Prague, Vienna, and Oktoberfest


After my first couple of weeks in Prague I can honestly say that I have already fallen in love with this city. Traveling abroad is everything people said it would be and more- overwhelming, amazing, tiring, terrifying, and completely eye-opening.

I hate that I have been here for 3 weeks already yet it has taken me this long to make a blog post, however if I’m being honest I have attempted to start one multiple times but would always end up frustrated and put it off because I could not quite find the right words to describe how completely amazing this trip has been so far. My first week spent in Prague was easily the most unforgettable time of my whole life. Although I may not have gotten nearly enough sleep, I spent the whole time exploring the ins and outs of this unbelievable city with some of the greatest people you will ever meet. The really cool thing about studying abroad is that you meet so many people from all over with entirely different backgrounds than you, however you all have one thing in common: the curiosity, bravery, and desire to travel and explore both yourselves and things around you. I think it really takes a certain kind of person to study abroad and I have absolutely loved sharing this experience with such diverse and fascinating people.


The BelGeekSquad at the Letna Beer Garden… I think this picture accurately sums up our first week in Praha.


IMG_9537 Old town square in Prague


Paddle boating by the St. Charles Bridge


Our first weekend, 6 of us decided to take a trip to Vienna, Austria as our first excursion out of Prague… and let’s just say it was a learning experience. Vienna is definitely an awesome city with lots of cool little quirks about it such as extravagant Churches, Palaces, parks full of people dancing and singing, beautiful vineyards, and most importantly an awesome Amusement Park/Bar called Prater where you can easily spend all of your time (and money) at. Our mistake was going to Vienna without an actual plan and we ended up kind of wandering aimlessly around at times, spending way too much money on train tickets as a result of not planning ahead of time, and personally I was miserable because I ended up spending the whole weekend sick. I feel like this is typical of a first weekend trip though so if anything it just taught us what not to do for the next time.


Roomie picture in a beautiful Vienna vineyard.


Vienna Sausages… enough said.


Vienna Vineyard

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The following weekend a group of us went to Munich, Germany for the opening weekend of Oktoberfest and it was absolutely insane. While the weather was rainy and cold in Munich all weekend people were still lively as ever waiting for the festivities to start. It was especially cool to be there for the opening day on Saturday. We had to get there for around 9am to be able to secure a spot at a table in a tent where we then ate and waited for the tapping of the keg at noon to kick off all of the Oktoberfest festivities. After that the place went insane but it was one of the greatest times I have ever had. One of the best parts was just meeting people from all over the world and getting to know them through this crazy experience. For example, on Sunday we met a group of 22 year old Italian military guys and although they did not speak great English we still spent the day with them and they taught us various games, traditions, and “cheers” from their hometown. We also made sure to make some time to run around and explore the city of Munich for a little bit as a break from the craziness of the festival. The cold and rain kind of put a damper on this but Munich is still a beautiful city and we found that if you go to the St. Peter’s Church- “Peterskirche”- with a student ID you can climb to the top for only 1 Euro and see the most breathtaking view of Munich. All in all Oktoberfest is an over the top experience- sooooo expensive and tiring- but 100% worth it if you can manage to go. I would recommend it to anyone… I really still cannot believe that I was actually there.

The Hacker- Pschorr Tent where we spent Opening Day

The Hacker- Pschorr Tent where we spent Opening Day


Sending some Cardinal love back to the Ville as we beat FSU!!!!


Friends from the 2nd day of Oktoberfest in the Paulaner tent. Fun fact: Steve Carrell was also in this same tent at the same time as us.


The view from the tower of Peterskirche.


The view from the tower of Peterskirche.

The view from the tower of Peterskirche.

There is a quick little update of my first weeks here in Europe! Although my classes are actually really difficult and adjusting to living in a whole new environment has been more tiring than I though I am loving every second of it. I cannot believe I have been here for three weeks already… time needs to slow down! Next stop: Split, Croatia.

10 Tips to Survive and Thrive Abroad

I studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain and loved it! Study abroad isn’t just about surviving, it’s about thriving – not just being a tourist, but learning to call a new place home for a few months, making new friends, adapting to a new culture, and traveling to new locations. Here are my top 10 tips for surviving AND thriving abroad:


10. Open a Charles Schwab checking account. 

Open a High Yield Investor Checking Account with Schwab at least a month before you leave the US. Schwab is one of the only banks that offer a checking account with out any international transaction fees (most banks charge 1-3% on each transaction). Additionally, you can use any ATM worldwide to withdraw money for free and Schwab will reimburse fees charged by ATM owners (ATMs generally offer the best exchange rate). You will receive a couple of checkbooks and a debit card with a chip, which is required for most foreign transactions. They provide 24/7 customer service and best of all, the account is completely free with no monthly or annual fees. The account is FDIC insured and you earn 0.06% APY (variable rate) on any balance.
Additionally, they automatically give you a brokerage account, allowing you to invest in the stock and bond markets (Charles Schwab is primarily a brokerage company). There is no minimum balance on either account, so you do not have to use the brokerage account. To fund the account, you can make ACH transfers between your primary checking and savings accounts and your Schwab account. These transfers are free and usually take 3 business days to clear.
9. Look for a local cell phone plan and use Skype for international calls.


This will depend on where you decide to go, but in Barcelona, I found a great deal. I have a prepaid plan with Vodafone with 1.5 GB of data and 50 minutes of calling for €15 per month. When I purchased the first month, they did not charge me for the SIM card, which works perfe
ctly with my unlocked iPhone 5s. Each month, I go to a Vodafone store and pay €15. This month, they gave me 1.5 GB of extra data for free! When I leave, I don’t have to return the SIM or cancel the plan since it is prepaid. Texting and international calling is not included; however, everyone in Spain uses WhatsApp instead of regular texting and Skype has really good rates for international calling when you must call a landline or a d
umb phone.

The takeaway: do your research before you go and when you arrive, find the best ways for you to stay connected. If you plan to use your personal cell phone with a local SIM, make sure it is unlocked by contacting your service provider! I have an iPhone 5s with Bluegrass Cellular (partner with Verizon) and it was already unlocked.
8. Take advantage of excursions planned by your program.
Planning travel on your own is difficult and even more so with a group of friends because of the coordination required. Take advantage of the excursions offered by your study abroad program because you don’t have to do any of the work and many of them are included in the price of the program!

This is especially true if you want to travel to more challenging, risky, or remote destinations. For example, my program is organizing a trip though Morocco over Spring Break – a perfect destination to join an organized trip, rather than organizing one on your own. The trip is all-inclusive and costs €600, but the price is well worth it. We will travel to the desert in 4×4 jeeps, camp in traditional tents, ride camels, and travel to several cities. In previous trips, my program has included special guided city tours; wine, cheese, and cake tastings; and other activities that I probably wouldn’t find on my own.
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7. Travel on your own.

That said, traveling on your own is a great experience and has its rewards. You are forced to do your research about the destination, so you naturally become immersed in a new culture rather than floating in a bubble of American culture with your program friends. You are also more nimble, able to see and do more because you aren’t restricted by the limitations of a large group. Note: traveling with a couple friends is also good. It’s fun to share your experiences with other people and safer than traveling by yourself.
6. Before traveling, research the city, especially the metro/transportation system.

Every city and country has its quirks. Be aware of currencies and exchange rates, especially in Europe. The UK and Czech Republic are both in the European Union, but neither use or accept the Euro. Know that in London, trash is “rubbish” and the metro is the “Tube” or the “Underground.” Also, build a working knowledge of the metro system, especially if you are traveling to a country where you do not speak the language.
If I had not done my research before traveling to Prague, I would have been lost since they did not have clear instructions on how to use the metro in the stations. They have a great metro and tram system in the city, but their ticket system is much different than Barcelona, London, and Washington, DC. If you don’t purchase the correct pass and validate it when you board a tram or enter the metro, you can be fined up to 800 Crowns on the spot and embarrassed in front of the locals.
5. Beware of RyanAir: the McDonalds of air travel.
RyanAir and other low-cost carriers make exploring Europe possible for students with limited budgets. Most of the time, a RyanAir or budget airline ticket will be the same price or less expensive than a train ticket to the same destination! But just like McDonalds, you get what you pay for:  minimal leg room, strict boarding and luggage rules, and forget about the free beer, wine, soft drinks, and snacks offered by Lufthansa (the Panera Bread of air travel).

If you break any of the rules, you will face stiff fees or miss your flight. Also, you will often fly into a city 30 minutes to an hour outside of your destination city, so know how you will transfer into the city and how much that will cost. Will you break even if you pay a little more and use an airline that flies directly into the main airport of your destination? This will depend on the market, your destination, and how far in advance you book. Google Flights is a great resource to make these comparisons. Reference the articles linked below for really helpful information to make sure you have a good experience with RyanAir. Keep in mind, some of them are several years old and may have outdated information, so always reference the RyanAir fine print and policies before buying your ticket. You can get a feel for people’s general attitude toward RyanAir from the article titles below; however, like many before me, I had a good experience and good customer service. The key it to be informed!
4. Get to know the locals: church, homestay, classes, restaurants, professors, etc.

This will enrich your time abroad and help you fully immerse yourself in the culture. One of the best parts of studying abroad is connecting with others and discovering differences and similarities in cultures and worldviews. I have visited three different churches during my time in Barcelona and each time, I met people who shared my love for Christ even though we had differences in theology and perspectives on corporate worship. In my homestay, I enjoy hearing about my host parents’ experiences and perspectives on the vast changes in Barcelona over the past 30 years. Classes are a great place to get to know locals and study abroad students from other countries and just like in the US, getting to know your professors is important and rewarding.
My International Management professor spent many years working for PWC (one of the Big Four accounting firms) in several different countries. I have really enjoyed talking with him about his experiences in assurance, advisory, and tax because I am very interested in public accounting. Restaurants are also a great place to meet people, practice the language, and learn about the culture. I go Subway once a week because they are one of the few restaurants open for lunch before lunch hour (1-4pm) when I have class. I have gotten to know the franchise owner and learned that he emigrated from Venezuela and now owns 20+ Subway franchises throughout the Catalonia region in Spain.
3. Use Pocket Earth.

Pocket Earth is the best, most valuable app that I have ever used. It is a maps program that works offline by using your phone’s GPS and allows you to drop color-coded pins with different symbols. That sounds boring, so why is it so great? When you travel outside of your host country, you probably won’t have data and wifi is much harder to find than many assume. Before you leave your host country, you zoom in on the places where you will travel to download the map data. Many public pins will download too, showing you public transportation routes, metro stops, hotels, attractions, restaurants, hospitals, etc. Then, you can enter the addresses of your hotel/hostel, the airport, restaurants, and all of the sights that you don’t want to miss during your trip and drop pins on each location.
 Pocket Earth
When you arrive, you will be able to easily navigate the city, enjoying your time rather than struggling with a paper map and making yourself a target for pickpocketing and other crime. If you find a cool place or need to remember where your tour bus is parked, you can drop a pin to find your way back. This also allows you to freely wander the city without getting lost. You can also turn on the tracking feature to see where you wandered during the day and how far you walked. If you have friends who are traveling to that city you just visited, you can export your pins for the city and they can import them into their Pocket Earth app!
2. Always have a charged phone and carry a copy of your passport.

  US Passport
Pocket Earth is great, but it is useless if your phone loses charge so monitor your charge level throughout the day. Always know how to find your way back to your hotel or meeting point if your phone loses charge or your phone is stolen. Also, always carry a copy of your passport. The only time you should carry the actual passport is during travel to other countries and whenever you know that you will have to provide official identification (hotels, banks, phone stores, etc.). If you get all the way to the phone store, but didn’t bring your passport, ask if they will accept a copy of your passport or a drivers license as ID, sometimes they will!
1. Be flexible.

Changes in flight plans, closures of museums and popular restaurants, bad weather, and more will challenge your plans. Some adventures will not live up to what you expected and others will be greater than you imagined. To thrive abroad, you must be flexible, always open to a new adventure and willing to learn something new every day.

Adventure in Ireland

The other day I saw a post on LinkedIn by a CEO and it asked what advice you would give him in five words or less, I thought about it for less than a minute and settled on the words “have an adventure.” It doesn’t seem like the first choice and it probably wouldn’t have been 2 short months ago before I got to experience a great adventure in Ireland.

Sure the idea of an adventure appeals to everyone but the real adventure is when you dive into the unknown, you actually do something about the idea and act on it. I have never seen myself as the type of person that takes a lot of risks sure I have plenty of ideas but I never seem to act on them but that has changed. I now carry a little more experience and I have a little piece of Ireland close to my heart that I hope inspires me against all odds or reason to continue having adventures. In my time abroad I visited 3 countries, quintupled the number of times I have flown (it was 5 flights this time, including 2 that were 7hrs, my previous experience just one that lasted about 2hrs—and that was nearly a decade ago.) I have set foot in 6 castles, heard the tales of Irish folklore, met some great new friends, talked to some of the nicest locals, and it all went by so fast.

I have been back in the states for two weeks and I have been putting off writing this blog, not because I’m not exactly sure what I want to say but because this feels like an end to an amazing experience and I’m not ready for that. This was one of those things that you don’t want to end, it was hard enough leaving all the friends I had met a short month ago which seemed like only days. And now Ireland stands out in all the little details I have heard more about Ireland in my everyday life now than I ever have in any year before. Don’t get me wrong it’s great to be home, but an experience like that is something you don’t just take for granted. I will always remember my time in Ireland, and hope I can return some day.

Alicante, Spain

Cultural Differences and Impressions

Life in Europe is different than life in the United States and after my month long abroad experience in Spain, I was able to live with and learn from this particular culture.

Finally we made it to Alicante after flights from Cincinnati to Charlotte, then From Charlotte to Madrid, and Finally Madrid to Alicante. I was definitely feeling nervous since I had previously never been to Europe and although I continued to notice major cultural differences, I also continued to feel more comfortable as time went on.

Pictured above was the view from our flat style apartment. In the distance you can see what looks like a big mountain, but in reality it is a the Santa Barbara Caste (el Castillo de Santa Barbara). As if that view wasn’t spectacular enough, our flatmates were all extremely helpful and nice. In addition to that, we were walking distance to the beach and la plaza de los luceros (downtown).

As Classes started, I began notice some major differences between the U.S. and Spain. The first thing I noticed was how different transportation worked there; In the U.S. almost everyone has access to a vehicle and use this vehicle each and every day to get around. In Spain, there are underground parking garages and some people do drive (like maniacs) but the majority of people rely on public transportation to get from point A to point B. So, as the Spaniards did, my classmates and I traveled to class every day via bus or TRAM.

The next difference that I noticed pertained to the time people ate and went to sleep. As you all know, In the U.S. we eat breakfast around 8:00-9:00AM, lunch around 12:00PM, and dinner around 6:00 PM. This varies greatly from the way things work in Spain. Similar to the U.S. breakfast is eaten 7:00-9:00 AM but many people eat lightly or skip this meal all together. At around 10:30-11:00 AM it is almuerzo (snack) time for those who may have an empty stomach. It isn’t until 2:00-3:30 PM that La Comida (lunch) is eaten and it is ordinarily the biggest meal of the day. But it’s important to make sure restaurants are open at this time since many restaurants close for the daily Siesta time. Merienda (Mid-afternoon snack) is sometimes eaten around 5:30-7:30 PM and during Merienda, many times churros y chocolate are a favorite. It isn’t until 8:30-11:00 PM that Tapas and Dinner are traditionally eaten. It really surprised me to see people of all ages sitting at chairs and benches along la Explanda de España socializing into late hours of the night.

La Explanda de España

La Explanda de España

The way of life in Spain is much different than the way of life here in the United States. Whether it be the food, the transportation, the people, or just the overall way of life, words can not express the impact this experience has had on me. Until I can make it back to Alicante again in the future, I will draw from the invaluable lessons I learned during my summer abroad.

Six Weeks in Seoul, South Korea

Last summer I studied abroad in a very traditional place: Italy. This summer, I yearned for a bigger culture shock, so I decided to go as far away as possible. As I began my adventure to Seoul, I was excited to immerse myself in a new culture (and maybe even master using chopsticks).

Upon arriving, a few things were very apparent. One, Seoul is a technology hub. With Samsung accounting for a large majority of South Korea’s GDP, there is no shortage on technological advancements. This is apparent as soon as you set eyes on the city. I was immediately surrounded by millions of people walking while staring at their phones. Yes, we look at our phones quite a bit in the states. However, it is nothing compared to Seoul. It has gotten so bad, that there are signs painted on the side walks warning you of the dangers of not paying attention to the streets you are walking on. The second thing I realized right away, is that for the first time in my life, I was a clear minority. Even in my classes, I was one of the few Caucasian people. Furthermore, I was one of the even fewer with above average height, blonde hair, and blue eyes. Needless to stay, I was going to be quite the anomaly for six weeks. About twice a week, I was approached by locals asking where I was from and why I was here. People asked to take pictures with and even of me. Little kids stared, pointed, and hid from me as if I were an alien. The last thing that was apparent as I began my journey through Seoul was I definitely got the culture shock I was seeking. Everything from eating to weekend festivals all had a new feel. I was as wide-eyed as a little kid in a candy shop.

Overall, the six weeks continued to bring me new challenges and rewards as I navigated my way through the unknown. I am so privileged to have the new perspective that this trip has given me. The biggest reward, however, has been my increased thirst for knowing the world. One of my favorite quotes about travel is “I am in love with places I have never been and people I have never met.” As I return from my adventure, I felt this way. I have the endless need to travel and Im grateful that U of L provided me with that opportunity.

Nantes, France

“Not all those who wander are lost.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Except me. I was usually lost. Being lost seemed to be the theme of my entire study abroad experience. I took every wrong turn, ordered food I wouldn’t consider edible, almost missed flights, buses, and trains, and exchanged countless stares with strangers because of the language barrier. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

I left for Europe one week after the 2016 spring semester ended. I was scared because I had never flown anywhere in the United States by myself, let alone outside the country. I was so stressed and busy with finals that I didn’t have any expectations set for studying abroad. Once I arrived in France I realized I hadn’t even looked up the weather. It was at least 10 degrees colder than what I had packed for.

I spent 6 weeks taking classes in Nantes. Nantes is the sixth largest city in France located about 213 miles southwest of Paris. It rained constantly which made traveling on the weekends even more desired. Every single Sunday we returned from traveling it was raining and it surprisingly became appreciated because rain meant we were home from a long Sunday of traveling. The pastries in Nantes were amazing. All good days started with a chocolate chip pastry before class. The classes I took were challenging and we were in class for around 6 hours a day. My classmates were from all around the world: America, Italy, Mexico, France, Germany, China, Vietnam, and many more places. They were all bilingual; some spoke over 4 different languages. I learned so much, solely from my classmates and the overall experience.

While abroad, I also had the privilege of traveling to Florence, Madrid, Lagos, Paris, and London. Every single city was incredibly different. Studying and traveling around Europe is an opportunity to see the world, meet amazing people, and learn about yourself. I wish I would have been pushed sooner to study abroad because being in Europe for 6 weeks wasn’t long enough but I know it won’t be my last time!

Alicante, Spain

Before traveling to Europe this summer, I had only been out of the country one time. Knowing this, I had a good bit of nerves when the day finally came to leave for Spain. Luckily I had my good friend Jack to share this month abroad with me, so I wasn’t too overwhelmed. When we arrived we got a hotel on one of the main streets in Alicante called La Rambla. We were exhausted from the long day and slept for a couple hours, then went out and explored the city a little bit. Alicante is a port city right on the Mediterranean Sea, and is extremely pretty. The staple of Alicante, I would say would have to be the castle that sits at the top of the city. It is named Castillo de Santa Barbara. After we made the trek up to the top, which took about 45 minutes, we made our way back down and went to sleep. We moved into our new apartment the next day, and met some of the other people in our group. We lived with other international students. There was Ellis, and Marianne, who were from Scotland, Rikke who was from Denmark, and Sebastian who was from Chile. They had all been in Alicante from 8 months and over so they really helped us out and showed us around.

The Universidad de Alicante was a very beautiful university, which used to be an old military base. I took a European Economics class, and a Women’s Gender Studies class, both of which were pretty interesting. My Professors were both wonderful and really helped us understand the concepts, and also helped us get use to the way of life in Spain.

Me and Jack made some pretty good friends in our program who we spent a lot of our time with. The social life in Spain was very fun, and everyone was always friendly. We got to travel to Morocco in Africa and ride camels on the beach. We visited Gibraltar and drove up the big rock and took pictures with monkeys. We saw traditional Arabic dances in Morocco as well and traveled through the cities of Chefchaouen, Tangier, and Tetuan.

We were in Alicante during their biggest festival of the year called “Las Hogueras.” Basically a bunch of people build these big elaborate bonfire structures, and on the 24th of June, the firefighters in the city burn them down. (They keep it under control as well) Millions of people travel to Alicante to watch this event, and throughout the whole week there are other events and parties that happen every night. We didn’t get much sleep this week because every night music would go until 5am and then it would start back up at 10am the next day. But this was definitely the best week we had in our time in Europe.

All in all my time in Europe was, and will be, a very special memory in my life. I made some genuine friendships that I am sure will continue, and did things that not many people get to do in their life time. If it were my choice, it would be a requirement to study abroad during your 4 years in college, and if you are thinking about it, I highly recommend Alicante as your destination. This was, and will be one of the best months of entire life.


After spending my time abroad in Sevilla, Spain I never really realized how reliant people in the U.S. are on cars. One of the best recommendations I can offer, is using the bike system. Over in Europe, more frequent than not, countries are deciding to implement transit bike systems. At first, my roommate and I were a bit skeptical to buy a package at first, but after a night out and an unfortunately pricey taxi we decided to go for it. I can honestly say I’m angry we waited so long utilize the system. The Sevici Bike System made navigation easier: no more walking to class, we were allotted more time to explore and less time walking home, no expensive taxi’s home, and a chance to spend more time with our friends from the program. Spend the money and buy the yearly package; a week is 13 euros but the year is only 30. A warning, I found them fairly easy to operate but my roommate had some difficulties. From time to time they will become stuck in racks or if you’re not too careful you may even fall off for no reason!! Lmao.

Sevilla, Spain

My study abroad experience was fast paced and busy to say the least. Two classes in six weeks was challenging but luckily the professors and material was interesting and definitely worth 4 hours of my day. But the real fun was on the weekends, especially when we visited other cities. The smaller towns like Granada, Cordoba, and Malaga were my favorites, much better than metropolitan Madrid. Although the museums and cathedrals I visited were beautiful and were presented by great tour guides, I couldn’t wait to get out in the nature of Spain. I found a beautiful national park, El Torcal, for a hike near the beach town of Malaga. Plus, laying on the beach with a view of the ocean and mountains in the background was gorgeous and out of the ordinary. But during the week, it was fun to just walk around the city to choose a restaurant (or accidentally wandering for hours because I got lost) was enjoyable any time. Some days I walked over ten miles. Those six weeks went by way too fast and I can’t wait to return to Europe independently and explore more countries.

Memorable moments

Two of my favorite memories from my study abroad trip to Torino, Italy happened on the first evening I was there and one of the last evenings.

I arrived alone on a Saturday, one day early to the program start date, and decided to enjoy pizza for dinner and some much needed gelato after. I took my Canon camera to capture some memories and when I was handed the most perfect looking cone of gelato- I HAD to get a picture of me with it. There was a younger, Italian man sitting in the gelato shop who I asked to take a picture of me. He did and then proceeded to ask me if I would be willing to help him practice his English. I weighed out my options- it was still light out at 8:27 PM and sunset was not until 9:18 PM, he was about my size so if I needed to defend myself then I absolutely could, and finally we were in a pretty populated area- and I was able to deduce that if I stood around speaking with the guy it would be a harmless and memorable experience. Our conversation ranged from what kind of pet he had to what his hobbies were. The funniest part of the whole thing was that when I brought up the word “laundry” he mistakenly took it as “lingerie” and I quickly corrected that by whipping out the Google Translate app!!! Whew- what a close call, right?!

Flash forward to the last Aperitivo (if you are going to study abroad in Italy and do not know what this is yet… look it up… you are welcome) of the trip. We walked down to Piazza Vittorio Veneto and found a table at Blanco. Our waiter spoke fairly decent English and when one of the individuals at our table asked about where he learned to speak English, his answer made me almost spit out my drink! He admitted he learned English from watching MTV! A direct quote from this man, “Tupac was my teacher”. This story gets funnier and funnier every time I tell it!

In essence, studying abroad provides unique experiences and gives you the most memorable stories!

Gromm Gelato- Torino, Italy

Gromm Gelato- Torino, Italy