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5 Interesting Study Abroad Destinations

Study abroad has become a staple of the college experience, with England, Italy, Spain, France and Australia being some of the most popular destinations for U.S. students. But what if you want to study off the beaten path? Pick one of these cities, and you're sure to get a less-than-typical study abroad experience.

1. McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Although there are currently no study abroad programs in space, Antarctica's programs come pretty close. Biology students can stay at the McMurdo Station, a U.S. run station on Ross Island. Topics of study include global warming and climate. If you choose to go, remember this one fact about one of the world's most remote regions: in Antarctica, no one can hear you scream.

2. Bamako, Mali


If helping a country with some of the lowest health and development indicators and one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world sounds like your kind of thing, then you might be interested in Mali. SIT Study Abroad offers a "Health, Gender, and Community Empowerment" program that delivers students to the capital city, Bamako. You might want to brush up on your Bambara before you go, though French is the country's official language. [Image via Wikimedia Commons user Guaka]

3. Irkutsk, Russia

When I was little, I played a lot of Risk. In addition to learning about military strategy, I learned where Irkutsk is. It's in Russia. Siberia, to be exact. Siberia as in frozen, hostile, let's-send-prisoners-of-war-there Siberia. If you're interested in Siberian tigers, vodka, and Russians, Irkutsk might be the place for you. More officially, study abroad programs in Irkutsk specialize in Russian history and industrialization. Be sure to pick up one of those furry hats, though, as winter temperatures are regularly in the negatives.

4. Saint-Louis, Senegal

You could go to France to learn French. Or you could go to Senegal. Although no one really knows where the name Senegal comes from, the country isn't too hard to find. Located on the Western end of Africa, Senegal is known for its distinct musical heritage. Although Australia is a much more popular destination, Senegal is similarly focused on enjoying the moment and forgetting life's worries. Essentially, then, Senegal is like a French African Australia with fewer kangaroos where the cultural instrument is the tama instead of the didgeridoo.

5. Malé, The Maldives

In addition to having the coolest flag in the world, the Maldives is also the lowest country in the world. Since the '70s, the invention of the picture-a-day calendar showcasing the country has caused a substantial increase in tourism (well, that and the country's push for tourism). In 1972, there were two resorts on the 26 atolls that make up the country. In 2007, there were 92 resorts. Marine life, crystal clear water, and blue skies make the Maldives popular for both tourists and biology students alike.[Image via Wikimedia Commons user Shahee Ilyas]
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Did you study abroad? If you could go back and design your own program, where would you go, and what would you study?

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Big Questions
How Are Rooms Cleaned at an Ice Hotel?

Cleaning rooms at Sweden’s famous ICEHOTEL is arguably less involved than your typical hotel. The bed, for example, does not have traditional sheets. Instead, it’s essentially an air mattress topped with reindeer fur, which sits on top of a custom-made wooden palette that has a minimum of 60 centimeters of airspace below. On top of those reindeer hides is a sleeping bag, and inside that sleeping bag is a sleep sack. And while it’s always 20ºF inside the room, once guests wrap themselves up for the night, it can get cozy.

And, if they’re wearing too many layers, it can get quite sweaty, too.

“The sleep sack gets washed every day, I promise you that. I know it for a fact because I love to walk behind the laundry, because it’s so warm back there," James McClean, one of the few Americans—if not the only—who have worked at Sweden's ICEHOTEL, tells Mental Floss. (He worked on the construction and maintenance crew for several years.)

There isn’t much else to clean in most guest rooms. The bathrooms and showers are elsewhere in the hotel, and most guests only spend their sleeping hours in the space. But there is the occasional accident—like other hotels, some bodily fluids end up where they shouldn’t be. People puke or get too lazy to walk to the communal restrooms. Unlike other hotels, these bodily fluids, well, they freeze.

“You can only imagine the types of bodily fluids that get, I guess, excreted … or expelled … or purged onto the walls,” McClean says. “At least once a week there’s a yellow stain or a spilled glass of wine or cranberry juice … and it’s not what you want to see splattered everywhere.” Housekeeping fixes these unsightly splotches with an ice pick and shovel, re-patching it with fresh snow from outside.

Every room has a 4-inch vent drilled into the icy wall, which helps prevent CO2 from escalating to harmful levels. Maintenance checks the holes daily to ensure these vents are not plugged with snow. Their tool of choice for clearing the pathway is, according to McClean, “basically a toilet brush on a stick.”

When maintenance isn’t busy unstuffing snow from that vent hole, they’re busy piping snow through it. Every couple days, the floor of each room receives a new coat of fluffy snow, which is piped through the vent and leveled with a garden rake.

“It’s the equivalent of vacuuming the carpet,” McClean says.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Rent an Incredible Harry Potter-Themed Apartment in the City Where the Series Was Born
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The Muggle city of Edinburgh has deep ties to the wizarding world of Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling wrote much of the book series while living there, and there’s even a pub in Edinburgh that named itself after the author for a month. Now, fans passing through the Scottish capital have the chance to live like their favorite boy wizard. As Digital Spy reports, a Harry Potter-themed holiday home in the city’s historic district is now available to rent for around $200 (£150) a night.

Property owner Yue Gao used her own knowledge as a fan when decorating the apartment. With red and yellow accents, a four-poster bed, and floating candles adorning the wallpaper on the ceiling, the master bedroom pays tribute to both the Gryffindor dormitory and the Hogwarts Great Hall. The Hogwarts theme extends to the lounge area, where each door is painted with a different house’s colors and crest. Guests will also find design aspects inspired by the Hogwarts Express around the apartment: The second bedroom is designed to look like a sleeping car, and the front door is disguised as the brick wall at Platform 9 3/4.

Pieces of Harry Potter memorabilia Gao has picked up in her travels are hidden throughout the home, too. If visitors look closely, they’ll find several items that once belonged to Rowling herself, including the writer’s old desk.

Take a look at some of the photos of the magical interiors:

The apartment is available to rent throughout the year through canongateluxuryapartment.co.uk. And if you can tear yourself away from the residence for long enough, there are plenty of other Harry Potter-themed attractions to check out in Edinburgh during your stay.

[h/t Digital Spy]

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