Located on Spain’s southeast coast, Valencia is a Mediterranean city in all aspects. Locals embrace outdoor living and recreation by taking advantage of the area’s temperate climate (average temperatures range between 48-77°F). Popular activities include strolling on one of the city’s seaside promenades (the longest of which stretches 7 km, or over 4 miles), swimming at beaches that have received the highest environmental awards, or using ‘pedal-power’ to visit Valencia’s key cultural and historic sites—Valencia has been recognized as a bike-friendly city by the Cities by Bike Network, and has over 120 km (75 miles) of bike lanes and garden causeways that allow you to explore the city at your leisure. Valencia is home to a multitude of museums and cultural center, but this port city is perhaps best well-known for its innovative City of Arts and Sciences, a “unique complex dedicated to scientific and cultural dissemination”. This complex comprises 5 main elements: an interactive science center (Principe Felipe Science Musuem), l’Oceanografico (Europe’s largest aquarium), a performing arts venue focusing on opera (the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia), an IMAX theater and planetarium (the Hemisferic), and a large outdoor exhibition zone (the Umbracle). The city hosts festivals throughout the year, but students studying abroad in the spring will have the unique opportunity to experience Las Fallas, a two-week long regional festival that combines historic, religious, and comedic processions and events and culminates with pyrotechnic displays. Ninots, large and often satirical puppets, are created during the year and displayed during giant parades. One ninot is voted as the favorite and spared; the others are destroyed in large bonfires accompanied by impressive firework displays that light up the night sky and make this festival one that many people travel across the globe to attend.
Unnamed Road, Mount Abundance QLD 4455, Australia
Melbourne, Geelong and Warrnambool are all in the state of Victoria. Victoria is Australia’s smallest mainland state but has the second largest population, with approximately 5.2 million people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. It is a place of great contrasts—ocean beaches and mountain ranges, deserts and forests, volcanic plains and vast sheep and wheat farms. Victoria has national parks and forests teeming with wildlife; wineries, lakes and mountains offering climbing, hiking and skiing and the magnificent Great Ocean Road coastline, Australia’s premier surfing destination. The state has long been regarded as the cultural center of Australia, with a historic architectural elegance that characterizes the capital, Melbourne, and the regional cities. Victorians combine a strong cultural tradition with a contemporary and relaxed lifestyle, a distinct sense of community and a passionate interest in sports. Victoria also is the major center of education and research in Australia.
Haifa is a beautiful city, set on the Mediterranean Sea on the slope of Mount Carmel. Israel’s foremost port city, it plays a major role in the nation’s economy and is a center for high tech research and industry. Its 17 kilometers of beaches host excellent surfing and sailing conditions and nature trails, bicycle paths, wildlife reserves, and Carmel National Park beckon for outdoor enthusiasts. The city’s historical and cultural riches include museums, film and music festivals, an internationally acclaimed symphony orchestra, theatre, and numerous cinemas, discos, restaurants, and pubs. It provides easy access to other parts of Israel, with Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Ben-Gurion Airport all less than two hours away. In addition to Haifa’s vibrant Jewish community, its cultural and religious mosaic includes many churches and mosques. Haifa is also host to the center for the Baha’i faith and to Israel’s only Ahmadi Muslim community. The Ahmadiyya is an Indian sect of Islam, founded in the late nineteenth century, which promotes peace among nations and opposes religious coercion. Their large mosque houses a prayer hall and a first-floor exhibit of their history and significant contributions. An UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Baha’i World Centre is an expansive complex of gardens centered around the gold-domed Shrine of the Bab. Other sights in Haifa include Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery, home to a cave considered by Christian tradition to be the grave of the Prophet Elijah, the nineteenth-century German colony, Paris Square, Carmel National Forest, Ein Hod artist’s colony, the Haifa Theatre and numerous museums.