I am beginning to know the ins and outs of the city. The towering buildings can be daunting, but a few blocks up a side street or into a quiet neighborhood park one can find moments of peace and quiet. Such stillness also comes late in the evening several residents from the buildings surrounding the campus come to the canals to fish, with poles longer than 10 feet dangling bait over the murky waters. It is very dark, but you can see the glimmer of the metallic lures and the waving of the rods. They sit in silence, and do not seem to catch much when I am watching. Maybe I am bad luck.

We went up the Great Wall last week, the only man made landmark that can be seen from outer space. The west side of Juyongguan Pass had a staggering concentration of Australian and Turkish tourists, and I had to make this climb according to our program leader, but my eyes were set on the seldom tread upon east wall. There I could only make out one other person scaling the heights. I rushed up the popular wall, and the descent was much like skiing. I should have saved myself for the latter half of the short time we were allowed on the wall, my quads burned and ankles crumpled at times. There was a temple on the east wall where one German sat, drinking a beer and musing at a large steel bell. He motioned for me to take a stone and ring the bell, so I did so, but the sound was drowned out in the traffic below. I moved further down the wall to the east, toward Beijing. Crossing one fortress outcropping I could see down into the valley on the other side. Suddenly the sound of traffic disappeared, replaced by the clucking of chickens and the slow roll of a freight train.

Today I went to a Buddhist temple in the heart of old-town Shanghai, near the popular Yu Gardens, yet removed from the tired tourist shops with haggling sales people who would try to convince you that a simple beaded bracelet was a priceless relic of ancient China. But the entrance to the temple was unassuming, just as I have found many of the treasures in this place are. At the door we were given bundles of incense, and then proceeded to walk out into a courtyard. We were the only ones there it seemed. Still unable to get a good glimpse of the temple, we climbed some stairs to a terrace, where we saw the actual opening to the temple and several people standing inside. Monks in pale orange clothing stood, bowing three times in each direction, holding their incense over their head. Sitting to observe this custom, I tried to understand what they were doing. Seeing this compelled me to bow as well, standing outside the structure with the sun behind me.

The buildings that swept the sky around me at this time reminded me that the temple is where you make it. An oasis of calm in the middle of traffic, where you can deliberately concentrate the mind on the life that you are living. Sometimes you have to put yourself in the loud places to reconnect with the quiet ones instead of always running to them for solace. The ebb and flow of the city is teaching me things, and this is hopefully one of many lessons.


My First Ten Days “Studying Away” in Washington, D.C.


Greetings from The Washington Center (TWC)!  This is Michael Butcher on move-in day at TWC.  I am spending the semester completing a 12-credit internship in the office of Congressman Charlie Dent of the 15th Congressional District of Pennsylvania.  I am also taking a 3-credit class, Rising China: U.S.-China Relations in the 20th and 21st Centuries.  After just 10 days in the program, I am finding life in D.C. and the internship fast-paced and exciting!

The building pictured is where I live, attend class, work out in the gym, and enjoy the excitement of meeting people from around the world.  This semester the program serves over 400 students from 13 different countries including China, Japan, Belgium, Spain, Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.


After a walking tour to the Capitol and a practice run on the Metro, I began my internship this past Monday in the Rayburn Building of the U.S. House of Representatives.  On Thursday I shadowed a tour guide, as I will be leading tours of the Capitol for constituents from Congressman Dent’s district.  I have a lot to learn!

What an opportunity to live in D.C. during an election year!  Stay tuned for more information about this adventure made possible through the LVC Study Abroad Office.


Global Harbor


The first three days in Shanghai have been nothing short of spectacular. Having never been to Asia I knew little about the east and what it had to offer. As of now it has surprised at every corner. From the first night in town as a jet-lagged traveler, having drinks with a myriad of international and Chinese students, to the second day getting adjusted to campus life, then the bus system and subway, it is clear to see that this is truly a global city. I feel like a rock in a stream surrounded by running water, and now I am only an observer. I think that soon when classes start and the internship gets underway I will be an active participant in one of the fastest paced cities on the plant. Dr. Bian, a professor and coordinator of the international students programs urged us to go off the beaten path to truly understand Chinese culture, and that is what I intend to do. I am here for a reason, and am excited to call this place home for the next few months.

Hot Springs (Take 2) and Santiago de Compostela

June 11th:  Today we had a free day to ourselves, so my friends and I decided to go to the hot springs because we loved it so much the first time.  But this time we went to a public hot spring, which personally I enjoyed better.

Public Hot Springs!

Public Hot Springs!

We got to lay right by the river and we could listen to the rushing water of Rio Mino.

Hot Springs Pool

Hot Springs Pool

This hot spring had five pools: three of which were steaming and occasionally bubbling, one was also that temperature, but it had river water flowing into it to make it bearable and the last one was filled with river water to cool down.  And the great view was a plus!

June 12th: Today we had a group tripped planned for Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia.  We had a tour through the city, led by a tour guide, and none of us were dressed for the weather of Santiago; there it is chilly and had a misty rain, and the majority of us were in shorts and t-shirts.  The tour guide took us throughout the city and talked about important things and various local legends traditions, and religious history which heavily surrounds this city.  How students of the University of Compostela "chose their major"Santiago translates to “Saint James” and Compostela translates to “field/sky of stars”.  The massive cathedral there is actually the place where Saint James the Apostle’s tomb resides.

St. James Cathedral

St. James Cathedral





While the tour guide was talking to us about the cathedral, a group of people cheering, clapping, and singing entered the plaza; they were pilgrims who had just finished “the way of Saint James”.  These people had walked quite a distance (we didn’t ask specifically, but people usually walk a minimum of 100 kilometers).  The way is a spiritual experience where anyone can walk (or bike) along certain paths to get to Santiago de Compostela, one of the paths goes through Ourense.  There are many reasons why people choose to walk the way, and if they don’t have a reason when they start, they have one by the end, according to my tour guide.  After the tour, we had about 45 minutes of free time to wander the city before dinner.  During this time, I walked through a holy door (a door that is usually closed unless it is a holy year, but this year the Pope declared that all holy doors be opened).

Walking through Holy Door (featuring cathedral security guide)

Walking through Holy Door (featuring cathedral security guide)

I also got to walk around the inside of the very large cathedral there; however, we were not allowed to take pictures on the inside of the cathedral, but trust me, it was very large and very beautiful.  We all then reconvened for a group dinner and a bus ride back to Ourense.  First time trying flan!






After we got back to Ourense, everyone went to bed to prepare for another week of shadowing – I’ll be in pediatrics this week!