Semana Santa

In Spain you get one week off of school around Easter but with no Friday classes and skipping a few days of school, two of my friends and I made it into a two week adventure. In two weeks we were able to visit London, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, Prague, and Budapest. If you count Spain, we were in seven different countries over the span of two weeks. While all of these cities were fun and interesting in their respective ways, Berlin and Budapest had to be my favorites. Both of these cities were heavily affected by the second World War. They both endured a lot of damage from the war and have since been rebuilt. I enjoyed learning about these cities and seeing how history helped shape them. Every city in Europe has free walking tours and you should take advantage of them. They are a great way to see the city and learn. We usually did them on our first day in a new city and that helped us to better understand the layout of the city and the tours always gave good recommendations of other places to visit.

While in Berlin there are a few things you must do. I would recommend eating the bratwurst and the currywurst.

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Two of my favorite places that I visited were the Berlin Wall and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

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I had no idea what to expect when going to Budapest, but it ended up being one of my favorite cities. Over 80% of the city was damaged during the second world war and over 10% of the Hungarian population was killed. When they went to rebuild the city only two districts received funding so you can still see a lot of the damage. I stayed at a hostel called Vitae, which I would highly recommend to anyone, that was located in the Jewish district. Near the hostel there are many building that were damaged during the war that have been turned into ruin bars. The best place to eat is named Bors. They have sandwiches and soups and a full meals costs somewhere around three euros. Also while in Budapest you have to go to the baths. You can spend an entire day relaxing in the saunas and indoor and outdoor baths. Budapest is a cheap place to visit and it is an extremely interesting city with a lot to do. If you visit Europe I highly recommend you visit Budapest.

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Rome, London, and Paris!

I was lucky enough to be able to travel to many amazing cities and countries during my time abroad. Of course, I made sure to visit the big 3: London, Paris, and Rome. I have been dreaming of visiting these places (especially Rome) ever since I can remember. Luckily, flights out of Barcelona are extremely cheap, so it really didn’t cost very much to make these dreams into a reality.

My first stop was London. London is way bigger than I ever would have imagined. It even has 5 different airports, which made traveling to and from London quite an adventure since we used different airports for the two flights. The airport that we flew into was about an hour outside of the city center, so we had to take a train to get to our hostel. The suburbs of London seem to go on forever, which makes sense considering there are over 8 million people living in greater London. I spent 4 days in London, and I could have easily spent another 10. There are so many things to see and do, and so I had to be picky about what I wanted to accomplish during my 4 days. My favorite things to do in London were riding on the Eye of London (a gigantic ferris wheel on the Thames river that provides perfect views of the city center) and touring the Parliament building. Unfortunately, the food really isn’t very good in the UK, but the attractions more than made up for it.

Next up was Rome. Luckily for me, my study abroad provider included a trip to Rome in the costs of my program. Staying in a hotel was a nice break from all of the hostels I have stayed in during my time in Europe. I have always been fascinated by Roman history, thus finally experiencing Rome was amazing. I was overwhelmed with how big the Colosseum actually was. My favorite part of Rome was the Vatican. We toured the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, and on Sunday we actually got to listen to the Pope speak from St. Peter’s Square. Lastly, I can’t forget to mention the food. Authentic Italian food is something that everyone must try at least once in their lifetime. It was incredibly difficult choosing what to eat because there were so many delicious options, and the portions were gigantic. Rome is my favorite city that I have visited thus far.

A few weeks later, I traveled to Paris for 4 days, and I stayed in a hostel in the Montmartre part of town. Montmartre is the very stereotypical part of Paris: lots of artists wearing berets and painting pictures of nature. Similarly to London, it was extremely difficult to see everything that we wanted to see while in Paris for only 4 days. We took a day trip to the Palace of Versailles, which I would highly recommend to anyone who visits Paris. Versailles was also very cool to see since I knew the history behind it. Unfortunately, the gardens were pretty much nonexistent since we visited while it was still Winter, but I hear they are beautiful. Of course, we also visited the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre. My favorite though was the Museum d’Orsay, which is an art museum. It isn’t nearly as big as the Louvre, but I think that makes it a little more fun to see. When we visited the Louvre, it seemed like we were practically running to be able to see everything, but the d’Orsay has a smaller collection of extremely impressive paintings. The food in Paris was good, but not as good as in Rome. I tried macaroons, but oddly enough, I didn’t really care for them.

I’ll post again soon!

Big Ben/Parliament

Big Ben/Parliament

Colosseum

Colosseum

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

-Connor Smith

Looking Back on One Month in Spain

It is hard to believe that I am already halfway finished with my program here in Sevilla, Spain. Time has flown by due to how busy I have been exploring the city and traveling on the weekends. Since my last post, I have visited Italica, Cadiz, Jerez, Cordoba, and Granada. Each trip is filled with history, adventure, and of course fun.

I would like to start by talking about visiting Italica and Cadiz. Italica is a little town about 30 min. outside of Sevilla that is famous for its Roman ruins. It was a nice day trip in which I was able to learn more about Roman influence in Spain. The ruins consist of pillars, foundations of houses, and some walls. The ruins were once a bustling town that was home to people who farmed the land during the week, and went to the ampitheatre on weekends to take in the sites and sounds of gladiators battling. The amphitheater was extremely impressive and looked like a mini coliseum. On the other hand, Cadiz was a completely different experience. I went to this city on the Atlantic coast for Carnival. Cadiz is host to the biggest Carnival celebration in Spain, and it is very similar to what we think of when we think of Carnival or Mardi Gras. However, one major difference is that everyone dresses up in costumes for the celebration. Think mixing Halloween with Mardi Gras and you have Carnival in Cadiz.

Next let’s talk about Jerez and Cordoba. Jerez was a nice day trip as well as it is only 45 minuets away from Sevilla. Jerez’s claim to fame is that it is the home of Sherry wine. It is a quaint little town that I visited for a few hours with some friends. Cordoba was much more interesting. The main attraction in Cordoba is La Catedral Mezquita. As is very common in southern Spain, the site where this building resides changed hands between the Moors and Christians over its history. It was first a Visigoth Church that was then demolished by the Moors and replaced with an incredibly large and ornate Mosque. Finally when the Christians reconquered Cordoba they decided to build a Cathedral in the middle of the Mosque rather than destroy the beautiful architecture created by the Moors. The resulting building is an amazing feat of engineering and architecture.

Finally, let’s talk about Granada. Granada is another beautiful city in southern Spain. During my time here, I visited the impressive Moorish fortress known as La Alhambra. The Alhambra was a beautiful place with scenic views of the the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains and vast gardens. I also saw an authentic Flamenco show in Granada. The performers were full of passion and energy as they danced and sang for our entertainment. Flamenco is famous in southern Spain, and describing it with words doesn’t capture the dramatic and emotion filled performances that are its staple. The last thing I did in Granada was skiing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I am an avid skier back in the United States, but the only place I had ever skied prior to Sierra Nevada was Perfect North in Indiana. Needless to stay, it was quite a different experience. The views were absolutely incredible no matter what direction you looked. This included the view from the top of the mountain from which you could see the Mediterranean Sea and North Africa in the distance. The skiing itself was a blast as well, and I am happy to say that Perfect North prepared me well as I never fell during my time in the Sierra Nevada.

In my next post, I will talk more about my experiences here in Sevilla with the locals and day to day life. Thanks for reading and adios until next time!
-Adam

Barcelona!!!

On January 4th, 2015, I arrived at the Barcelona-El Prat airport where my study abroad journey began. During this Spring 2015 semester, I am studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, a place known for its vibrant culture, architectural wonders, and great soccer. It took 3 separate flights, with a total of 15 hours of traveling time, for me to arrive in Barcelona from Louisville, but the trip was well worth it. I struggled for the first few days to cope with jet lag; however, this allowed me to partake in the famous siesta naps that Spain is known for. While many Spaniards actually don’t nap at a specific time each day, I still actively participate in the tradition, as constantly exploring Barcelona can be quite exhausting.

Barcelona is home to over 1.6 million people jam-packed into a rather small area. One major difference between the United States and Europe is that Europeans build upwards, while Americans build outwards. There are no actual houses in Barcelona, only apartments stacked on top of each other, allowing for a greater number of people to live in a much smaller area in comparison to an American city with the same population. Barcelona has an amazing metro system that is extremely comprehensive in covering all of the major parts of the city, which allows for easy exploration of my new home. One of my favorite things about Barcelona is that there is a new adventure waiting around every corner. I did my best to visit all of the major areas during my first week here because I didn’t have classes to worry about yet. While this gave me a good overview of the layout of Barcelona, I was really only able to see the tip of the iceberg that is Barcelona. The city is extremely safe, with the majority of crime being non-violent pick pocketing. I have never once felt unsafe, even when walking home at night from my friends’ apartments.

This semester, I am living with a host family. I have a host mother and a host brother. My host brother is 22 years old, and he is studying to be a green energy engineer at the same university where I am taking classes. I have thoroughly enjoyed living with the host family even though it does bring about some interesting challenges. They have been extremely welcoming and helpful to me since day one, and I couldn’t have asked for a better host family to spend my time in Barcelona with. I was quite worried that there would be a language barrier between my host family and me; however, that has proven to not be the case. My host brother speaks English quite well, but my host mother only speaks Spanish. I actually haven’t taken a Spanish class for three and a half years, but I remembered quite a bit, so I was able to jump right back in. My host mother is very patient with me when I do not understand what she says. In Barcelona, the people speak both traditional Castilian Spanish and Catalan Spanish, which is a dialect from the Catalonia region, which includes Barcelona and the surrounding towns. While I do not speak any Catalan, all of the locals are very accommodating and ready to speak Castilian instead.

My two favorite adventures in Barcelona thus far were touring Sagrada Familia and attending an F.C. Barcelona soccer game. During my first week in Barcelona, F.C. Barcelona played Elche at home. Elche isn’t doing very well this season, so the tickets were extraordinarily cheap. I got to see Messi, Neymar, and Suarez all score goals, and Barcelona beat Elche 5-0. The atmosphere was awesome, and it was very fun watching the game with some of the friends I have made thus far in Barcelona.

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Sagrada Familia is a beautiful church designed by Antoni Gaudi and has been under construction for 133 years. In 2010, the Pope consecrated it as a Basilica, and it was announced that Sagrada Familia will be finished in the year 2026. The inside is completely finished, however, so we were able to tour it and see the amazing designed of Gaudi. Sagrada Familia truly was breathtaking, and I felt like I could have wandered around it for hours. The church is so gigantic that you practically break your neck straining to look up at the top. Gaudi also designed a few other parks and houses in Barcelona that I am looking forward to visiting during these next few months here.

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That’s all for now! I will include information on my travels throughout Europe in my next blog post. Hasta luego!

-Connor

Hola from Sevilla, Spain!

So far Spain has been pretty incredible. I have only been in the country one week and I have already been to Madrid, Toledo, and Sevilla, where I am studying this semester.
First let’s talk about Madrid. I was only there for two days, but I saw all the most important things in the city. This includes the amazing Prado museum which is similar to the Louvre in Paris. The Prado has incredible paintings by Diego Velasquez, Francisco Goya, and of course El Greco. I do not have the biggest interest in art, but the paintings in this museum gave me a much better appreciation to how complex and important art can be to a culture and its people.

From Madrid we went to the ancient city of Toledo. This city is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been if not the most beautiful. The city has a mixture of architecture due to the different people who have inhabited the city. This includes the Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and the Christians. The city is surrounded on three sides by the Tagus river which created the rocky bluffs that exist today. The skyline is dominated by the amazing Cathedral. It was breathtaking. I could have spent hours inside it looking at the incredible detail the painters, sculptors, and carpenters put into everything they touched over the 250 years it took to complete it. The stunning views and the Cathedral make Toledo the most beautiful city I have ever seen.

After a day in Toledo, we made our way to Sevilla to be introduced to our host families and to settle into the city where we will be living for the next three months. My host mom, Magarita, is a 60 year old woman who lives by herself and has had study abroad students for 15 years. She is an excellent cook and is extremely nice, however she only knows four english words. At first, this worried me because I am by no means fluent when it comes to spanish. This initial worry has faded away after being in Magarita’s home the past few days. I find myself communicating very effectively to the point where I am even able to make small “chistes” or jokes in Spanish. This is extremely exciting because I feel I am picking up the language fairly quickly after only a few days. So far everything has been amazing, and I know it will continue to be one of the most fascinating experiences of my life. I’ll have some pictures in my next post of my adventures. Adios until next time.
-Adam

Germany, home of the most complicated and thorough pdf documents and recycling system

So here’s the thing, Germany so far has been fabulous, I’ve met so many people and already have too many social things to do than I have time to do them. I’m surrounded by so many incredibly people that I haven’t actually had a spare moment to miss home, which is great! If you’re happy just hanging out with international students, then you will have no problem here, but if you want to integrate into German society, you need to know German. Yes, everyone here speaks English, yes, everyone here understands you, yes, it is possible to get around with exactly ZERO German, but if you want to make German friends, and if you want to have an authentic German experience, there’s no better ice breaker than one in their native language. It’s different here, I’ve found that personally I’m the least cultured person here, and while back in the states that’s the complete opposite, Americans have the privilege of driving sixteen hours and being in the same country where everyone speaks and understands the same language. This is great in some aspects, but it means that we aren’t forced to learn about cultures and languages other than our own, and this has been the greatest culture shock of them all.

Which brings me to my first point, thoroughness. You are provided with every single tiny ittiest bittiest piece of information that you could possibly, in any situation or circumstance, need to succeed, but this means that you have to read EVERY SINGLE EMAIL, EVERY SINGLE PDF, EVERY SINGLE NOTICE, EVERY SINGLE POST, EVERY SINGLE SLIDE. It’s not pompous, it’s an effort to make sure that there are as few mistakes as possible, but it’s matter of fact, it’s exactly what it’s meant to be: a detailed and descriptive how to guide to life. Don’t be turned off by this, it’s EXTREMELY helpful, and people are actually also extremely helpful, but every time I have asked a question thus far, I would have known the answer had I read before asking. It’s efficient.

Also, be on time. Much like America, time is money in Germany, and it’s disrespectful to be late, 5 minutes early is on time, and if you have to be either 45 minutes early or 2 minutes late, be 45 minutes early.

So about this recycling thing. Germany has cut it’s emissions by around 23% in the last year, and they take the environment seriously. You have an organic bin (compost for anyone who knows what I’m talking about), a plastic bin (which actually includes a lot of aluminum), a paper bin (I think this is pretty self explanatory), and a trash bin (anything that doesn’t go in another bin)…. It’s a 600 Euro fine if you’re caught not sorting your trash properly, and they check. This is one of the wonderful things about Germany, they care. They care about the future; they care about sustainability; they care about the betterment of the human condition. It’s important.

So still here is my favorite thing about Germany, because I think so far it’s just been informational and that’s SO far from the full picture, the world doesn’t stop. People are active despite arctic temperatures. You still walk to the grocery, you still walk to the stores, you still walk to the bus, you still walk to the train, you still walk to class, and the weather is not an excuse. P.S. the groceries are closed on Sundays and there’s nothing that is 24 hours, but this is yet another thing that is so wonderful about Germany, and it’s a far cry from the US. They value human rights over human convenience, so while they might not say hello to everyone they pass on the street, and smile at every stranger like we do at home (although plenty of them do) they will defend your human rights until the end of time, and for me this is far more meaningful.

The courses here are wonderful, the professors, the students, and the scenery, breathtaking. I’m in a small town (Oestrich-Winkel) and while there is nothing to do here past 6 pm, there is never a shortage of things to get yourself into. Everything is a quick train ride away (you still have to walk to the train), and the student pass you have for the transportation system: GOLD! The international student association (or something along those lines) organizes something crazy like 3 events a week, and German buddy programs, and parties, and pub crawls and everything else you can imagine. So as long as you have an open mind, and a warm coat, Germany is a great place to call home.

Oestrich-Winkel, Germany – Home of EBS

Last semester I studied at the European Business School (EBS) in Oestrich-Winkel, Germany. Studying abroad was one of the best decisions that I ever made, but I wasn’t so sure of what I was getting myself into before I left. One of the main reasons was because I had never heard of Oestrich-Winkel and had no clue what to expect, so that’s why I want to take the time to describe the small town that I spent last semester in.
One of the first things that you’ll notice when you arrive in Oestrich-Winkel is the vineyards. They’re literally everywhere! The town sits right on the Rhine River and is a part of the famous wine region of the Rhine Valley, so vineyards cover every open tract of land in the town.

Vineyards in the Summer/Fall

Vineyards (August 2014)

More Vineyards (August 2014)

More Vineyards (August 2014)

The Rhine River (August 2014)

The Rhine River (August 2014)

Overlooking Oestrich-WInkel (August 2014)

Overlooking Oestrich-WInkel (August 2014)

Since it is a smaller town, there are fewer amenities. There are about five grocery stores, four or five bars that students go to, three pharmacies, and a lot of bakeries, random shops, and wineries. Buses and trains typically come only once an hour depending on where you are catching them from. However, when you arrive at EBS, you’re required to purchase a semester card for the buses and trains which lets you ride them for “free”. You can get to bigger cities like Rudesheim (5 min), Wiesbaden (25 min), Mainz (35 min), and Frankfurt (1 hour) by train with your card. Being able to get to Frankfurt for free is also really convenient for travelling since it is a major transportation hub and has buses, trains, and planes constantly departing to cities all over Europe.

Street in OeWi

Street in OeWi

Another Street in OeWi

Another Street in OeWi

Most of the international students (there were about 300 last semester) live in either Oestrich-Winkel or Wiesbaden. Some people prefer Wiesbaden because it is a larger city while others like being closer to the campus by living in Oestrich-Winkel. I lived in Oestrich-Winkel in a flat with four other girls. A couple months before you arrive you’ll have the opportunity to participate in a flat hunt organized by EBS or you can find your own flat.

My Flat

My Flat

I think that that covers the basics of what to expect in Oestrich-Winkel. Hopefully it helps you get a better idea of what to expect if you’re thinking about studying there :)

Como Llegar A La Universidad Carlos III

As the first students from UofL studying here at the Universidad Carlos III, maybe a few of you don’t know how to get here. If you ever want to pop in during this spring, let me know and I can update the instructions to get you to my flat. ;D

Okay, so: Make sure you have around €10 in currency! It’s two brief train rides from the airport, so hopefully with these instructions, it’ll clear up any questions you may have and help you feel comfortable using the public transport for the first time.

1) Inside Barajas airport, after you come out of the Arrivals gate, turn right – still inside the airport – and, keeping to the left side of the walk-way, you need to walk about half a kilometre – following the Metro (underground) signs (a red, white and blue flattened diamond shape icon that says Metro) – you honestly think you’re never going to get to the Metro station, but you will! I promise! Use the moving pavements if carrying heavy luggage (like we were).

After a long walk and having gone up an escalator to the first floor and along various moving pavements, the signs will tell you to turn left.  After another 200m. on foot and on moving pavements, you arrive at the entrance to the Metro station which is down below.

3) Look for the blue and silver automatic ticket machines OR the kiosk with a real person selling tickets. In both cases select or ask for a single ticket to NUEVOS MINISTERIOS (“sencillo” or “ida”) WITH AIRPORT SUPPLEMENT. (If you don’t buy the supplement now you’ll have to buy it when you try to get out of the exit barriers at Nuevos Ministerios - which is much more frustrating, because the ordinary “ida” ticket won’t let you through the barrier). You’ll need to pay €4.50 for the combined “ida”/”sencillo” ticket and airport supplement.

4) Get on “linea 8″ (pink colour) from the Airport – direction: NUEVOS MINISTERIOS.  Get in near the front of the train. After 4 or 5 stops, get out at “Nuevos Ministerios” walk forward – beyond the front of the train – FOLLOWING THE SIGNS TO CERCANIAS straight ahead of you (their icon is a tilted  red “C” ) You are now in Cercanias!! This is a main hub for train transfers, I’m sure if you’re trying to go anywhere in the city you will pass through here.

Get your ticket in the silver and red machine on the left – you press “Las Margaritas – Universidad” and you pay around €1.80. (The machine gives you change.)

5)  Enter through the Cercanias barrier – straight ahead – then go up the escalator which is on the right behind you.  Turn left at the top and walk straight to the end of the walk-way – following the signs to Sol, Atocha and PARLA.  On the left is the escalator going down for Cercanias platform 8 and you want line C4, direction PARLA.  Get out after 5 or 6 stops at LAS MARGARITAS – UNIVERSIDAD (careful there are 2 other stations in Getafe).

You’ll exit onto Calle Madrid. Walk south following the street and you’ll come to a turnabout where the residence hall Fernando de Los Rios is on the left and a corner of the university being in front and to the right of you. Walk all the way around the roundabout so that you remain on Calle Madrid and follow it further. On your right will be the Campus of Humanities. If you want to go to the Business Campus, continue down Calle Madrid until the fence of the humanities campus ends. Go one more block and the fence for the business campus will start on the left. Follow it until you reach a gate, and there you are!
Hope this helps any future students or encourages any visitors (: I’m going to go get lost trying to find other places so I can write detailed instructions to those cool places as well. I’ll keep you updated and anything exciting I find!!
–Jessi Dietrich
Your Personal Tour Guide of Madrid ;P
UofL College of Business
Universidad de Carlos III