Students create comprehensive online guide to studying abroad



Eric Bellomo

Nick Blodgett sits down at a Holy Grounds table wearing a light blue Patagonia windbreaker and carrying a well-worn reusable water bottle—tools familiar to those who consider themselves travelers. With sun-bleached hair and tanned skin, he bears a resemblance to the surfers with whom he closely associates. 

A senior marketing major from Monmouth County, N.J., Blodgett lives along the central, eastern coast of the state, only a brief trip from the shore. He speaks with the slow, relaxed confidence of someone who has traveled far out of the safety of his comfort zone.

Blodgett’s presence on campus is felt by many, namely from his participation in the rock climbing club, club ultimate Frisbee and the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. To others on campus, and to the rest of the country, he, along with co-founders and fellow world travelers James Austin and Max Yergan, is known for creating a website called “The Abroad Bible.

This site, geared towards students both at Villanova and across the country, defines itself as “a community of students sharing their study abroad knowledge from different cities across the globe to create a network of study abroad information.”

According to statistics available from the 2014-2015 academic year, approximately 36 percent of Villanova undergraduate students study abroad at some point during their undergraduate years. With 6,554 undergraduate students, that comes out to a total of roughly 2,359 students who seek out an international experience. Although the national average sits around nine percent, according to the Institute of International Education, this mark still corresponds to nearly 300,000 students presenting a broad and untapped well of information to students looking for an insider’s perspective on international travel. 

“This is a new type of travel guide, one fit for a younger generation,” Blodgett says. This is a site by students, for students. It aims to assist students during a unique time. A time when the focus isn’t cramming as many sights into a ten day period before returning to work, but rather this is a time to emphasize personal and intellectual growth spread out across a broad time frame. According to Blodgett, the site is designed to maximize the time one spends abroad and assists those considering an international experience by centralizing the information offered from those who have lived similar experiences. 

Blodgett’s inspiration for the site came from planning for his own abroad experience to Australia last semester. While attending Boston University’s satellite school in Sydney, Blodgett, Austin, and Yergan realized that what they were looking for was not easily accessible and started considering how valuable this platform might be.

Originally, the focus of the site was going to be extreme tourism like cliff diving or white water rafting. However, a suggestion from a friend sent the trio in the direction in which they are still heading. Currently, “The Abroad Bible” features five cities—London, Sydney, Oxford, Barcelona and Galway. There are also six more—Paris, Florence, Copenhagen, Singapore, Seville and Seoul—coming in the near future. 

Currently staffed by 20 writers but looking to expand, the site has enjoyed a great reception, which has Blodgett pleasantly surprised. “Just last week someone from Peru contacted us through Instagram with an interest in joining our staff,” Blodgett said with a grin of amusement and astonishment. 

Each city profile is broken down into five categories—about, day life, nightlife, munchies and travel—with each offering an honest and thorough perspective of the city. Take London, for example. “For starters, you’re never going to have enough money…but you should stop fretting and open your eyes a bit, you’re in London, one of the biggest cities in Europe.” The profile goes on to mention everything from fireworks to hot chocolate suggestions. 

Interested in how to spend a day in Sydney? The site mentions everything from the Bondi to Coogee beach walk to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Barcelona’s nightlife feature offers suggestions on a variety of bars and clubs, each with a different price-point and “chillness” rating. Galway’s “munchies” tab highlights a handful of reasonably priced dining options and must-see destinations under the “travel” offering. 

“[The Office of Education Abroad] really went above and beyond for me,” Senior Thomas Rodriguez said when speaking about the role the office played in helping coordinate his international experience and his responsibilities as a Steering Leader for the University’s Orientation Program. Nicola Giacchi, a junior who studied abroad in Urbino, Italy, corroborated Rodriguez’s comment, but added that “information from students who previously went to the place you’re traveling is better than any pamphlet about studying abroad.” 

“The Abroad Bible” essentially seeks to be a student guide for as many locations as possible, allowing students to define their own experiences. Whether this means traveling across entire continents in pursuit of breathtaking scenery, hopping from cafés to art galleries, Blodgett and his team hope to offer a student’s perspective of the whole world. 

“The goal?” Blodgett asks. “We want to cover every city in the world so that for students looking abroad we have as many comparisons, perspectives and options as possible. Hopefully people see what we are doing and are inspired to be a part of the movement. Either through traveling themselves or contributing to the site, traveling is a must.”