I think videos are easier and more fun so here is a video. (click on the “traveling and first day struggles)
Hope you enjoy it!
I think videos are easier and more fun so here is a video. (click on the “traveling and first day struggles)
Hope you enjoy it!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
Studying at the London School of Economics has been everything that I hoped it would be and then some. Coming from a family, which has moved around quite a bit, I have had the opportunity to live and grow up in a few different countries and continents. So, in addition to looking for an experience, which would allow me to expand my perspective, my main aim was to build upon the strong educational foundation that UofL had provided me with. The year-long General Course Program at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) happened to be the perfect fit.
Now that I have returned home from the trip of a lifetime, it’s finally starting to hit me how amazing the whole experience was. I learned so much about myself and how different cultures view the United States and Americans. In my program I made friendships that will last my entire life from people all across the US and even some in Spain. I got to see more in four months than what some may see in an entire lifetime and I am truly grateful and blessed for that opportunity.
Since my last post I went to one of my favorite European cities and that was Prague. I found that city to absolutely enchanting. From the architecture to its incredible history every bit of that city intrigued me. I loved walking around the old city and seeing the Astronomical clock, the Charles bridge, and especially the Lennon wall. And after studying in a tourist city like Barcelona with high prices it was great to be able to go a city that was so affordable! If I did study abroad again I think I would spend it in Prague.
Another one of my trips included going to Madrid. Having spent months in Barcelona I wanted to see what the biggest city in Spain was like. Many people had told me that Barce was totally different from Madrid and they were completely right. Although Barcelona has a population of 1.6 million people it never really feels overwhelming like a major city, but Madrid definitely has a big city vibe to it. There was so much to do and see and I wish I had gotten to spend more time there. The royal palace was absolutely stunning and I cannot believe that it took less than 30 years to build this humongous masterpiece of a palace. Every room had a different purpose and different theme to it such as the porcelain room where everything was made out of porcelain and was used as a changing room to the blue room that had a upholstered walls of blue velvet that served as a waiting room.
One of the trips I was most excited for was Ireland. I always wanted to see my roots and get to see where some of my ancestry had come from and it did not disappoint. Dublin was a blast. I spent so much time just wandering around the streets and at a night I ran into friends from my study abroad in Barcelona and went to Temple bar area to listen to live music and grab a pint of Guinness. One of my favorite memories was sitting in the pub watching the soccer match between Ireland and Scotland and just watching the reactions of everyone inside going crazy over every kick, it was as if I was back home for a second watching a uofl versus uk game. No matter where you go there are always die hard sports fans. I also got to go to the cliffs of Moher which were absolutely stunning. Standing at about 400 feet above the Atlantic Ocean it is definitely a sight to see. There was something calming about watching the waves repeatedly hit the rock over and over while the wind whipped through my hair.
My study abroad experience was one of the best decision I have ever made. I cannot wait to return to Europe and see the rest of the world. I have a list of places to visit and plan on seeing every one of them now. I have the travel bug.
My study abroad time in Den Haag is quite possibly the best experience of my life. I learned so much, grew as a person, and got to see a ton of amazing things the world has to offer. My only regret is that I didn’t stay longer. Great friends, a beautiful city, and memories that will last a lifetime gave Den Haag a homely feel that I believe is a very rare find. This adventure was truly the experience of a lifetime and I feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to study there for the Fall semester.
Reflecting now, I can think of plenty of great things about the city itself, but I will start with the school. The Hague University is very different from the campus lifestyle we are used to at UofL. The entire “uni” is one building with four different sections. At first it was hard to wrap my mind around how 21,000 students studied in the building, but the structure and innovation of the building is nothing to sleep on. There are classrooms everywhere you look in each section of the building. The rooms allow a class size of about 20 to 30 students and there is one big lecture hall where Year 1 lectures are held. The professors are awesome. I loved every class I had just because of the unique personalities that each different professor had to offer. They made class enjoyable even when the material was not. I really enjoyed the schooling during my time because of the excellent staff and the distinct uni.
My schedule allowed me to take Monday’s and Friday’s off. Six courses and twelve hours was a perfect workload for me during the semester. It allowed me to travel Friday through Monday almost every weekend. A normal day whilst in the Hague would consist of going to class in the morning, grabbing a bite to eat with friends or making a delicious meal, and just relaxing with great friends in our apartment which overlooked the city. I am a terrible trip planner and deal finder so I was lucky to have Corey and Albin to travel with.
The food in Den Haag is different. Going to the grocery store once a week was normally enough to satisfy my hungry belly. If you plan on studying in the Hague, remember to save your cans and bottles! You can make a ton of money back on your drink purchases my just returning bottles and crates. It may even cut the expense in half. A unique treat that I loved dearly was kapsalon from my favorite Turkish kebab shop, Diva. My mouth is watering just thinking about it now. Kapsalon consists of fries smothered and covered in kebab and melted cheese with garlic and spicy sauce to accompany. All that is covered with shredded lettuce, tomato, and onion. A delicious midnight snack that I would even venture to say beats Taco Bell fourth meal. It is a must try in Den Haag.
The greatest part of the entire trip was not what I expected. I expected to travel see the world and return excited to come home. That was the case, but with a little extra something. The friends I made in my time there are irreplaceable. This trip taught me that no matter where you are from or what past you carry with you, people are essentially the same. I have so many memories of times when I would be thinking the same thing as my French roommate, Antoine. We were so similar it was scary. I enjoyed every moment I had with him and the moment he dropped me off at the train station for my trip home, I felt like I was leaving a brother. I know that I will see him again and that we will be friends throughout our lives, but my bond with him is something very special and I will hold onto that forever.
Leaving Den Haag was bitter sweet. I am so grateful for the experience I had, but I was not ready for it to end. Emotions are running high as I’m writing this and that shows me how special it truly was. It tells me that it actually means something. It tells me that the words I am writing are genuine and true. I offered Den Haag my heart and soul on this trip and it filled it with love and memories I will carry with me forever. I thank my parents, UofL, all the advising staff, and the good Lord for the opportunity given to me. It really was the trip of a lifetime.
Thank you for reading,
I can’t believe how quickly this semester has gone by, it feels like yesterday I got to Den Haag and now Christmas is almost here. Now that everything is all said and done here are all the places I got to go to. Antwerp, Belgium; Munich, Germany; Paris, France; Milan, Venice, Rome, Naples, and Pompeii, Italy; Madrid, Spain; London, England; Dublin, Ireland; and Den Haag, and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Out of all of these here are my top three favorites and why. This is no particular order.
1. Venice, Rome:
Venice while yes was very expensive was one of the prettiest cities. The city is quite literally a city on water. They have no streets and no cars. Everyone either gets around by boat or by walking. And even though it was the easiest city to get lost in I didn’t mind being lost because the city was just that pretty! Plus the food was amazing!
2. Dublin, Ireland:
The best part about this city is for sure the people. I have never in my entire life met people who were so nice. The people of this city love tourist and genuinely wanted to help! Not only that but if you drive maybe 30-40 mins away from the city you can see the country side and the Ireland country side is one of the prettiest sites I have ever seen! The grass is a shade of green that you have never seen before! It’s just absolutely beautiful!
3. Paris, France:
Pairs is again another pretty city but it’s because of its architecture. Every single building is pretty and worthy of a picture. Not only that it was the cleanest city I went to. I would also have to say that the over all atmosphere was probably the best part. It had that classy, but romantic feel to the city. Finally seeing the Eiffel Tower in person also made this city that much better. Seeing the Eiffel Tower is something I have always dreamed about, so to finally see it in person was literally a dream come true!
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.
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
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
Food that will make your mouth water just looking at it.
View of Prague. Prague Castle on the left side of the picture.
Back of Prague Castle
Front of Prague Castle
Massive paintings at Epic of Slav
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
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.
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,
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.
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 one of the windows in this hotel….
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. The white balloons were all throughout the city where the wall used to stand for the anniversary.
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.
Remnants of the wall. You could see the different architecture styles from the Soviets (East Germany) and the Germans (West Germany).