Mindfulness is a concept that has become incredibly popular over the last several years. Sure, the idea has always been there, but the connection between travel and mindfulness seems to be a newer, upward trend that people are much more aware of.
The main idea behind mindfulness is allowing yourself to be less focused on the future or past, and granting yourself the permission to remain in the present moment. No matter the reason behind it, mindfulness is a key element when making the most out of your study abroad experience.
How can you remain more mindful during your time studying abroad?
Appreciate Your Current Daily Activities
Every day, you live within a typical routine. You sleep in the same bed. You eat the same types of food. You take the same route to school using the same means of usual transportation. You talk to the same people. Appreciate these things because once you travel to a new country and immerse yourself in a new culture, your daily routine and typical activities will be completely different.
You won’t want to spend your time abroad thinking about how much you miss your favorite foods or how you want your favorite pillow. You will want to spend more time focusing on how beautiful and unique each individual experience is that you may never have the opportunity to experience again.
Unplug from Social Media Every Once in a While
The number one thing that can truly take you away from a mindful study abroad experience is allowing yourself to be sucked into social media. It is an excellent tool to stay in contact with friends and family back home, but it can also be a distraction from what is happening right in front of you.
Take a step back and instead of posting an Instagram story, listen to a host family story or create your own real life story in the new country you are in so you have a memory that lasts beyond 24 hours.
Create a Unique Study Abroad Experience Through Volunteering Abroad
In Up with People, our study abroad students are also given the unique experience of volunteering during their program. Volunteering has been scientifically proven to improve your level of happiness and mental health.
By focusing outwards on other people and less within ourselves, we are able to be provided with a higher sense of purpose. Having that singular focus can help us to remain more present, mindful, and connected to the people and our surroundings within the moment.
There are many ways to put yourself in a more mindful state while studying abroad. Our professors can help students to understand and navigate through the experience while learning more about cultural immersion through the development of good communication and interpersonal skills.
Guest Post by Theresa MacNeil, Assistant Professor at Florida Southern College & Study Abroad Professor for Up with People
When students look for an opportunity to explore the world, many seek out study abroad opportunities for a semester or even a full year. Up with People added the study abroad programs with Florida Southern College to work together to help young people experience life in meaningful ways. Experts say that having good communication and interpersonal skills are two of the most important skills potential employers are seeking in job candidates. Communication skills are vital for a successful life, both personally and professionally.
In our communication classes, students will learn about the importance of interpersonal communication in both large and small groups. They will also learn about how to effectively deal with conflict in their lives, while also being aware of cross-cultural differences around them. Specific skills they will learn include active listening, emotional intelligence, and management of emotions. They will also learn about leadership, dealing with families and romantic partnerships, as well as how to translate communication from one person to a small and large group, and also how to manage communication cross-culturally.
Gap Year Programs Abroad
The unique aspect of the Up with People study abroad experience is that the students are able to live out the concepts they learn while traveling. They are able to take their new skills out of the classroom, and into the real world. It is a “next step” for the Up with People program and acts as a “full circle” moment. It takes everything that is learned throughout the program and begins to make sense through theories and concepts.
For example, while living with host families and in different cultural settings, students are able to process their own cultural filters and place themselves in another person’s shoes. They are able to see different perspectives and understand that they don’t necessarily have to agree with everyone they meet, but they can respect them and agree to disagree, remembering the humanity between all people.
Study Abroad in Up with People
Indeed, many of our students are able to understand their experiences better by being enrolled in study abroad courses. They have told us that their overall Up with People experiences have been richer and more beneficial by taking the study abroad classes, than if they hadn’t taken the courses at all.
“Everything plays a specific role. I wouldn’t be the person I am today or learned the lessons that I did if anything had been different. I’m so grateful for all of the hard lessons I’ve learned through every uncomfortable experience and wouldn’t change a thing.”
– Ivy, Study Abroad Student in Up with People, 2018 – 2019
As their professor, I am proud to say that I see the growth of the students every semester. They start off curious and uncertain, but they end up more mature and more self-assured. It is something I will never grow tired of seeing. The study abroad program is special and it only adds to the entire Up with People experience. It’s a great addition for someone who is really interested in taking their learning in Up with People and as a whole, to the next level.
Theresa MacNeil is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Boston College in 2004 and pursued a career in entertainment public relations before she went back to graduate school. Theresa is currently working towards her Ph.D. in Communication Sciences/Mass Communication from the University of Connecticut.
It’s a wide open world through another one’s eyes. It’s the everyday people, the stories that they bring to life.
We are kicking off part two of our gap year series by sharing an interview we had with Kristin, the mother of a gap year traveler in Up with People. Kristin’s daughter, Ivy, was a year-long Study Abroad student in the program. If you haven’t read part one of our series, click here to learn more about Ivy’s perspective as a traveler in the program.
Kristin, Ivy’s Mom
As a parent of a traveler, what was the deciding factor for you to have Ivy join the Up with People program?
“It has been a life-long goal and dream of hers to participate in Up with People. Since a small child, she has expressed her desire to travel the world, serve humanity with her talents, abilities, and gifts, and continuously up-level her leadership skills. Up with People encompasses all three which made it an easy decision. I have always been committed to supporting my children in the pursuit of their heart’s desires, goals, and dreams.”
What has been your favorite part as a parent watching your child travel during her gap year?
“I have enjoyed watching Ivy make her way around the world as she gained a new level of global independence, connection, and awareness. I love that she made deep friendships with people from different cultures, expanding her perspective of humanity while learning how we all communicate and relate differently.”
What value do you see in the program for young adults?
“Tremendous value! Up with People gives young adults the opportunity to immerse themselves in a variety of cultures full of diversity and differing values and perspectives. This provides an opportunity for healthier global cross-cultural relationships for the future of humanity. Up with People also helps others to see the importance of having a heart of service which creates more compassion and tolerance for others. The perspectives of young adults who travel abroad in this program are expanded, and they’ll never see the world the same. They’ll act from less judgment and more awareness and compassion. The world needs more leaders like this, and the youth need more access to opportunities like this.”
Would you recommend the program to others, and if so, why?
“I would definitely recommend this program to others. Up with People is a life-changing opportunity to prepare young adults to be extraordinary leaders with global interpersonal relationship skills and a sense of adventure for life.”
Any other thoughts you would like to add you think people should know about the Up with People program?
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. Ivy creatively fundraised 100% of her own required funds herself through singing telegrams, creating and selling a travel cookbook, creating travel vlogs, and so much more (all while touring and finishing at the top of her full-time Study Abroad semester). She now knows there is nothing she can’t achieve in this life. She has accomplished more in a year than most ever do in a lifetime. Multiply that by 100 kids every semester and you’ll see that Up with People is creating an army of world-changers.”
“Maybe we should follow The footsteps of a girl. The woman of tomorrow, Let’s fight for a better world.”
Travel is experiential education in its purest form. It broadens the mind, and exposes us to learning opportunities that we couldn’t encounter at home. Up with People’s study abroad students recognize the significance of this, and take advantage of two added bonuses.
Earning college credit for their travel
Taking advantage of the fact that a large portion of their program fee may be tax deductible!
What is the study abroad program in Up with People?
Thanks to our partnership with Florida Southern College, currently in its seventh year, students who enroll in the Up with People Study Abroad program receive 12 academic credits from upper-level university classes. Three courses are offered each tour. We offer two Communications and one Business course, with different offerings in the fall and spring semesters. The two professors visit the cast three times throughout the tour and weekly assignments are submitted online.
Pete Anderson has been one of our study abroad professors since the program began in 2012. He teaches Contemporary Leadership Models and Principles of Management and is also an Up with People alumnus. Pete traveled as a participant and then road staff throughout much of the 1990s.
“Management is necessary to accomplish anything requiring more than two people,” said Pete. “Teaching my course, my goal is for the students to see management everywhere, to be able to analyze it, understand it, and apply it.”
Why should my child participate in the study abroad program?
Our study abroad students choose this program for many reasons. Most students want the chance to earn university credit while traveling. This way they can consider their Up with People program fee part of the cost of their higher education. These credits are transferable to the institution of their choice.
We also have international cast members who take the courses for the opportunity to study and converse in English with the rigor of academic conversations. Some students take it because the courses sound interesting and they want the chance to dive into their Up with People experience.
Bela Walto is a second semester Up with People study abroad student. Originally, Bela participated in Camp Up with People which sparked her desire in touring with Up with People after high school.
“I am so glad I chose to participate in the study abroad program during my time in Up with People,” Bela told Up with People. “It brings a completely different perspective to your entire experience in the program as we look at different leadership practices, ways of communicating and how and why teams work. We get to study these topics while being a part of a program that puts all of them to work. Connecting what I was learning in theory to real life was wonderful and helped me understand the topics even more.”
Is the study abroad program tax deductible?
Another huge benefit for students from the United States who choose this program is that a portion of their Up with People program fee is tax deductible as tuition paid on the 1098-T tax form.
For tax purposes, our program fee for study abroad students is divided as tuition and room and board. The tuition portion of the program is tax deductible, less any financial aid that is awarded.
For a first semester student, that claimable amount in 2019 is $10,250, less any Up with People scholarships received. This tax deduction is only applicable to those students participating in the study abroad program, as the form is provided by the educational institution of record, Florida Southern College.
“While the initial decision for Lalibela to participate in the study abroad program wasn’t impacted by the tax status,” said Dennis Walto, Bela’s father, “I was delighted to learn that a portion of the tuition was tax deductible! This fact made opting in for a second semester all the easier. The staff of Up with People was very helpful in making sure that the college provided the necessary 1098-T form that I am to include in my tax return. In many ways, Up with People is a learning laboratory, and it’s great to know that Lalibela’s experience is being enhanced by both formal and non-formal education opportunities. It’s a Win-Win!”
What’s the difference between a 1098-T and Section 529?
When it comes down to the nitty gritty of figuring out how to pay for your child’s education through the Up with People study abroad program, things can begin to seem a little overwhelming. Parents have two opportunities to help save on the cost of their program. We always strongly recommend speaking with your tax preparer so he or she can provide professional advice.
Let’s break down the difference between the two.
Section 529 Education Savings
Exactly as the name describes, Section 529 is a long-term savings plan that parents can start for their children when they are young. Just like any other savings plan, it is a college fund that accrues interest as time goes on and you continue to invest. The great part of a 529 is that when the money is withdrawn from the account, it is completely tax-free. However, it is only tax-free when used for educational opportunities. This includes the tuition portion of the Up with People study abroad program.
Tuition and certain fees are eligible for United States residents as expenses to claim on your taxes. Regardless if you have a 529 savings plan set up or not, it’s important to ask your tax advisor if you are eligible to claim the tuition portion of your child’s study abroad program on your taxes. This form is called 1098-T.
Other expenses such as room and board, transportation and other personal costs are not considered qualified. These will not be reflected on your 1098-T. If you receive an Up with People scholarship, or other means of financial aid, your claimable tuition is reduced by that amount.
A student receives an Up with People scholarship of $1,500
Your tuition ($10,250) – Scholarship ($1,500) = $8,750 (Amount of Education Spending)
In this example, the educational spending cost of $8,750 is the amount that will be listed on the 1098-T form provided by Florida Southern College as your tuition paid. It is also the amount that can be applied tax-free from a 529 savings plan.
Can I use both a 529 Savings Plan and the 1098-T?
The answer is yes and no.
If you do not already have a 529 savings account set up for your child, you can use the 1098-T as a stand-alone form. This will allow you to show the tuition payment is education spending and it lowers your overall taxable income.
If you do use a 529 savings plan to help pay for the tuition, you will show the tuition payment is non-taxed by filing the 1098-T. While one does not replace the other, a 1098-T is needed whether you have a 529 savings account or not.
Again, we strongly encourage you to speak with a tax professional to help sort out your finances appropriately when planning your child’s education payment plans.
How does the study abroad program work?
Cast members who are involved in the study abroad program take their courses while traveling on tour. One day per week, students will have five to six hours together to have group discussions, virtual classes with their professors and study time. This time is provided so they don’t have to take time away from their host families. Assignments directly relate to the activities and learning they are doing throughout the rest of the Up with People experience. Their professors visit them on the road three times for in-person coursework; at the beginning, the middle and the end of the semester.
“When Lalibela first looked at spending a ‘gap year’ with Up with People,” shared Dennis, “she was prepared to delay her college entrance and start fresh a year later. That completely changed when she learned about their study abroad opportunity. Participating in the study abroad program has enabled Lalibela to not only earn college credits while she does what she loves, but it also provided her with a close circle of fellow students doing the same thing.”
**Disclaimer: Up with People or their affiliated staff members and representatives are not tax professionals. This advice is not intended or written to be used as professional advice. If you are seeking legal, tax, accounting, or other professional advice, please seek a professional advisor in their related field.**
“No more hate no more violence We have strength together And we won’t be silent We are one love, together we’re strong We are one love, together we are strong.”
While Up with People program participants travel the world they stay not in hotels, dorm rooms, or hostels but with local host families. This can be one of the most rewarding benefits of the travel experience because it instantly gets the traveler that much closer to the local culture. Living with a host family is an adventure within an adventure and an experience that many never forget.
What are the benefits of staying with a host family? We’re so glad you asked.
You Get To Live Like A Local
Learn what locals like to do, where they like to go and what it’s really like inside their families. While living with host families you will have the opportunity to learn how to cook local dishes, try out new games, or discover things to do in the area not mentioned in guide books. At Up with People we have something called “host family days” where participants get to spend an entire day with their host family each week seeing the local sights and doing what locals do.
Enjoy Local Traditional Home Cooked Meals
During each Up with People show we like to take the time on stage to thank our host families for opening up their homes and their refrigerators. Getting to eat a home cooked meal and try new dishes, share new recipes and partake in family meals is an incredible experience hotels simply can’t offer. Breaking bread with those across borders is an incredible way to get to know people and share stories.
Language Learning And Practice
The key to learning a new language is to get over your fear of making mistakes – and your host family is a great place to practice your conversation skills. They talk like ”real people,” so you’ll hear a lot of idioms, phrases, and expression that you might not learn in a textbook. You also must force yourself to practice all day, every day which will accelerate learning.
Real Life Cultural Lessons
Living with a host family gives you the ability to ask a local about traditions you’re curious about. Not only do host families have experience in answering the questions of international travelers, if they have hosted guests previously, they also provide a warm, loving environment for asking important questions you may not feel comfortable asking anyone else.
You Gain A Second Family
In Up with People you stay with a new host family every week while on the road. During this time you may gain a second, third, fourth or who knows how many new families spread out all over the world! Many of these families remain in contact with you for the rest of your life and lead to future trips. Host families can become one of the biggest reasons to visit again and again. Many first time travelers also experience homesickness and having a new family abroad can help combat those symptoms.
When considering taking a semester off of college – perhaps with a gap year or study abroad program – one should strongly consider options that allow them to live with host families. Learn more about how you can be part of an Up with People cast at https://upwithpeople.org/travel/admissions-information/.
As many head back to school and summer winds down we can’t help but think about the value of experiential education. Experiential education can be defined as a type of education in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience outside of the classroom and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, clarify personal values and develop one’s own capacity to contribute to their communities. More simply put; learning by doing.
In fact, the Princeton Review recently outlined how experiential learning could launch your career. In this assessment they outlined 3 main benefits of experiential learning which include discovering what you love to do, learning to take risks, and learning how to talk about your skills. All of these benefits become tangible when a young person finishes their traditional education and heads out into the real world.
The core of Up with People’s global education program is based on a robust curriculum that not only enriches the tour experience, but brings key lessons to life through exploration, formal study, and action. Delivered in an experiential learning format, cast members leave their tour with a deeper commitment to lifelong learning, with the tools and abilities to navigate the complexities of today’s interconnected world.
Up with People staff lead interactive educational seminars, discussions and workshops that are designed to enrich each cast member’s touring experience. Facilitators utilize the cultural differences within the cast and the unique opportunities on tour to guide cast members’ learning. The curriculum includes simulations, group discussions, reflective questions and team activities to enhance the educational experience.
Experiential education can help young people transition from college to work, and community-service experiences especially prepare them to be more engaged citizens who live a life of service. But experiential education can also improve the quality of learning itself and increase the likelihood that students will be able to use throughout their lives the knowledge acquired in their studies. This does not happen automatically or easily, however. It must be purposefully pursued.
Perhaps the Up with People song Journey On says it best:
Journey on, Journey on
You can’t stay where you are for very long.
Don’t give up, find the strength you need to journey on.
Planning a study abroad semester or year can be overwhelming and it can be intimidating especially if this will be your first experience overseas. Ultimately each study abroad student will get out of the experience exactly what they put in. First you must choose the correct program for your needs and then get ready for a life changing experience. While preparing for time abroad, think about these habits of successful study abroad students and how you can get the most of your time overseas.
Wake Up Early
In Up with People we joke that you can catch up on sleep when you get home. During your travels, you’ll find that transportation, tours, and even the best photo opportunities kickstart early in the day.
The most successful travelers go easy on the late nights and savor early mornings to make the most of their days abroad. Remember this is a once in a lifetime experience and you don’t want to sleep through it.
No matter how much you plan your experience will hit a few detours. Things don’t work the same as they do at home and that’s part of the fun! Just don’t forget this if you become homesick. Being flexible allows you to embrace challenges and differences you are most definitely going to encounter.
Make Friends With Locals
In Up with People this is built into our program as our study abroad and gap year participants stay with host families as they travel abroad. Our participants also travel with people representing 20+ countries from around the world. But if you find yourself studying abroad and hanging out with people from your own country, branch out. It can be easy to stay within your comfort zone, but to be a successful study abroad student meet the locals!
Make Curiosity Your Friend
The more you embrace spontaneity during your time abroad the more you’ll experience. While this doesn’t mean foregoing an exercise in caution when appropriate, it does encourage a sense of curiosity and open-mindedness.
Comfort zones are made to be broken, especially during a semester abroad so remember to always be willing to try something new if it helps them immerse with a new culture.
Check Your Email
Don’t take your email with you while enjoying a travel day of course, but do stay on top of your emails especially before you depart. Many times this is the only way your host school has to communicate with you and you will need to follow up with your advisors before you depart for any important admissions or visa information.
Engage and Communicate
Successful study abroad students aim to establish relationships with their study abroad advisors, their host family / roommate, and their classmates. They also keep their families (and sometimes their study abroad providers) in the loop with their plans and travel ideas, and openly discuss their concerns and their family’s concerns well in advance of the date of departure.
Up with People counselors provide a lot of documents to our study abroad and gap year students prior to departure. Most study abroad programs do. These documents contain critical pre-departure information and are meant to help you make the transition overseas as smooth as possible. But they are only helpful if you take the time to read them. Successful study abroad students have read the majority of their documents within a month of their acceptance to a program.
Each semester participants of Up with People’s program meet for the first time in Denver, CO. These young people represent over 20 countries and come from places like Japan, China, Sweden, Mexico and the United States. Many of these travelers have spent years practicing their English speaking skills and come to Up with People to practice those skills in the real world for the first time. Many second language learners will tell you that the only way to truly learn a language is to travel and speak with people in the real world. This forces you out of your comfort zone and challenges you in ways you could have never thought possible.
To find out just how powerful travel is in terms of language learning we decided to ask recent participants of Up with People about their experiences in the program. It’s important to note that Up with People’s program is conducted in English and a basic level of English proficiency is required.
Likun Tang from China – Native language Mandarin – Alumnus of Up with People
How did traveling help your English speaking skills?
Travel gives me an opportunity to meet different people and start a conversation right away. And most of the conversation runs in English. I can also hear different English accents that help me correct myself and keep improving my pronunciation.
What was most difficult about your first few weeks of traveling with Up with People?
It’s difficult but also exciting, I still remember I was so excited to open the door and say good morning to everyone. The most difficult thing was the feeling of limitation, from the small thing of asking where is the bathroom to the conversations are all in English. I felt because of the language barrier, I can’t be myself, couldn’t express how I feel and what I want. A funny story is that there is a language buddy system during the first few weeks of the program. This system was created to have a native speaker help the participant who has difficulties to understand, but I even didn’t know the word ‘buddy’, so I didn’t sign up even I really need a language buddy.
Did you notice a significant improvement in your language skills and if so when? How long did it take?
Yes, it took around 4 years. I noticed this since last semester. The first improvement happened during my student year, it helped me understand better, able to start a conversation and be more confident. The most significant improvement happened last semester, it was my first semester as a staff member, this experience helped me improve my English skill to a working requirement level.
Why is it important to you to improve your language skills?
I think there are so many ways you can get to know a person and let people know you. But talking and having a conversation is still the most effective, direct way to communicate. Therefore, mastering the language is one of the basic tools to get to know a different culture, people, and society. This is also one of the motivating powers for me to learn another language.
Sara Rodriguez from USA – Native language English – Alumna of Up with People
In Up with People you travel with people who speak many languages and our program is conducted in English. How did you change the way you speak English to help those who speak it as a second language?
In order to speak effectively with people who have English as a second language, it is important to use basic, grammatically correct English, at least at first. Any slang words or phrases can be very confusing to people who are not around native English speakers. Over time, it is important for non-native speakers to learn these phrases too, so I also would take the time to explain them to anyone who didn’t understand.
The most difficult part of Up with People language wise during the first few weeks was tuning into the English proficiency levels around me. I had to become more mindful of when I can speak English at top speed, and when I needed to adjust to the language level of my cast mates. I was also able to be a language buddy to a cast member who needed help with English. This was not so much difficult, but more a way to challenge myself to use my language to help others.
How did you adjust your way of communicating with others who don’t speak English as a first language?
This really depends on the person. For those that have a lower level of English proficiency, it is important to speak slowly and to use simple sentences and words. If the person didn’t understand what I was saying, I would think of new ways to phrase what I was trying to portray. I have found that actions and body language also become very important when there is a language barrier.
Michelle Aguirre from Mexico – Native language Spanish – Alumna of Up with People
How did traveling help your English speaking skills?
Having no other option than to speak English in order to communicate with others really pushed me to go for it and try my best. It was hard at first, since my brain and my tongue were not used to the words and the grammar, but I just had to keep talking and listening and my brain eventually caught up.
What was most difficult about your first few weeks of traveling with Up with People?
Brain tiredness. After listening, reading and talking in English all day, during the evenings I just needed to shut down my brain for a while and take a break.
Did you notice a significant improvement in your language skills and if so when?
Definitely! After a couple of months, I noticed I no longer had to stop, think, and translate in my head what I wanted to say during a conversation. I was making jokes and feeling more confident while speaking.
Why is it important to you to improve your language skills?
Everywhere I go, I strive to learn and take in the culture as if I were a local. Having wider language skills brings me closer to achieving this.
So, you’ve landed an exciting opportunity to study abroad or are planning a gap year, but you’re not sure how to pay for it. Don’t panic. A life-changing opportunity to explore and discover the world is probably worth a little extra effort, don’t you think?
The keys are staying organized and applying for scholarships early and often. Here are some amazing scholarships available to help fund your adventure. Most of the time, the hardest part is simply getting started!
Boren Scholarships, an initiative of the National Security Education Program, provide unique funding opportunities for U.S. undergraduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests, and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
The objective of this scholarship is to give students the opportunity to develop their professional skills in an international environment. Both undergraduate and graduate students are able to apply for these awards which are given to qualified individuals with outstanding academic, leadership, and service achievements.
Available exclusively to participants of Up with People’s program, Up with People is committed to building diverse traveling casts with representatives from across the globe, and we want to ensure that all qualified candidates have the opportunity to join our amazing program.
Sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, this program offers grants to U.S. undergraduates with limited financial means, in order to diversify the population of students going abroad.
The Coca-Cola Scholars Program scholarship is an achievement-based scholarship awarded to graduating high school seniors. Students are recognized for their capacity to lead and serve, as well as their commitment to making a significant impact on their schools and communities.
Throughout the world, countries celebrate their independence through national holidays and other cultural celebrations. From fireworks in the United States to flying kites in India, let’s take a look at how independence day is celebrated around the world.
Bolivia – August 6th
Bolivia throws a two-day party packed with marches, gun salutes, fireworks, music, parades and carnivals. The main event of the celebrations are the military parades on August 6th. The day is a national holiday of Bolivia locally known as Dia de la Patria. The celebrations continue for a full day especially in the capital city of Bolivia ‘La Pez.’
Cambodia – November 9th
Cambodian Independence Day is celebrated with festivals, parades, and firework displays across Cambodia. The main gathering point is Phnom Penh’s Independent Monument, which was built to mark Cambodia’s 1953 liberation from French rule.
The United States – July 4th
Americans commonly show their patriotism by hanging flags, and even wearing red, white and blue colors to celebrate independence day. Parades, backyard barbecues and fireworks are used to celebrate Independence Day in cities and towns all across the country.
India – August 15th
To symbolize its freedom from British rule, saffron, white and emerald-green kites evoking the young country’s tri-colored flag are flown. It is also typical in most parts of the country for a ceremony and unfurling of the national flag.
Norway – May 17th
This day celebrates the signing of the Constitution of Norway. In Norway, children play a special part in the celebration of their independence day. Several children’s parades are held during the day, where the children march with flags and school banners led by marching bands. In the capital city of Oslo, the children will pass the Royal Palace, where the royal family will wave to the parade participants from the balcony. In most cities, local schools arrange games, activities and lotteries with nice prizes, as well as selling cakes, soda, ice cream and candies. In the evening, people gather with family and friends to have dinner or barbeques together.
Mexico – September 16th
In Mexico City people gather at Zocalo, a plaza where people have gathered since the days of the Aztecs. Everywhere in the country streets, houses, buildings and cars are decorated. Flags are hoisted from houses and buildings. Colorful lanterns can be found in most cities. The celebrations reach a high point when the President of Mexico arrives in the Zocalo, at 11 o’clock on September 15 to re-enact Father Hidalgos’ grito, or cry, of Independence to his followers. The President then rings the same bell that Father Hidalgo rang followed by the crowd proudly shouting out the names of the heroes of the independence war and then they end it with a final shout of VIVA MÉXICO! Colorful fireworks light up the Mexican evening sky as the ceremonies end.
Australia – January 26th
Officially known as Australia Day the celebration honors the creation of the first British settlement in Australia. On this day, Australians celebrate with surfing races, ferry races and a tall ships race. Fireworks are also customary in Australia, where they are even lit on moving boats and skyscrapers.
Costa Rica – September 15th
Traditional dancing takes center stage in Costa Rica’s Independence Day celebrations on 15 September. Unlike other countries in the Americas, there was no fight for independence in Central America. Depleted by the war with Napoleon Bonaparte, and a few Latin American wars, Spain actually supported Central American independence because the region had become a burden.
South Korea – March 1st / August 15th
South Korea celebrates its liberation from Japan on two different and important days. August 15 is called Gwangbokjeol, and celebrates South Korea’s independence from Japan and the creation of the South Korean government. The day includes national ceremonies, displaying the flag, and singing the official independence day song called 광복절 노래: GwangbokjeolNor. March 1 is called Samil Jeol, and celebrates the independence movement that helped liberate South Korea from the Japanese, and memorializes the men and women lost during the rebellion. To commemorate the day, the Declaration of Independence is read at Pagoda Park (탑골공원) in Seoul.
France – July 14th
July 14th marks the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris, which was the beginning of the French Revolution. Bastille Day is observed as the French National Day, and is celebrated with many different traditions, such as firefighter organized dance parties, military parades, and fireworks.