Prague

This past weekend I had the pleasure to go to Prague. Prague was one of those cities on my short list of places that I for sure had to visit. I don’t know what it is about Prague that is so intriguing to me…maybe it is because it is the biggest city in Europe not affected by World War II which means original buildings. Either way, Prague is one of those cities that I would highly recommend you visit in your lifetime….and SUPER cheap. It is kind of confusing though to use the Czech currency because 100 Koruna is the equivalent of 5 USD which is hard to adjust to.

I got to Prague Friday afternoon and since it gets dark really early now, there wasn’t much to see. EXCEPT, the infamous European Christmas Markets are in full swing so I had the pleasure of walking around Prague’s market in the Old Town Square. The food was amazing to say the least. Everywhere you looked there was a stand selling sausages, ham, chocolate….you name it and they had it.

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Christmas in Prague. The church towers in the background inspired the design of the castle in Sleeping Beauty

The next day was my city tour day. I did the usual free walking tour which gave pretty cool insight on the city. I was able to see the Astronomical Clock which is one of the top things to see in Europe but also one of the most overrated behind the Mona Lisa in Paris. On top of clock, we saw the Prague Castle which is the biggest in Europe, the Jewish Quarter, and Charles Bridge. The history behind Prague is pretty amazing and even though it has seen some turmoil over the years, a lot of it was ended peacefully which is pretty cool. We were able to get some really good at a traditional Czech restaurant where I got Beef Goulash which was tasty. The tour guide recommended this art exhibit called the Epic of Slav which gave a good history of the Czech people and it was pretty incredible. The paintings were massive and you got a handbook which explained what was going on in the picture which made it easy to follow

One of the many religious statues on Charles Bridge

One of the many religious statues on Charles Bridge

End of the bridge

End of the bridge

The Astronomical Clock. One of the oldest working clocks in the world. Pretty lame puppet show at the top of every hour

The Astronomical Clock. One of the oldest working clocks in the world. Pretty lame puppet show at the top of every hour

Food that will make your mouth water just looking at it.

Food that will make your mouth water just looking at it.

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View of Prague. Prague Castle on the left side of the picture.

Back of Prague Castle

Back of Prague Castle

Front of Prague Castle

Front of Prague Castle

Massive paintings at Epic of Slav

Massive paintings at Epic of Slav

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View from Charles Bridge

I met a couple of Aussies and Americans at the hostel that night and like me, they were kind of burnt out when it comes to cities so we looked for a place to hike the next day. We ended up finding this place north of the city called Bohemian Paradise. It is a natural park in the Czech Republic that is known for its natural sandstone and great features. The hike was long and the weather wasn’t that great (fog), but it was nice to get out the city and into nature with some cool people.

Nature coming alive

Nature coming alive

My flight was pretty late in the day on Monday so I looked for a place to hike to kill some time. There actually ended up being this really cool natural park between the city and the airport which worked out perfectly. There are the big rock cliffs that you could climb and some great trails. It was pretty good way to end the trip.

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Exams are coming up this week so I have been trying to hit the books which has made it hard to blog. I have 5 exams (Booooo) but I stayed on top of my studying so they shouldn’t be that bad. Exams end the 17th and then I will be off to either Antwerp or Bruges, Belgium for a few days then back to the States for Christmas.

And the adventure continues,

Corey Severson

Berlin for 25th Anniversary of the Wall coming down

Berlin for 25th Anniversary of the Wall Coming Down

Was able to go to Berlin with some friends and it just so happened to be the 25th anniversary of the wall coming down. Berlin is a really interesting city filled with history and it was nice because my roommate is German so he could explain some of the history behind the city and how the Germans view their past.

German Parliament

German Parliament

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

Holocaust Memorial. When you walk into it, you feel lost and confused. Supposed to represent the confusion amongst the prisoners. The memorial itself is ironic because the stone is sprayed with a chemical that doesn't allow graffiti to stick.....however the company that makes the chemical is the same company that made the gas for the gas chambers at the concentration camps.

Holocaust Memorial. When you walk into it, you feel lost and confused. Supposed to represent the confusion amongst the prisoners. The memorial itself is ironic because the stone is sprayed with a chemical that doesn’t allow graffiti to stick…..however the company that makes the chemical is the same company that made the gas for the gas chambers at the concentration camps.

For all of the Pop Culture fans out there...Michael Jackson hung his kid out of this hotel....

For all of the Pop Culture fans out there…Michael Jackson hung his kid out one of the windows in this hotel….

Checkpoint Charlie. Section of the wall controlled by Western Allies

Checkpoint Charlie. Section of the wall controlled by Western Allies

East Side Gallery. Part of the Wall that is still standing today and was painted by artists from all over the world.

East Side Gallery. Part of the Wall that is still standing today and was painted by artists from all over the world. The white balloons were all throughout the city where the wall used to stand for the anniversary.

Good Stuff

Good Stuff

Main stage commemorating the anniversary. Extremely crowded

Main stage commemorating the anniversary. Extremely crowded

Wasn't in Bavaria...but could still find the greatest meal on the planet. Pork shank, cabbage, and dumplings.

Wasn’t in Bavaria…but could still find the greatest meal on the planet. Pork shank, cabbage, and dumplings.

Berlin Cathedral

Berlin Cathedral

Remnants of the wall. You could see the different archietecture styles from the Soviets (East Germany) and the Germans (West Germany).

Remnants of the wall. You could see the different architecture styles from the Soviets (East Germany) and the Germans (West Germany).

2 Months in Sevilla

This is my first COB post, and since it has been practically 2 months since I began my semester in Sevilla, some people will say that I have been procrastinating in writing this. For me, however, I do not think it is so much as procrastination as it is a lack of time. In my ten weeks in Sevilla, not only have I completed a two-week intensive Spanish course, but I have also traveled to seven Spanish cities, and visited five countries on the weekends: France, Morocco, Portugal, Great Britain, and Germany. This amount of traveling is very exhausting, but each weekend I am so grateful for the opportunity to explore Europe (and in the one instance Northern Africa). I am not going to lie…there have been moments when I have second-guessed studying abroad this semester. However, I would never change my decision to be in Spain if I were given the option.

I feel like I differ from the majority of people who have or are studying abroad now because I would never describe this experience as a fairy tale or a dream that you are afraid will end. I promise I have enjoyed my time here, but I do miss greatly my family and friends and the majority of the aspects from my culture. The Spanish cuisine, for instance, became quite repetitive after the first few weeks here. What I originally thought would be healthy, flavorful food, has turned out only to be food drenched in olive oil and salt. Each day I miss my buffalo sauce and fried chicken more and more, and I continue to imagine my dream meal when I return to the US on December 5. Maybe it started out as a game or a way to remember my favorite foods with my friends, but now when I stare at the tortilla española on my plate—the fifth instance this week—it is quite calming to imagine in its place a big, juicy steak in only a matter of 18 days.

Even though I definitely miss home, I feel like my two months abroad have accomplished the goals that I had created before leaving Louisville in September. Not only did I want to improve my Spanish language abilities and confidence in the subject, but I also wanted to become a more independent person. When I came to Spain, it had been approximately two years since I had taken any Spanish course, and I hardly practiced the language in Louisville outside of a classroom. Ask any of my friends or family, and I am completely positive that they could relay to you just how afraid I was to be studying in a country where I had not practiced the language for so long. Even though I never believed those people who told me that my language abilities would come back to me quickly, those people were for the most part correct. At the beginning of the semester as I sat in my intensive Spanish course—reviewing those obscure verb structures and endings that I had once learned—it finally felt as if a flood gate had been opened as all the old knowledge I had grasped from my Advanced Placement high school teacher Mrs. Robke, came flooding forward into my memory. I am still surprised as to how much vocabulary I had retained after so many years, and I continue to increase my confidence in my Spanish writing skills.

As for my Spanish speaking skills, however, that is a different story. While I may be slightly disadvantaged due to my gringa Kentucky accent and the fact I cannot roll my R’s (thanks genetics), I do continue to struggle with oral communication. For the most part, my professors and my host mom understand exactly what I am saying; it is every other native who has difficulty understanding me. Sometimes, I repeat a word or phrase three times to a person, only for them to repeat it back to me exactly as I had said it, before they understand me; but other times the people give up on me. Granted, many Sevillans are friendly and are willing to help you, but I feel I have a tendency of finding all the people who become annoyed easily with Americans.

Despite this, there are times when all the cards fall into place and something special happens, something that makes you retain your faith in the whole reason why you are studying abroad. If you are lucky enough to stumble upon this when you go out at night, make sure that you appreciate it and fully take advantage of it. The first time I stumbled upon a group of Spaniards who wanted to practice their English speaking, I was completely surprised as to the impact this would produce. During this weird intercambio in which I spoke in Spanish and the Spaniards spoke in English, a judgment free zone was created since both the Spaniards and I were struggling as much as the other one. It is in this zone where all the pressure of speaking perfect Spanish vanishes and you can finally enjoy speaking the Spanish language. You learn so much more in these random intercambios about the Spanish culture and the colloquial phrases used in Sevilla than any amount of time you can spend in a classroom. It is during these intercambios that you stop questioning your study experience, and you start only focusing on the positives of your time abroad—at least until the conversation ends and you remember you have assignments due in the morning.

While it was difficult for me to finally take the plunge and to sign up to study abroad in Spain, this was only the start of becoming significantly more independent. Before coming here, I already felt that I was independent since I lived in my Louisville apartment six hours away from my parents’ house. However, that does not compare to what happens in Spain. It is not only the significant distance between Europe and the US, but it is also the fact that you—and only you—are solely responsible for your own well-being. Before studying abroad in Sevilla, I had never once before traveled alone and I had increasingly relied on my family and friends for all planning. In Europe, it becomes your responsibility to plan and book everything, navigate places usually without the use of a working phone, and somehow still manage to evade the pickpockets of Europe. It is time consuming and exhausting, and it forces you to grow up and mature even when you thought you had matured as much as you could. In my time abroad, I have become wiser—especially with traveling—and I now feel that I possess street-smarts even though two months ago I only had book-smarts to my name and could not even navigate anywhere without the use of my GPS.

When I am not traveling, and the Spanish culture and people are starting to weigh heavily on me, I just have to laugh. I have to laugh at myself when I make mistakes speaking Spanish, and I have to laugh later at some of the cultural differences that earlier in the day angered me. I have to laugh when my host mom turns some of my clothes into tie-dye and yells at me for not eating my olive oil soaked vegetables. I have to laugh when I mispronounce the ending of the word for chicken (pollo), and it turns into a word completely opposite of what I wanted. I also have to share in other people’s laughter. I have to laugh with my roommate when she shares the story of her having to run to class with her backpack as Spaniards videotape her; and I have to laugh when we all share host parent stories, each more horribly funny than the previous one.

When I reflect on my study abroad experience, I realize how much of these past two months have been full of funny memories, especially over things that I never thought I would be able to laugh at. In an environment that is so different from the one that I am accustomed to, I have to place a positive spin on my daily failures and on my slight annoyances with the city. My experience has not been perfect, but I realize the great opportunity I have to experience the Spanish culture first hand for three months. I know when I return to the US, I will have these funny memories to share with my family and friends and to continue remembering my experience abroad.

Lauren

Més Que Una Ciutat–Barcelona

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As I sit on my balcony overlooking the park with the sun shining on my face I am struggling to put into words the overwhelming experience that I have had so far in Barcelona. Every aspect of this study abroad experience has been absolutely amazing. Nearly every person I talked to before I left for this trip told me that it was one of the best things that they had ever done and when I asked if they had any regrets it was only that they did not stay longer. I am no exception this. So far in my life, there have been only a handful of my moments that I knew in the present moment that they were truly exceptional and I would relish these moments forever. This is one of them. I am at the top of my roller coaster and enjoying every single moment that I am given. I cannot thank UofL, the donors, my advisers, my teachers, the ISA program staff, and especially my parents for giving me the encouragement and means to make this wonderful experience a reality.

When I first got to Barcelona I was honestly a little scared and nervous. Knowing no one and not being fluent in the native tongue is a daunting thing especially when you are in a foreign countries for four months. Typically, I am pretty aware of where I am and relative location, but for my first few days in Barcelona I was practically a deer in headlights and lost constantly. This was fantastic. I discovered places that I would have never gone typically and simply embraced the moment. Instead of being fearful of not knowing where I was headed, I viewed it as an adventure that would only enhance my experience of this city I was living in. Yet, with all the adventure and excitement my first few days in Barcelona were met with me being pretty homesick. Life is pretty different here and there moments when I wondered, how am I going to live here for four months? I looked at my calender and thought, “Wow, I have a long time left.” After that, the first three days felt as long as the first three weeks. Time has simply flown by. Like many others, I have met so many amazing people in my time here. My homestay mom, Rosa is the sweetest Spanish lady. She takes care of me like I was her own. I cannot thank her enough for easing my transition to this Spanish life. I have friends here now that I know I will stay in contact with and visit for the rest of my life.

Barcelona is technically a part of Spain, but anyone who is from here or has lived here long enough will tell you that it is actually part of Catalonia. Now, you might think I am just being picky by saying oh its Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain and not just Barcelona, Spain, but there is a strong fervor here that Barça is truly Catalonia. The culture here is very different than the rest of Spain that I have seen. Every street sign, every menu, and most of what you will hear on the streets is Catalan. Although it may share some similarities with Spanish it is very different. Even though I do not know any Catalan I get by with my Spanish, but have learned that by extending the courtesy of greeting the locals with a little Catalan, it goes a long way. The Catalan people are very proud and have an extremely rich heritage. There is hardly a street here that is not lined with at least three or four Catalan flags. I am especially lucky because I am in Barcelona at a special moment in history where Barcelona is looking to vote for their independence in less than one week (November 9). Although it may have been blocked by the Spanish government it has not subsided the ferocity at which people are calling for independence and at the very least a democratic vote. I personally am a little biased because my homestay mom is very passionate about the issue and believes that Catalonia should be independent, but I believe it is only right for the people to be given the right to decide what they think is best.

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My time here as been filled with so many great memories. September was packed with events including holidays such as La Merce (the annual city festival), which was an insane city wide festival with concerts, parades, and fireworks that rivaled Thunder over Louisville. Singing songs, dancing in the streets, walking in the parade, and lighting sparklers with the locals was a great experience. At times, I felt like I was a local and just having fun with over a million of my closest friends.

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Every week here is seemingly filled with constant activities. Between going to class, laying out on the beach, swimming in the Mediterranean and hanging out with friends there really are not enough hours in the day. I can understand why the Spanish started taking siestas during the day. I have so many options here it is truly a blessing. I have gone to the Pablo Picasso museum and seen why he is so revered for his work. I have hiked the mountain to Tibidabo, the highest point in the Collserola mountain range. I have been to the clubs on the beaches and danced with friends until the sun came up. Before coming to Barcelona I had no clue what I was getting into and how much fun it would be. I cannot begin to explain to how much fun it is to get into a dance off against the locals on the metro at 2am or how wonderful it is to sit on rooftops looking at the skyline sipping on cheap Spanish wine. Living in Barcelona or Spain in general I would have thought that I would need to immerse myself in the culture but rather it kind of just wraps around you like a blanket and you begin to see why people love it here so much. They do not need all the amenities and luxuries that we are afforded in the United States (albeit they are nice), but they live for the simple pleasure of good food, wine, and company. Some of my favorite nights have been spent with friends just walking the streets of Barcelona and talking about life. I am exposed to so many different styles of living and how people perceive the same events differently; it is fascinating to me.

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One of the best experiences I have had so far was going to the Barcelona versus Ajax champions league futbol (soccer) game. I decided just hours before the game I was going to go and bought a ticket front row behind the goal in the Barcelona fan section. When I bought the ticket I didn’t realize what I was getting into and since I didn’t own any Barcelona gear I wore my USA soccer shirt. I quickly realized that I needed to blend in so I bought a Messi jersey. That was definitely the right decision. I soon found out that I was in the heart of where all the dedicated fans go. They all had on their jerseys while waving their huge flags and banners around. They chanted the songs of support for the team and roared every time Barça got close. Now, Barcelona FC plays in Camp Nou which seats over 98,000 people and I swear to you every single of one of those seats was filled with die-hard fans. The stadium was electric. When Messi connected with Neymar for the first goal the stadium exploded and sounded like a fighter jet had just flown over my head. It was absolutely amazing. Later on when Messi scored the second goal for Barça, I understood why he was such a big deal. Not only is he lightning quick, but his footwork and mastery of the game are obvious. The fan section I was in began chanting his name and bowing to him like he was a demi god. After Barcelona won 3-1 it was an absolute mad-house trying to leave the stadium. Everyone flooded out into the streets and turned the city into a sea of scarlet and blue. After having been able to attend a game like that I am definitely a fan for life. I can appreciate why their motto for the club is, “Mes Que Un Club” or “More Than A Club”. Barcelona futbol is a way of life.

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Although I am in Barcelona for the semester, it would not be a true study abroad experience without traveling and seeing the rest of what Europe has to offer. To date, I have been to Sitges, the French Riviera (Nice, Eze, and Monte Carlo), San Sebastian, Valencia, Peniscola, London, Narbonne, Toulouse, Carcassonne, Collioure, Montserrat, and Paris. I have loved each one of the places for their own unique features. My favorite (if I had to choose even though I love all of them) is probably London. In my four days there I go to see so much of the city including: London Bridge, Tower Bridge, the Globe theater, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Belgravia, the National Gallery, Tate Modern Buckingham Palace, Picadilly circus, Camden Market, Burrough Market, the Eye of London, London Tower, Parliament, Big Ben, Millenium Bridge, Hampton Court, and Hyde Park. It was a whirlwind trip and I loved every minute of it. I have met some Americans who are studying abroad there and alot of them have not gotten to experience some of the things that I did in my limited time there. I did so much of that on my own and was happy I did so. There was nothing that was going to hold me back from seeing as much as I could.

Traveling and study abroad has taught me alot about Spain, culture, and myself. I have learned to not mind getting lost because I will always find something I did not know before. I have learned to try everything. I have eaten fish heads, had mussels for the first time, tried countless different types of tapas, and discovered my love for good french duck. I understand now that being uncomfortable is normal and actually good because I am much more open to new experiences now. I know that I need to be bold and just make decisions instead of letting others always decide. I have learned that you will always meet new friends and find really interesting people from all over and in my time that has included people from: Peru, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Russia, and France. Meeting all of these different people has taught me that getting to know other people enriches your life and also reminds you of your roots. While I have grown and changed as a person I feel even more proud now to be an American and a Kentuckian.

I am only a little more than half way through my study abroad and I simply am baffled at where the time has gone. It seems like only yesterday I boarded a plane to Barcelona and I know now that the remaining weeks I have left will go quickly so I intend to make the most of it. I have Prague, Dublin, and Madrid to look for to in the coming weeks and I am very excited for those. It might be cliche, but the one phrase that I think sums it up nicely is, “Life is beautiful.”

Until next time. Go Cards.

A Little bit of Sevilla for the People

Toledo - Panoramic Viewpoint

 

First and foremost, I would like to apologize to all of the devoted COB blog readers out there for my clear lack of blogging commitment. But that is all about to change. I certainly enjoy sharing my experiences with my closest friends back home, but this experience was not solely encouraged by them, it was supported by others. That includes all donors and boosters of the College of Business and it certainly includes the fine people in the advising office that had to deal with my constant misunderstandings and forgetfulness in trying to put my trip together in the weeks and even months leading up to my flight to Spain. So for that I would like to say thank you to all those who have been involved in allowing me this amazing experience and I hope you all enjoy my deep and insightful revelations and adumbrations. These could very well be misconstrued as mindless babble but I can assure you it’s all insightful or something.

With all of the good stuff out of the way, let’s get into some more good stuff.

My name is Sterling Baker and I am an Accounting Major pursuing Minors in Spanish and International Business at the UofL College of Business and I have been studying in Sevilla, Spain for almost two months now. To be honest, I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. Sevilla is a place of astounding beauty, history, and passion. It is constantly brimming with life and there is absolutely never a dull moment. Whether it is the Americans I am studying with or the Spaniards we meet that toss aside their daily duties to show us a good time, there is always something to do and someone to accompany you. I have already visited Madrid, Toledo, Matalascanas and Malaga in Spain, I have visited Lisbon and Evora in Portgual, Paris, France, and Hallgarten, Wiesbaden, and Frankfurt, Germany and I can tell you Sevilla is a place in which I could spend the rest of my life.

With all of this travel, of course I am focusing on my studies as much as possible but let’s be honest, I’m in Spain. That isn’t always the most important thing. I feel like I have seen every nook and cranny of the city already while I know that I have barely scratched the surface of the history that this place holds. It is easy to fall into a routine: To go to the same restaurant/bar every night and take the same route to school every morning and take your siesta every day exactly when your body tells you too. However, I have found that spontaneity is the way of life here in Spain. Learn something new every day and talk to someone new every day and you can’t be left wanting. They told me that the pace of life is slower in Spain, but that isn’t something that I ever planned to adapt to, and I haven’t. Putting a little American twist on your cultural experience abroad can be a good thing, and of course help counteract any culture shock that presents itself.

Castillo de Gibralfaro en Malaga

 

With all of that being said, I have been told that I always look too much like an American in Spain. Well… if I am not trying to be an American in Spain then what am I trying to be? A Spaniard? Too many people try to become one of the locals while they’re here, but in my opinion that is a misguided way to spend your study abroad experience. I have grown to respect the culture in Spain, in Andalucia, in Sevilla, way too much to think that I could ever consider myself a Spaniard. I am a guest in this country and I am here to learn the culture and language and maybe even impart some of my own culture to the locals here. But I am not here to become a Spaniard, and I think that outlook has helped me immensely. It is easy to take random tourist traps and foreigner discrimination (Nothing crazy, just some higher priced English menus and guys trying to make you play goalie because they think you’re an American that doesn’t speak Spanish and can’t possibly be any good at soccer) too seriously when you are under the illusion that you’re a local. Just a small rant and a little bit of advice to help yourself stay on the ups in the roller coaster that is adapting to a new way of life.

To continue, the culture is amazing. The culture is absolutely amazing. Why go to sleep at 2 when you could have a couple more hours of fun and get a couple less hours of sleep? (Opportunity cost at its finest) Why have a 3 Euro coke at a meal when you could have a 1 Euro beer? (I’m no drunkard, but who am I to spit in the face of Spanish culture and ask my esteemed camarero(a) for something other than a beer?) Why be tired when you could siesta? Why siesta when you could visit a castle in the middle of a city, or see Roman ruins underneath a city, or see a chapel in Portugal literally made out of human bones? These are hard hitting questions if I’ve ever heard one. And the answer to all of them is: It’s your choice. These things are all part of the culture and you can choose to embrace any and all parts that you choose. Many Spaniards don’t even do all of these things while others do. Spain is diverse in itself and dabbling in every part of the culture is part of the fun. Sure bullfights are said to be gruesome and inhumane, and this castle or that castle is just another castle, but I’m going to experience that for myself. When else will I see a Corrida del Torros or visit El Torre de Belem sitting surrounded by a body of water off the coast of Lisbon? Live life one day at a time and put exhaustion in the back of your mind for a few months. It’s all about the Carpe Diem, really.

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To sum up, this has absolutely been two of the best months of my life so far and I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. I have met friends, best friends, and just so many awesome people in general while missing all of the awesome people back home. But it has all been worth it so far. This has been just a taste of my experience and I look forward to uploading a few more posts in the near future (i.e. less than two months from now). But until then, thanks for taking the time to read, y hasta la proxima.

Fall break in Italy

This past week was our fall break. Luckily here in the Netherlands fall break is a week long. My friend and I from home went to Milan, Venice, Rome, Naples, and pompeii. Out of all of those my favorite was Venice it had a completely different feel than the rest of Italy or any other place in Europe that I have been to so far. After visiting Italy I would high recommend Venice and Rome. The entire week was such an over all great learning experience. I learned about their culture, food, and even learned a few Italian phrases.   IMG_6206IMG_5980

Top right the colosseum in rome  Bottom right Duomo church in Milan Bottom left Venice Island  Top left Pompeii  Middle sistine chapel Vatican City, Rome

Top right the colosseum in rome
Bottom right Duomo church in Milan
Bottom left Venice Island
Top left Pompeii
Middle sistine chapel Vatican City, Rome

 

Missing Home But Never Want to Go back

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                I am beginning month number three in Budapest, Hungary and it is safe to say the adjustment stage has officially gone away. While preparing to go abroad you think you’re ready and it is going to be a walk in the park – “oh my gosh, a semester abroad- HOW COOL, I’ll be SO cultured!” This is true, but the phrase that hit my hard 1 week into the trip was “I have FOUR months to be here.” During the first week you want to do everything. You explore the entire city, eat tons of exotic food, do everything you can think to do- and then when you are done you realize you have a very long time to be there. Luckily for me, two weeks into my trip I got a visitor, which saved me from too much culture shock.

                After exploring this beautiful, historic, wonderful city my boyfriend, Logan, came to visit and the next day we left for a trip of our own. Since neither of us had ever been out of the country we decided to use this time to explore a set of cities that both of us wanted to see. We bought a Eurail Pass and began our 14 day journey through Europe. On the first night of our trip we ran into our first problem- the fact that we don’t know how to travel. We missed a train (probably too busy eating cinnamon rolls the size of our face) and were stuck in Vienna for a night, which ended up being not so bad. The next day we got on a new train and finally arrived in Rome. We spent the next few days seeing the entire city, eating whole pizzas to ourselves, and ending every night with a scoop of gelato. Rome was nice, but not for our waistline. After Rome we traveled to Prague which is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, it looks like it is out of a picture book. There we explored the city, took a hop-on hop-off tour and even found a Czech Crossfit Gym! After three days in Prague we moved on to Amsterdam which is the most interesting city I have ever been. There you see the most brilliant buildings with hundreds of canals. Not only was it breathtaking, the atmosphere is so carefree which is exactly why I loved it. Everyone minds their own business and does not care what others are doing around them. The BIKES were my favorite part. It is normal to ride a bike around town but the Dutch use them as their everyday “cars” carrying their children to school or riding to work in a suit or dress, it is amazing! After a few days there we traveled to our final city- Munich. I can just say one thing about this city- Oktoberfest. At the end of our two weeks we arrived back to Budapest and Logan’s flight left later that afternoon.

                Now that I have returned from dabbling through Europe I am finally back to classes and have a sort of structure to my schedule, which is nice. Luckily classes only meet once a week, the downside is they are three hours long but this helps the school week go by and the weekend arrive fast. I am readjusting back to being in Hungary rather than a purely tourist city and it feels almost normal, I even referred to Budapest as “home” while traveling. I currently have trips to Berlin, Brussels, Dublin, and the UK planned for the last half of my trip. I even have a trip planned to meet some other students from UofL in Barcelona for Halloween! Even though culture shock is real and it takes some adjusting, I still think this experience is the best thing I have ever done. I have exactly 2 months left and I already do not want to leave.

 

Hallo from The Hague

It has been just a little over a month and a half and it has been a blast living and studying here. As we are preparing to go on fall break, I felt it would be a good time to post about my experiences so far.

I’ll begin with the city; it is absolutely amazing and beautiful. Every morning, I get to wake up to a beautiful sight looking out towards the city. The city center, which is a few minutes away on foot from the train station (Den Haag Holland Spoor), is tremendous. There are plenty of stores many of which are very high-end. One thing is for sure though; you cannot go hungry in this city. There are plenty of places to eat from small cafes to bars that serve anything from a nice juicy ribeye to Turkish pizza. One specialty over here is called patas which are pretty much French fries and are served a lot with main dishes. The one thing that makes it notability different is that they are served with mayonnaise…now I know what you are thinking, how do fries and mayonnaise go together? Well let me tell you that it is awesome. I would never dare do that back home but over here it works. Besides the city center, the beach is not too far away which is nice on a warm day. Next, I will talk about my living accommodation.

What I wake up to every morning.

What I wake up to every morning.

Picture of the beach to make your day a little better

Picture of the beach to make your day a little better

I live in an apartment very close to school. I have two roommates; one is from Egypt and the other is from France. Space here tends to be a little bit smaller than what seems normal back home but it is very manageable. We do a lot of cooking. Unfortunately for me, my cooking is very limited except for Ramen noodles which I have mastered. My French roommate is the main chef of the apartment so I am taking notes from him to bring back home because he can fix just about anything. One great thing about living in this apartment, besides being very close to school, is the amount of other exchange students that also live here. Students come from all over the world. I have made many new friends and there are always activities going on. Just the other day, a group of us found a local park that had several soccer fields to play on so we will be making return trips there very soon. The next thing I want to talk about is school and what I do on a normal basis.

My roommates and I enjoying dinner in the city center

My roommates and I enjoying dinner in the city center

The Hague University, or De Haagse Hogeschool in Dutch, is a neat school. There are about 30,000 students that study here. The HU is divided up into different sections or buildings which are connected which makes it easy to navigate to your other classes once you get the hand of things. Classes often change rooms depending on the day so it is always good to check beforehand where you need to go so you don’t end up late. Here is an awesome tip; there is an app you can download called HHS TimeTable which you can pull up class schedules very quickly. As far as classes go, I am taking classes in finance, management, and Dutch for exchange students. Other than that, I usually enjoy riding my bike around the city (which there is a cool non-profit organization called B-Cycle-It that offers bikes to rent to students at a very reasonable cost a month). I have also been refereeing soccer games at a local club that I just happened to find one day walking through Rijswijk on certain weekends. Finally, I’ll talk about my travels.

Main atrium of The Hague University

Main atrium of The Hague University

My traveling so far has taken me to Germany and Austria. In Germany, I went to Munich, Frankfurt, Regensburg, Hannover, and Berlin. In Austria, I went to Salzburg which is on the border of Germany. With fall break here, I plan on going to Italy and then working up towards France. One note I would like to make if you decide to come over here to study: ask other exchange students about places you are interested in. Like I said earlier, students come from all over the world. They are a great source of information and can give you great tips that the internet can’t offer.

At Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

At Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

Well that has been my experiences here so far. While I enjoy my time over here, I know the days are getting quicker and soon it will be the end of the semester. If you are interested in The Hague and would like to know more, feel free to contact me at my email, amhend06@louisville.edu.

Forcing yourself into uncomfortability

Contrary to a majority of my fellow study abroad comrades, I chose a different route for my experience. I am studying abroad in France. You can save your biases about French culture or jokes of a winning-less military for someone else because I have idolized France since my first French class my freshmen year of high school. Since that point I have been intrigued of anything French. I loved speaking it and the way it sounded. I loved French history and traditions. Especially, I loved the romanticism associated with Paris being the “city of lights”.
This admiration only increased coming to Cergy, France for my fall semester to study abroad. The city of Cergy is a thirty minute train ride from Paris and needless to say a majority of my weekends during my first month here were spent navigating through the picturesque facades of the Parisian streets.
Although the city is beautiful and not a day goes by that I am not taken aback by the sheer fact of where I am standing, I would be lying if I said my entire trip has been perfect. I made this experience challenging for myself. I could have gone to a school with a group of my close friends for the summer. I could have attended a school with which our university had a specific exchange program. I could have chosen a country where the majority of its population speak English. To me though, study abroad meant something different. If I was going to study abroad I was going to make myself as uncomfortable as possible because that’s how I feel people truly grow as human beings. Out of the almost 200 exchange students there are ten from the United States and I am the only student from my university. If I had a question about a class or even something so basic as finding the grocery store there was no familiar face with which I could find a solution to the problem.
After a month here I can safely say that I am extremely glad I put myself in such a seemingly uncomfortable situation. It means that I am not reliant on people to make my own decisions. It means I am forced to branch out and acquaint myself with the people and places around me. I have learned a lot about my capabilities in this first month and I could not be more excited for the next three. A bit of advice to any study abroad student: to maximize the personal benefit of the experience make yourself as uncomfortable as possible.

Coming up on the end of Month 1

Hey everyone! There’s only a few days left until my first month is the Netherlands comes to a close, and I have to say, the time has flown by. To be honest, I don’t know where to start. Schipol airport is absolutely amazing. Once you leave the boarding area you enter into this huge foyer that is lined with stores and restaurants, and is filled by crowds of people from all over the world. Luckily I met a very nice woman from Cyprus who helped me get a train ticket and find the correct platform. Even then, I still would have gotten on the wrong train if it hadn’t been for the help of some friendly locals (what Albin said in an earlier post is true, the Dutch have been extremely helpful). Unfortunately I got in on Sunday due to a flight delay and the housing office was closed. The upside is that I got to stay in a hostel that was situated on one the cities canals.

The next day I got situated in my apartment and met my roommate. Her name is Jin, she’s from South Korea and is completely awesome. She’s been showing me around the city and and tonight, she, Maddy, and I are going to a well-known local bar called The Fiddler.

It feels like we only just started going to class but in reality we just finished our third week. There are a lot of in-class assignments and group projects that we have to do, as well as the final exam that takes up the majority of our grade. I really like most of the classes that I’m taking and my teachers make their subjects very interesting. And speaking of school, the building that is De Haag Hogeschool is so cool! The building is made up of four different parts: the Ovaal, Slinger, Strip, and Rugzak. All of our classes are held in these four parts and there are a lot of places you can sit down and chat with your friends or study.

So far Maddy and I have traveled to Amsterdam, Haarlem, and Antwerp, Belguim. This upcoming weekend we are planning on going to Disneyland, Paris. Maddy and I are both very excited and are looking forward to going on the rides and taking pictures with the Disney princesses. And a few weeks from now we (the UofL group) and a bunch of other exchange students are going to Oktoberfest for a few days.

Since everyone has been providing small details that they’ve noticed, I’ll add my own in here. You have got to watch the bikers. The cars in this country will politely stop for you and wave you across the road while the bikers will yell at you if you are in their way and almost run you over. I haven’t seen a single car accident while I’ve been here but I have seen several bike collisions. It’s very different from the states. Another thing is that Belgium has delicious food. I think the main thing Maddy and I did while we were in Antwerp was eat. I mean, yeah we walked around and saw all of the cool sights, but we mostly ate. Belgian waffles, Belgian fries, gelato, donuts, and the most delicious chicken I’ve ever eaten for dinner. If you go to Belgium, make sure you have a good food budget.

I think I’ll end this post here. I’ll be back soon though to tell you more about our trip!