Studying Abroad in Rome, Italy

Ciao from Roma! It’s springtime here in Rome, which means gelato, sunshine, and enjoying my daily cappuccino sitting outside! It also means tourists. Until now, I have experienced Rome amongst mainly, Italians. It has been the experience of a lifetime! I am studying with AIFS Richmond, a great program for any of you who are still searching for one! I have nothing but praise for AIFS Richmond in Rome. The program directors are amazing and are there for your every need. There are 65 students studying abroad with AIFS, and when we arrived the directors already knew our names! It is a very personable and friendly environment. Our school building is so nice – the classrooms have all the modern technology we are used to and there is a great computer lab with the comfiest chairs and magazines to read in your leisure time. Now, where I live. I cannot be happier with the apartment that the program arranged for me! I have 4 other roommates from the program, from all over the U.S. We live in an area of Rome called Trastevere (the best area to live in), a village-like community that features numerous family-owned Italian restaurants, a park overlooking the city, and great Roman nightlife. It’s only a 10-minute walk for me to school and the city center.

During my time in Italy I have made countless amazing friends, both American and Italian. Our program is made up of American students, but because we are scattered across the city, living amongst Italians, we get that cultural immersion. AIFS sets up a lot of activities for us to meet Italians our age as well – dinners, soccer matches, and movie nights. I have learned that I love the Italian culture… everyone is so friendly and laid back. On my way to Italy, I visited London where everyone was always on the go, hurrying to get somewhere. Italy is the complete opposite. People walk at a leisurely pace, take in everything around them, and stop to enjoy a view or talk to someone they recognize.

Italy, I think, is the most beautiful country I have ever visited. I have traveled all throughout Italy – to Florence, Pisa, Venice, Siena, Capri, Sorrento, Tivoli, and Naples. I’ve also visited England, the Netherlands, and Greece. I’m going to Croatia next week, and Germany in a few weeks. I never dreamed that I would be given this many opportunities to travel while abroad in Europe! Greece, I would have to say, is definitely my second favorite country to Italy. Ever since “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” I’ve dreamed of going to Greece, and I got to spend a week in Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini!

My study abroad experience has exceeded my expectations, has exceeded my dreams! I am living in an ancient city where I get to walk by the ruins where Julius Caesar was killed on my way to school, have class in the Colosseum, and take field trips to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. If you are still trying to decide where to study abroad, pick Italy! You will not regret it for one second. If you want to see more about my travels, check out my blog at http://worldisabook.weebly.com

Ciao for now!

Sarah

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Where to Live in The Hague

If you’ve been looking into studying at The Hague University of Applied Sciences you have probably looked into the available housing and have probably come across the extremely helpful and descriptive (..sarcasm) DUWO website. DUWO is in charge of the student accommodations here, but the website is sort of tricky to navigate and not very helpful to exchange students who are trying to figure out the most suitable place to live. SO I will try to help you out by giving you a little description and some pros and cons of each location.

1. The Red Tower (Stamkartplein) — I’ve never actually been in this tower, but i do know that it is connected to the school, which is very nice since The Netherlands can be a very windy and rainy place. Also, this tower houses more than just exchange students, so you would have the opportunity to meet many more dutch students than you would in other buildings. One drawback of living here is that you have to pay for laundry and i wouldn’t consider it cheap ( 2.50 Euros to wash + 2.50 Euros to dry). Not to mention the washer and dryers are much smaller here so you’ll be doing more loads.

2. Waldorpstraat–This is the newest building and it has 3 and 4 bedroom flats and is also really close to campus, about a 5 minute walk. It’s located across from the Mega Store, which is convenient since thats where the grocery store and other stores are located. There are two towers at Waldorpstraat, but one is just for exchange students, so you won’t get to experience living with any regular Dutch students. Like the red tower, you’ll be spending a lot of money just to do laundry if you live here.

3. Amsterdamse Veerkade– This is where I live. I picked this apartment because it was located in the city center. There are both positive and negatives aspects to living right in the center of the city. The pros would definitely be that you are near all of the shopping, restaurants, bars, etc. and people are always out and about on the streets. I also have my own washer, so I don’t have to pay for each load. However, I have no dryer so I had to buy a drying rack. The biggest con to living here is that I have to walk a mile to get to school every day and even farther if I want to go to Waldorpstraat, which is where most people hang out. It is also kind of scary walking back to my place at night when its dark out, which can be as early as 5:30 in the winter. I think the biggest con living here is how outdated the apartments are– the website says they were built in the 90′s, but the appliances seem like they are from the 70′s if you ask me.  Despite the cons, I still enjoy living here.

So to sum it up, if you want to be closer to campus live in the red tower or waldorpstraat and if you want to be near the restaurants, shopping, and bars live at Amsterdamse Veerkade. All of the places are livable, it just depends on personal preference and I don’t think DUWO does a very good job describing the properties so I hope this helps a little :)

 

P.S. Nothing to do with housing, but here are some pictures from my trip to Sicily! It was beautiful.

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Free Time in March

It’s April in Germany and it seems summer is fast approaching. This past week has been nothing but T-Shirt weather, which makes me possibly the happiest person on the planet. The flowers are in full bloom, and the leaves are finally beginning to return.

Despite being in Europe, I have recently started a new internship in Kentucky, working for a start up company who actually emerged from the UofL entrepreneurship program – US Chia. March has been slow in terms of classes, because many of the students have this time off to work on their thesis. This has meant I needed to fill my time with other projects, so I decided why not make an internship while I study abroad? I have been mainly writing blog posts related to all the benefits of chia, and have thoroughly been enjoying the productive feeling. (I also highly suggest looking more into integrating Chia into your diet – it is quite the super food as I have found out!)

On another note, this large chunk of free time has afforded me the ability to do some extensive traveling. During March, I was able to visit Scotland, Portugal, and France. I was extremely luck with the weather in Scotland; it was sunny and gorgeous all three days I was there. I checked out the famous town of St. Andrews (where William and Kate went to school), and sampled the Black Pudding (can’t say I cared for it).

Portugal was just wonderful, and the people there are amazingly friendly; however I have been in Germany for the past 6 months, so anyone who smiles at you is friendly. That’s just a little joke though – the German people are actually on average much nicer than people make them out to be. Anyway, in Portugal we enjoyed 2 full days out on the beach getting tanned and learning to surf – well, trying to surf. I had some fantastic meals, and I was able to meet up with some of my Portuguese friends I made last semester, which was a real bonus. But if ever visit Portugal, make sure you check out the palaces in Sintra – the closest thing to paradise I have ever experienced.

France was also quite enjoyable although the weather was much colder. I am fortunate enough to have distant family member who own a horse farm/bed and breakfast in a tiny, rural village near Bordeaux. If you know me, you know I am a weird horse girl at heart, so it was great to get some much-needed horsey time. The first day we went on a five and a half hour trail ride, which my body was inadequately prepared to handle. Funny how much more difficult things are when you have had 6 months off from riding or really exercise in general. My body has recovered and it was wonderful to reconnect with my French family, although I was reminded of how it feels to not understand what people are saying. I need to learn some more French I guess…

Next week I have to get back to the grind of classes, but I guess that is what I am here for after all. That’s all for now, until the next time!

Claire

Spain: Helpful Hints

This is a post for students who are planning on studying in Spain. I’m going to lay out a few tips and tricks you can use to blend in a bit better with the locals and get a really “Spanish” experience out of your time abroad. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but they are good guidelines to follow. I’ve studied in Spain twice, and these are things that I wish I had known when I went.

1. Ditch the Americans- It will be very tempting to stick together with other Americans in your program and go see the sights, try the food, and pick out a good bar to frequent. My advice is to avoid this as much as possible. Find ways to meet locals. At first they will be surprised that you took an interest, but before long they’ll be inviting you to soccer games and parks where they hang out with their friends. Your Spanish will get better, and you will get a real look at what life is like for a Spanish university student.

2. Learn the public transit- Taxis are expensive, and walking everywhere takes time and is tiring. In Seville, there is a public bicycle system that I highly recommend. Granada has great buses, and the Madrid metro is the best I’ve ever seen. You will get lost a few times, but after that you will be glad you took the time to figure it out. There’s no substitute for seeing the city on your terms.

3. Forget your fancy phone- For about 50 euros you can get a good old-fashioned brick phone and plenty of pre-paid minutes. Smart phones are still very much a luxury in Spain, and while it can be tempting to drop a Spanish SIM card in yours and stay connected, it isn’t safe. Most of your friends will be sporting older models too, so you won’t be missing out and you will definitely save some money.

4. Eat the food- I don’t like all of the Spanish food I’ve ever tried. I did, however, try everything that my host mom gave me. Not only is it polite, it’s one of the reasons you’re there. I’ve had four host families, and the number one complaint I’ve heard from them about other Americans is that they are picky eaters. Unless you have a dietary restriction, you should try everything you can.

5. Stay sober- This is the second biggest complaint I’ve heard about Americans from my Spanish friends. Being drunk is a good way to keep Spanish people from talking to you, because Spanish people don’t drink in excess. Drinking too much can be dangerous and it would be embarrassing to show up to your host home obviously drunk.

6. Ask for help- This is the tip that I wish I had followed more. Are you lost? Tell someone. Forgot the word for fork? Point at it and look confused. Not feeling well? Have someone take you to the pharmacy. People can feel isolated when they are abroad, and the biggest reason for this is because they want to do it all themselves. You will make better relationships with people and struggle less if you just break down and ask.

7. Give someone else your passwords- To everything. And make them change them. Don’t let them tell you what they are. Get rid of Netflix, social media, even an email account you don’t really need. Disconnect. Looking back and seeing that you spent three hours a day in bed watching bootleg episodes of The Walking Dead won’t be nearly as rewarding as looking back and knowing that you made the most of every day.

8. Study- I know that’s probably not what you’re looking forward to the most. It wasn’t my favorite thing to do either. But you have to have get credit for your classes, and you just might learn something in the process.

9. Speak the language- Silent dinners aren’t fun for anyone. Not you and not your host family. They know that you aren’t as good at Spanish as they are. They won’t be offended by it, even when you accidentally say something offensive (and you will). My program director said it best when he told us that “those of you who practice will improve, and those of you who practice less will improve less.” Making mistakes is encouraged.

10. Enjoy yourself- It is easy to get over there and after the first few weeks… “hit a wall.” It isn’t fun and new anymore, and you’re starting to get homesick and tired of all of the differences. The best thing to do when this happens is to make yourself get out there and try something new. Make a new friend or find a new hobby. The time will fly by, and you need to make the most of it.

Let me know if you have any questions, and enjoy your time in Spain. It’s a great country.

Life in The Hague – Netherlands

Where to start… Studying abroad here in the Netherlands has been amazing. There are so many places to go, people to meet, things to do, etc. Although it has taken awhile to get used to the way things work here, everything has finally started to fall in place.

First off, the university is much different than back at Louisville. There is one large center building connected to a couple other buildings where all of our classes take place (IBMS students). I can’t imagine how the exchange students from here who study abroad at U of L feel when they find out their classes are in different buildings spread out across the campus. Also, the classes here can change times, classrooms and even different days each week. I have had classes change from Tuesday to Wednesday, from 4:30 in the afternoon to 9:30 in the morning, and from meeting once a week to meeting twice a week. It seems nearly impossible to have a job while attending this university with the way classes change so much. With all that said, it is great meeting new people in class, working in groups with students from all different countries (teachers love working in teams here), and learning how the professors/students in the Netherlands look at the world of business.

Outside of school, there is so much to do in The Hague. Kylee, Sophie, and I decided to make a trip to the beach yesterday since it was a little over 60 degrees outside. After we arrived, we walked down the beach awhile to see what all was there. After hearing from some locals that the restaurants and bars on the beach opened near the end of March, I was surprised to see so many people there. After yesterday’s adventure, it’s safe to say we will be heading to the beach more often in a few weeks when everything is open.

When it comes to traveling, The Hague is a great place to study abroad. Very easy to get around Europe due to the fact that the train station is right next to campus and the airport in Amsterdam is only about 40 minutes away. Since I have been here, I have been to Paris and Majorca, an island off the east coast of Spain. I went to Paris with Sophie and Kylee the week after we arrived before school started. I went to Majorca a couple weeks ago with Kylee for our “spring” break. Both trips were absolutely amazing and definitely once in a lifetime opportunities.

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A few random side notes: 1) Although very unhealthy, Turkish pizza and Kapsalon are two things you have to eat at least once while you are here. 2) Bikes are used by everyone and are very convenient, but you have to be careful because they can be stolen and/or break easily if you buy a used one. 3) Spontaneity is key. Both trips I’ve made here were booked less than a week before we left and they turned out to be some of the best trips I will take in my life. When studying abroad, you have so many opportunities, but only for a short time. You have to take advantage of them.

More posts to come.

Life in Holland!

Windmills, grazing sheep/cows, wooden shoes, and cheese are all stereotypical things one might think of when Holland is mentioned, but they’re all very real! I have been in The Hague, Netherlands for several weeks now and have loved every minute of the experience thus far. From the moment I arrived, I have been trying to make the most out of the time I have here. All of us from U of L got bicycles within the first week of being here (which is SO Dutch). Being a “horse girl” (and Equine major), it was important for me to find a stable where I could ride regularly. I ended up in the center of the city (a very unlikely place for horses), where there is an old, hidden, brick stable that dates back to the time of Napoleon. Apparently, it was a gift to the city of Den Haag from his full brother. I am having a great time learning a different style of riding. Soon, they will begin taking group rides out on the beach of the North Sea! I couldn’t be more excited.
I have also been attending a church that meets in one of the oldest church buildings in The Hague. It is absolutely gorgeous.
The food is incredible- from fresh produce to Holland cheese to delectable European desserts. I am trying as many “local” dishes as possible, wherever I go. My favorite so far are called “Stroopwaffels.” They are super sweet, thin waffle cakes that are sandwiched together with some sort of a caramel/syrup. They are served hot and fresh on the streets, or pre-packaged at the grocery stores.
One of the decision factors that came into play when choosing somewhere to study was the access to modes of travel, and The Hague has proved to be invaluable in that the train station is literally right down the street from my student residence building. The proximity to trains (both intercity and international) makes travel convenient and easy. Over Spring Break, I went to visit some of my friends studying in Germany and England. I also trained down to Brussels, Belgium and enjoyed amazing Belgian chocolate and waffles!
The Dutch culture is very laid back. If you ask someone for help, they will gladly offer their assistance, although not without being asked. I am slowly but surely picking up on some Dutch. It is a rather difficult language, but the good news is that everyone also speaks English, so there is no communication issues.
I am so happy to be on a study abroad, and it has already proven to be the most exciting and profound experience of my life!
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Ashley

Traveling from The Hague!

So I have been in The Netherlands for about a month now and it has been nothing short of amazing. I am so happy with my decision to study here in The Hague because it makes traveling so easy! Since arriving at the end of January I have already been able to travel to France and Spain.

Since we arrived in late January we had about a week and half with no class. Sophie, Evan and I decided to take full advantage of this opportunity and booked a trip to Paris! I was surprised by how easy it was to get there (a five hour train ride). We stayed at a nice hostel called Le Regent Hostel Montmartre that was very reasonably priced and located in a super fun area. While there we got to see all of the major attractions like the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, the Palace of Versailles, etc. Besides the amazing sights that Paris has to offer, the other reason i would definitely recommend going there is THE FOOD. SO. GOOD. A Madame Croque will change your life, I have no doubt.

After returning from paris we began our first week of class, but luckily for us we only had two weeks before our Spring Break (if you call February spring…). Evan and I decided to try to find a cheap beach destination so we spent one night searching all of the internet and finally came across a great deal to Palma de Mallorca in Spain on Expedia. I would definitely recommend Expedia when flying somewhere because usually by buying a package deal you end up with a nice hotel a flight for about the same price you be paying for a flight and hostel were you to do it separate. Anyways, Mallorca was BEAUTIFUL. The beaches are not like beaches in the U.S., they’re much smaller and more like coves. Just to warn you, so you aren’t surprised like we were, wearing a top at the beach is apparently not required in Spain. The actual city of Palma is also very beautiful. There are tons of great stores to shop at and lots of little places to eat. However, my favorite part about the city was its compact size, you could walk from one side to the other in just an hour. While we were in the city we visited La Sea, the Cathedral of Mallorca and it was breath taking. We also hiked our way up to the top of the hill to visit the Castell de Bellver, a 13th Century castle. The view from up there was absolutely amazing. Besides these tourist attractions, Mallorca is known for its nightlife. February is part of the “offseason” in Mallorca, but you could still find crowds of people in the streets at 5:30 in the morning on the weekend. Some locals told us its like that EVERY night May- October so I definitely wouldn’t recommend going to Mallorca if you’re trying to get you’re beauty sleep.

The places I’ve been so far have been amazing and I’m looking forward to continuing my travels!

Settled In A Second Time Around

So, I find myself settled in half way through my second semester in Germany, and I realize my post is long overdue. Much has happened in the six months since my arrival last August, and I still have six more months to go, but already I feel I have grown exponentially and learned quite a bit. I have had some wonderful experiences thus far, the highlights of my first semester being as follows:

  • Arriving in Germany homeless, and showing up in Oestrich-Winkel with only a backpack and without a clue.
  • Finding one of the only apartments left in my tiny village on my first day here; where I found myself in the company of a Korean boy, and two German master’s students.
  • Purchasing a bicycle and riding it every day along the Rhein River on my way to and from classes.
  • Experiencing the joy of wine season in Germany. Everyone must do it once in life. There are wine festivals in almost every village in the region, and along the Rhein River you can also find quaint little wine stands. I spent several enjoyable evenings sipping nice Rieslings by the river in the company of great new friends.
  • That brings me to my next point, of meeting around 200 exchange students from all over the world. I was fortunate enough to be able to surround myself with people from many different cultures, and we would often take turns hosting dinners of traditional foods from our countries.
  • Sharing the tradition of Thanksgiving with over 35 exchange students at my apartment. Despite being a lot of work, many students were able to experience their first Thanksgiving, complete with bird, sweet potatoes, green been casserole, mashed potatoes, and apple crisp – a very memorable night.
  • Landing myself in the hospital for a week – in the most German way possible. While attending a soccer game, I ate an undercooked bratwurst, which in turn gave me salmonella, which in turn gave me a reactive arthritis infection in my knee. Silver lining of the whole event was the quality of the German healthcare system. For eight days in the hospital, I only paid €90.
  • Of course, being my first fall in Germany, I had to go to “the Oktoberfest” in Munich. To sum up the trip, I spent 24 hours in Munich, bought a dirndl (traditional Bayerisch women’s clothing or what the girls wear when men wear lederhosen), drank beer in the rain because it was too full inside, and then spent the night in a train station trying to get home. I don’t know if I will ever feel the need to go back again.
  •  Last but not least, one of my favorite parts from last semester – Christmas Markets. If you don’t know what a Christmas Market  is, it’s exactly what it sounds like. A market full of Christmas things. You can buy wonderful handmade pieces of art, ornaments/Christmasy thigns, or traditional German nick nacks, but the best part is without a doubt, the food and drink. So many warm, delicious meals, and candies and snacks, it’s difficult to decide what to eat. And then there’s the Glühwein, which is a hot, spiced wine everyone drinks. Simply to die for.

So far this current semester has been pretty laid back. I have moved apartments and am living with one of my former roommates from last semester. Readjusting was difficult in the beginning. I went home to the States for Christmas, and when I returned, the majority of my friends from the previous semester had return to their home countries. So I had to start all over meeting new people again. I have been fortunate enough to find a new group of people whom I really connect with. Some of the happenings so far are:

  • I went to Berlin last weekend, and was able to soak up all of the sights and sounds of Germany’s capital.
  • I’ve been improving my German and trying to speak it often. I’ve found the little joys of just being able to schedule my own hair cutting appointment in German are very rewarding.
  • Recently, I have begun tutoring a local woman in English to fill up some of my free time.

For the most part, I am going to class and taking it easy, trying to enjoy the time I have left. The weather here is starting to get warm, and I can feel spring coming. I can’t wait until it is pleasant to be outside again. Life here is really wonderful, and I looking forward to all that the rest of the semester has in store for me!

That’s all for now,

Claire

Settled In Sunny Dubai

Hi Cards,

After 20 hours of flight, I finally made it to the sunny Dubai.  While home may be icy with delays and cancellations, I’ve been making my way to the great outdoors.  I spent my first few days here settling in and checking out the area before my internship began.Dubai

I went to the infamous Dubai Mall, which is the largest shopping mall in the world!  It seems to be a shopping festival, and many of the shops are 50% off.  Too bad I am only window shopping :(  .  On the outside of Dubai Mall there is a walk with the Dubai Fountains which are a larger version of the fountains in Vegas.  They are amazing!! They are also shooting up into the sky in front of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.  It is huge!! I want to book this weekend to go to the top of it as they have an observatory.  Oh and I had lunch at Texas Roadhouse haha, who would have thought I’d get to enjoy steak and cinnamon buttered rolls here!

So far, I am enjoying life in the sunny Dubai and my internship has been going well as I have been settling in this first week and getting to know the people and tasks.  I hope to have more adventures to share as I go on and post pictures as well.  I would like to explore some of the surrounding Emirates on the weekends!

Until next time,

Lauren

Back Home Again

It has been just over a week since I returned home from the Netherlands. I did not realize that the adjustment of returning would impact me as much as it has. The weirdest thing about it is that after you have been away for a semester traveling and doing all of these awesome things and you finally return home, it almost feels like it was a dream. I feel like I was leaving for The Hague yesterday. Definitely make the most of your time abroad as you will be home before you know it. When you come back, people will ask you how your trip went and about your time abroad, but it is hard to describe a semester in which you have so many experiences. All that comes out of my mouth is, “It was great!” Others who have gone abroad before told me about this feeling before I left but I did not really understand it at the time. But now, I do. Some other tips for you in The Hague, is that it takes a while for professors to post their grades. They are not required to post grades immediately like they are here. But if you email them and explain your situation, they more often than not will help you get your grade back quickly. Also, the exams are often a majority of the grade for the course. Most of mine were between 60-70% of the total grade. So there is a decent amount of pressure to do well on the exam. I recommend not traveling the last few weeks of the semester and dedicate that time to studying for finals. It is hard to believe that the semester of my dreams is finally over. I keep thinking about the work that everyone put in to make it possible, the friends I made, the memories in each city, and the different cultures. It was definitely the best 5 months of my life. I highly recommend studying abroad. Thanks for reading my posts throughout the semester! Feel free to contact me if you would like to know more about my experience abroad.

Chiraag Bhimani