Toledo, Spain

My next great, short adventure following Madrid was Toledo, Spain. Toledo is a very historical city with extensive history from the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian cultures. As we arrived into Toledo by bus, all of us were in awe at the incredible wonder that is Toledo. As you arrive to the foot of Toledo, one immediately views many homes, antique buildings, and grand churches in the middle of a desolate (but beautiful) area. It is amazing to see because amongst a much uninhabited area, is a marvelous city as Toledo.

As soon as we got off the bus, we saw a wonderful river, the Tagus River. Tagus River is the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula, at 645 miles long. It was amazing to view something so beautiful because I have not had the chance to view many things as powerful as this in my time in America. From here we began our four hour long walking tour, and I was not the smartest in this sense because I wore sandals as I was unaware of the distance of the walking tour. We walked approximately six miles on this tour, and by the end of it my feet were torn to shreds. This is one of the times I would have changed in order to make my time a little more enjoyable, but all in all the tour was still absolutely amazing.

We began the tour walking over a grand bridge called the Alcantara Bridge (pictured below) over the Tagus River. This was an incredible bridge built originally by the Roman Empire in 106 A.D. Through the tour we were able to see many astounding Gothic style buildings, including the Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary. The Primate Cathedral was my favorite site in all of Toledo (and maybe in all of Spain) because of the amount of its historical value and the astonishing size of the Cathedral. The Roman Empire built the Primate Cathedral in the 13th Century. Over the years the Cathedral had been changed into a mosque, then into a Jewish temple, and then back into a Catholic Cathedral. It is interesting because there are still Jewish and Muslim traces within the city of Toledo, and the Primate Cathedral itself.

Toledo River

One of the most beautiful paintings I have ever viewed was on the ceiling of the Primate Cathedral. Pictured below, is an incredible painting created by Luca Giordano in 1697. The miraculous thing about the painting is that Giordano created this masterpiece in roughly 3 months. I could not believe this as the painting was so large and beautiful. Toledo has been an incredible part of my trip in Spain, with it being a very relaxing city while involving much historical significance and many beautiful sites. Primate Cathedral Painting

Torino Italy

The first day I arrived in Torino I was instantly blown away by the culture and amazing history of the city! While you never really hear about Torino it is absolutely amazing being the fourth biggest city Italy, which allows you to experience real Italian culture while still being in a buzzing city. I have been able to learn so much since arriving here about international culture which has allowed me to not only develop in my school work but personally.

While Torino is amazing have also been given the opportunity’s to travel many cities in Italy. There is so many places and so much history I can’t nearly come close to listing all the places I have seen. I am only half way through my travel abroad experience and I can’t wait to see what lies in store for me to discover !


Max Gerdes


I have now been in Italy for close to four weeks. In those four weeks there have been innumerable first times, countless new friends, and a plethora of stories; all of which I would not trade for anything.

My time in Rome has not been quite like I anticipated. My vision of what it would be like in the months leading up to the trip was flawed in almost every way, and I’m surprisingly happy that was the case. I had anticipated and hoped for something that I quickly realized wasn’t realistic. Rome isn’t all glitz and glam with gorgeous historic buildings. Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of beautiful of old buildings and astonishingly glamorous areas. However, after a week you have seen all of that. It was the experience of truly feeling like Roman that I wasn’t expecting; yet I am most thankful for. Being on a first name basis with the family running the shop below our apartment and the workers at the pizzeria a block down I never thought would happen. The immersion into the Italian culture has been, to me, more meaningful than the Coliseum or Vatican City.

Next week I wrap up classes and then head to Barcelona for a week. If it is half as nice to me as Rome and Italy have been it is bound to be a good time!

Will Peeler

Torino, Italy

Ciao from Torino, Italy! Time is flying by and I only have a little over two weeks left in my adventure in Europe.

The day after arriving in Torino I went to Rome and was blown away by the history and majesty of the city. From the Vatican to the Pantheon, Rome has something to offer everyone. The only disappointing thing was that the Trevi Fountain was under construction, and will be until 2017 apparently. Overall it was a fantastic weekend trip that I would definitely recommend.

When I got back to Torino it was time for classes to begin. I’m taking International Marketing and Finance. Marketing is a lot of work, but Finance is really interesting and I have learned a good amount in just a few weeks. The hardest thing about living in Torino is the language barrier for sure. Hardly anyone besides professors and fellow students speak English so you have to learn Italian as you go. I have managed to get by, and it helps having friends from UofL here with me.

I have made weekend trips to Lake Maggiore (near Lake Como), Venice and the Italian Riviera as well. Lake Maggiore was beautiful and I wish I could have spent more time there. The coolest place in the Riviera was Santa Margherita Ligure. It’s a nice little town near Portofino and isn’t nearly as crowded as Cinque Terre was. It’s got great seafood options and a decent beach so I would like to make a return trip. If you do go to Cinque Terre, Monterosso is the place to be since it has the only sandy beach. There’s nothing better than a relaxing day at the beach after a long week of class. Venice was a bit disappointing since it’s so easy to get lost and is so crowded, but with proper planning next time I think it could be a fun trip.

So far I have had an incredible experience and am looking forward to my last week here in Torino before heading off to London. Italy has so much to offer and I’m glad I chose Torino as my host site.

Andrew Schmidt

My first week in Berlin

The Cathedral of Berlin is the largest church in the city,

The Cathedral of Berlin is the largest church in the city,


A landmark and symbol all in one with over two hundred years of history

Wow what a beautiful city!!! I have always heard good things about Berlin but I didn’t think it was going to be so great. It has been a week already and all I can say is that I am in love with this city on every aspect. The first days were a little rough trying to adapt to the time difference and learning how to move in the city. To move in the city you use a combination of buses, S-Bahn (it’s suburban rapid train), and the U-Bahn (rapid subway). At first it seems pretty intimidating but after a couple days and getting lost a couple times I got it. The transportation is very reliable and you can go everywhere using them. Berlin is a very cosmopolitan city, people can be very nice or they can be just to busy to answer your questions. I would say that most of the people speak English but it doesn’t hurt to know some basic things in German. I am going to Freie Universität which was founded in West Berlin during the early Cold War period when the University of Berlin was part of the east side I really like it and the professors are really good and very knowledgeable. I am taking intermediate German and European Business management which is taught in English for my minor in International Business. The courses are a little demanding which doesn’t give you much free time to go traveling to other parts of Germany, but Berlin is so big that I haven’t seen much in one week here and maybe one weekend I can go to Dresden or even Prague. The food is delicious, always fresh and fairly cheap, even McDonald is good here and Germans love it. Berlin has a lot to offer to people that love history, sciences, arts, or any field. I have to say that coming here is must for everyone and this has been the greatest experience of my life.

Madrid, Spain: The Beginning

Sitting at my desk with the most beautiful view, and thinking about how I can gather such a memorable time in words. First, I would like to begin my blog from the first city that I visited in Spain. I began my study abroad trip in a jaw-dropping city, Madrid, Spain. From the moment I stepped off the plane and into the terminals, I could already realize the amount of unfamiliarity I was viewing. As soon as I stepped into the terminal, I was welcomed by many Spanish workers blowing whistles and yelling Spanish phrases. I was quite surprised!

Madrid Aiport

From the airport, I grouped with a few fellow American ISA (my study abroad program) students and was off to the hotel. As we were driving through the city, I felt so much excitement realizing how incredibly lucky I was to have the chance to participate in such an unbelievable program. As I arrived to the hotel, I was greeted once again by more American ISA students. This moment felt amazing also because I knew these student were going to be future friends and peers that I would have the chance to laugh, celebrate, and enjoy my time with in the coming weeks. We all introduced ourselves, shared our revelations of the previous trip, and laughed hysterically at the realization that we were finally in Spain!

On the following morning, we all met in the lobby for a walking tour of the city of Madrid. We began the walking trip at the Plaza Mayor, an incredible square in the middle of Spain. The square is where many Spaniards walk and talk while reveling in the amazement of their city. This was an unbelievable place to listen about the history of Spain from our tour guide. From the plaza we kept walking (so much walking) around the city enjoying the spectacles around us. We walked around the city viewing some of the most beautiful attractions one could see in the world like the Museo del Prado, Royal Palace of Madrid (an enormous mansion for the King, owned by the people of Spain), and Puerta del Sol. This was by far one of the most amazing cities I have ever visited, until I viewed the city of Toledo. To be continued…

Museo del Prado

Appreciate the Little Things in Life

It’s been roughly 2 weeks since my last post, and I’ll start off by saying I made it safely back to the United States! I’ve been here for 3 days now and the jet lag is finally starting to wear off, but the first 2 days were rough because my body is still on Barcelona time so I’m going to bed and waking up so early. My study abroad experience was definitely one that I will NEVER forget because of the experiences I had, the things I learned, the people I met, and so much more. I’ll fill you in on everything that happened since my last post when I had returned from Rome and was preparing for my visit to Southern France, finals, and my departure for the United States!

After my trip to Rome I realized how nice the weather was in Barcelona because it was incredibly hot during my three day stay there, so I was very thankful to be back in a place where it wasn’t so humid and hot all the time. During the school week I was busy shopping for gifts for my family, going to the beach, and preparing for my final presentations and finals for my two classes (which went very well) and the upcoming weekend trip to Southern France.

On Friday we left very early and departed for Girona, Spain which is one of the many cities we stopped in until our final destination of Montpellier, France. In Girona we took a guided tour of the city and learned about its history along with many other things. After a quick lunch break, we departed for Montpellier which was really a cool trip because every Friday they have a wine tasting/food festival, which was 5 minutes from our hotel! That night we walked around the festival which was filled with a massive amount of people from all over the world trying different foods, tasting different wines, and they even had a free concert that was right next to the festival. The funny thing is, they only sang American songs so we could actually understand what they were saying, opposed to the vendors who spoke mainly French and very little English. On Saturday morning we took a bus to three more cities in France and got to learn more about their culture. That night we were back in Montpellier and got to watch the 3rd place World cup match between the Netherlands and Brazil, which was a great atmosphere because of the amount of people we were with who were cheering for both sides. On Sunday morning we departed back for Barcelona, and to say that the weekend was a success would be an understatement because of all the activities we participated in and the things we got to do while we were there.

The following week was sadly, my last week in Barcelona with all of the people I had met and all the friendships I had made. During the week I focused on finishing the summer semester strong and doing well on my finals, and eventually the day came where I had to say goodbye to everyone. I had grown very close with the other 11 people in the residencia with me, and it was crazy to think that just 6 weeks ago I didn’t know a single one of them. We had all grown so close, living with each other and being around each other every single day, and meeting them and bonding with them was one of the most important things that happened to me while in Spain, because I definitely developed a level of friendship with them that I will always have, and plan on visiting them at some point this year even though we all go to different universities across the country.

The flight from Barcelona back home took what seem liked forever, and it was an increibly long day because I woke up at 6:45 a.m. Barcelona time (12:45 a.m. east cast time) and finally went to bed at 9:45 p.m. east coast time, so being up for roughly 21 straight hours, I was exhausted. Other than the sleep problems, everything went smoothly on the flight back home. Reflecting on the entire 6 week period and the months and weeks leading up to my trip, I was nervous because I wasn’t fluent in Spanish and was scared I couldn’t communicate with anyone, but after this trip I realize that English is pretty much spoken everywhere and even if you’re somewhere where it isn’t spoke, you can find a way to communicate someway, somehow. This trip was definitely the most eye-opening experience of my life and I loved every second of it because I learned so much about myself and to appreciate everything little thing that you have. People in other parts of the world have it so much harder than people in the United States and we take so many things for granted. I’m glad UofL gave me the opportunity to travel and study abroad, because I have grown as a person immensely in so many ways. It looks like this will be my last post because I’m officially finished my with program, if anyone has any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me because I would LOVE to talk about my experiences with you!

Hasta la proxima,

Matt Schafer

Rome, Italy

I am currently taking a study break from my midterm tomorrow to write my first blog! It’s hard to believe I have already been here over two weeks. My time here in Rome has been exhilarating between touring the historic city and meeting new friends. I haven’t traveled outside of the city yet because there is so much to see and do here in Rome. I’d have to say my favorite building here in Rome is the Pantheon with the Altare della Patria (or the “Wedding Cake” as the Romans call it) being my second favorite. Walking around the city is never disappointing as there is amazing architecture everywhere you look. Don’t worry, I won’t be spending the entire trip in Rome and I will venture out at the end of the trip!

I am studying at the American University of Rome while taking courses titled Negotiating Globally and Sales Management. As a part of the Negotiating Globally class we attended a session of the Chamber of Deputies in the Italian Parliament and our class was recognized. Although every word was spoke in Italian, it was still cool to witness that environment and decision making process. Also, as a part of this class we will be attending the US Embassy to the UN Agencies in Rome where we will meet the Deputy Chief of Mission. I never thought I would attend an Italian Parliament session or be lectured by someone from the US Embassy in Rome.

So far I have enjoyed every minute I’ve been in Rome and am very glad that I decided to study abroad. Being in Europe and seeing the different culture is eye opening to say the least. I think I’ve adapted pretty well by now and am looking forward to the rest of my adventure!

Cody Hamm

Traveling from Prague

During the past 3 weeks I have done some traveling outside of Prague. It is very easy to find the cheapest ways to getting around. You have basically three options to look at and they are train,plane,or a bus. All are good options but depending where you are going one may be cheaper than the other. For example, we took a trip to Budapest and it was cheaper to take a train than a bus or plane so we did that option. We took the night train to Budapest so we were able to sleep through the 8 hour trip. This past weekend we went to England via airplane. We went traveled through two different airlines and two different airports. This method was the cheapest so I would suggest looking into more than one airport and plane companies before booking your flight. This up coming weekend we found the cheapest way to get to Munich would be via bus. Hope this helps anyone that is planning on a lot of travel!