Here is another vlog post! AJAX GAME!!
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.
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.
That’s all for now! I will include information on my travels throughout Europe in my next blog post. Hasta luego!
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.
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,