Advice for the new Study Abroad Student

I am finishing up my first week at Maynooth University in Maynooth, Ireland. While I still have three more weeks to go, I’ve already learned a lot about the do’s, don’ts, and everything in between when studying abroad.

1. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! Drink enough water, get enough sleep, eat healthy foods. Flying can cause dehydration and put major stress on the body. After landing in a new country, you’ll want to take advantage of every opportunity, causing even more physical and mental wear. Here are a few things that can help you maintain your health:

  • Purchase a water bottle, keep it filled, bring it everywhere with you! (Just make sure the tap water is safe to drink.)
  • Drink orange juice, eat fruits and veggies, and take vitamin C if needed.
  • Keep in contact with your loved ones at home! Homesickness and culture shock can be hard, but just remember that there is a group of people that love you and are so proud of you.

2. Do not compare yourself to the others in your study abroad program. Some people like to drink, party, smoke, etc. Just because they do doesn’t mean you have to as an attempt to fit in. Like at UofL, there will be a variety of individuals you’ll meet and study with. You’ll find true friends with values similar to your own.

3. Don’t forget the main reason you’re traveling: to study abroad. Don’t neglect your homework and studies. Go to class, pay attention, get to know your lecturers (professors), and bring home some newfound knowledge!

4. Be open to new experiences! While taking care of yourself is the priority, take advantages of all the opportunities you have while abroad! There will be new foods to try, locals to meet, adventures to go on! Live in the moment, take a few photos, and never forget the memories!


Happy travels!







5 Things You Must Do When Visiting Prague

1.Walk Across the Charles Bridge 

The Charles Bridge is a must see when visiting Prague. Built in the 1400s, the bridge is the oldest bridge in Prague. It’s a Gothic Style Bridge that spans across the Vltava River and connects Old Town to Lesser Town. Today, the bridge is flocked with many musicians, street performers, and stands selling jewelry. Most tourists walk the bridge during the afternoon, so my best advice for avoiding the crowd is to go in the early morning or late at night.

The view from the Charles Bridge at sunrise

2. Try a trdelnik
When you’re in Prague, you will find stands for trdelnik everywhere. Trdelnik, also known as a “chimney cake”, is a famous dessert in the Czech Republic. The cinnamon pastry is cone shaped and can be sold plain or with fillings such as chocolate, vanilla ice cream, or strawberries. Although the trdelik is popular in Prague, during my time here I have learned that it actually isn’t a traditional Czech food! Regardless, I still recommend trying one of the delicious pastries while you’re here.

trdelnik with whipped cream and strawberries!

3. Write a message on the John Lennon wall
I learned about the history of the John Lennon wall during a walking tour I took my first few days in Prague. During the 1980s, John Lennon became a hero to the public of Prague. After John Lennon’s image was painted on the wall, graffiti about politics and Beatle’s lyrics soon followed. No matter how many times the wall was repainted, the youth of Prague continuously added to the wall. Now the wall is a tourist attraction where people come to write their own personal messages on the wall. I actually have yet to write my own message, but definitely plan to add to the wall before I leave Prague.

4. Visit Petrin Hill
On the top of Petrin Hill is the Petrin Lookout Tower, also known as “Prague Eiffel Tower”, which gives arguably the best view of Prague. I wasn’t even really aware of just how big Prague is until I saw it from this view. If you’re willing to climb the 299 stairs to reach the top of the tower, I’ll tell you that the view is by far worth it. If you aren’t in the mood for a climb, Petrin Hill has a rose garden and plenty of spots for a nice picnic.

A picture of me at Petrin Lookout Tower

5. Take a look at the Astronomical clock
The Astronomical clock is an absolute historic wonder. The clock was made in the 1400s and is centered in Old Town Square. Sadly, during my time here the astronomical clock is under reconstruction. However, if you are lucky enough to visit while it is up and running, I definitely recommend it!

Traveling Through Belgium for Flemish Higher Education

On 25-27 June 2018, the Fulbright Commission, along with the Flemish Foreign Ministry, hosted seven representatives from American universities to present them with information on Flemish higher education within Belgium and the various institutions their universities can partner with in the future, and I got to tag along for this journey.

Participants included a Vice President of Global Programs, a Senior International Officer, and an Associate Provost for International Initiatives. The following universities were represented: Wayne State University, Fordham University, Brown University, Georgia State University, University of Michigan, University of California Davis, and Boston University.

Flanders inspires at KU Leuven

As higher education professionals traveled across the world to participate in the short time-line, yet busy scheduled Flanders Inspires Tour, we wanted to make sure they were able to see all that Flemish institutions had to offer, all while enjoying delicious Belgian beer and chocolate of course.

On Monday morning, we had a very informative day starting at the Flemish Parliament, where we learned about the ins and outs of Flemish involvement within the country of Belgium. After lunch we traveled to the European Commission and participated in multiple presentations with representatives from the Flemish Parliament, the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education and Youth Culture, the U.S. Embassy to Belgium, and the Fulbright Commission. The evening was spent getting to know each other in a more informal setting at the Errerahuis during a networking reception hosted by Freddy Evans, Secretary General of Flemish Foreign Affairs, and attended by many Flemish university representatives. The evening was filled with great conversation, bottomless campaign, and delicious Belgian food.

City Tour of Ghent

Bright and early Tuesday morning I set off to Ghent with the Flanders Inspires participants and got to experience Brussels morning traffic via car for the first time- the ready and available coffee machine on the bus made the morning much more amusing. After touring Ghent University’s satellite campus and learning about specific university statistics, we were fortunate enough to be welcomes to ProDigest for lunch. The co-founders presented their spin-off business plan and how they have been the leading digestive research company in Europe for the past three years. (I know you’re wondering, and yes, we did have an extremely healthy lunch.) Their business has grown so immensely that in order to stay on Ghent’s campus, they will soon have to move out of the incubator and construct their own laboratory. Before leaving campus, we took a brief tour of the foul-smelling, but very interesting ProDigest lab where human digestive-like contraptions were housed and researched on.

In the evening we took a guided walking tour through the city of Ghent where we were greeted with beautiful canal views and the crave worthy smell of waffles. It was wonderful to learn about the rich history of the city before settling down for a five course dinner at Restaurant Allegro Moderato as we watched the sun set over the old city canal to close out our second day together over fancy wines and great conversations.

Lunch at KU Leuven Faculty Club

On our final day as we set off for Leuven on the Flanders party bus. The day started with information specific to KU Leuven and its studies and research, and with lots of coffee of course. After very informative sessions, we strolled over to the KU Leuven University Library to hear more from current professors and researchers. Lunch at the KU Leuven Faculty Club was a beautiful retreat, greeted by the Vice Rector and mayor of Leuven; it really set the tone for the enjoyable evening to come. The lunch was filled with wholesome conversation and delectable chocolate mousse to really connect the American professionals with the faculty at the University of Leuven.

Following, lunch we ventured away from the main campus to see the beautiful engineering and science campus and learned more about their student and staff diversity in specific programs. We then journeyed to the bustling biomedical campus, the largest hospital system within Belgium. In this metropolis of a medical school, we learned more about the endless areas of medical research funded by KU Leuven and conferenced with a neurosurgeon about his fascinating role at KU Leuven.

Bittersweet Box from Leuven

The evening was filled with multiple surprises and delectable treats. Starting at Bittersweet, a Flemish chocolatier spoke to us about his company and let us taste one-of-a-kind chocolate treats. A short stroll back to the center of the city was enough to make us crave more, and the perfect time to start the native Belgian beer pairing menu at the traditional restaurant Mykene. Over the most amazing food and beer, we reflected on the detailed information we were presented with during the previous days and the worldly connections that we take back to our home institutions. A somber bus ride home ended with big hugs and thorough goodbyes. It was a great experience to help show American academic professionals around the country I’ve called my own for the past couple months and shown a whole new light on Flemish institutions I am surrounded by. I was lucky to meet these accomplished academic professionals, and I know I will continue to be in contact with several of them when I move to Boston next year to start my master’s program.

Breaking Irish Stereotypes

After just a few days in Maynooth, Ireland, I’ve learned that the individuals making up Ireland’s population are more than the assumed stereotypes. Below are some of my findings:

  • Not all Irish people are redheads! In fact, most of the individuals I’ve met have had a shade other than red.
  • The people eat much, much more than potatoes. In fact, Ireland is full of McDonalds (which they pronounce MacDonalds), Starbucks, and Subway restaurants along with plenty of pizza and pasta options.
  • Some Irish individuals don’t like Guniess beer at all. Both my campus coordinator and Marketing lecturer avoid it, choosing other draft choices at the pubs.
  • The Irish accent has many differences compared to the typical US accents. For example, the letter O is pronounced “oar”, while the H in a TH syllable is not pronounced – making the word “three” sound like “tree”.
  • There are many common Irish slang terms:
    • “Having a good crack” – Having a good time/ having fun
    • “Cheers!” – A greeting, goodbye, thank you, etc.
    • “Yurt” – Yes
    • “Crisps” – Chips

There is one stereotype, though, that the Irish hold to be true – they are extremely kind and friendly. They hold doors open, help with directions, apologize when passing by you, and so much more!

If you have the opportunity to visit Ireland (specifically Maynooth), please do it! It’s so beautiful and quaint and I know you’ll love every second of your visit!


A Day in Dubrovnik

Situated on the southern coast of Croatia, the city of Dubrovnik is surrounded by the bluest water of the Adriatic Sea on one side and the most picturesque mountains on the other. I only spent one day in Dubrovnik, as we were passing through returning from the island of Hvar, but during my short visit, I was able to get a quick glimpse of the culture and history that this city was founded on.

The main city center, known as Old Town, is entirely surrounded by huge stone walls. These castle walls were completed in the 16th century and were used as barriers and protection from attacks during the Middle Ages. Inside the walls, hundreds and narrow alleys and roads line the space, and countless restaurants, apartments, churches, and shops fill each and every crevice. One of my favorite things I did in Old Town was just wander around without a map or set destination. The roads are so intricate and tangled, but I enjoyed just walking and observing, not knowing what I was about to find. After walking for a while with no direction, we passed a hand-made soap shop and ended up talking to the owner, a Dubrovnik local, for nearly an hour. For lunch, we did the same, and found a small, hole-in-the-wall spot which is favored by locals. Whether you want to wander without a set direction or participate in a guided group tour to learn even more about the history of Dubrovnik, I would highly recommend spending a large amount of time inside the walls of Dubrovnik immersing yourself in the culture of the unique city.

You can’t visit Dubrovnik and not take a cable car ride up the side of the mountain. The four-minute ride offers unbeatable views of the entire city and coast line. We went up at sunset and ate dinner at the popular Panorama Restaurant.

Although I only spent a short amount of time in Dubrovnik, it is by far one of my favorite places I have ever visited. I was amazed at all the history Old Town has to offer and stunned by the breath-taking views. It is definitely a location I would love to visit again and would highly recommend to others!

A one-day guide to Barcelona

Anyone reading this post should note that it does not provide the best one-day guide to Barcelona. If, however, you find yourself taking a day trip to Barcelona and have no other ideas of where to go or what to see, hopefully this post can provide some guidance.

My trip to Barcelona was unorganized, and the group I travelled with did not plan sufficiently before arriving in the city. We knew how we were getting there, where we were staying, and that we only had about 28 hours to enjoy one of the greatest cities in Europe. Everything else was determined off the cuff. Although this clearly isn’t the best way to travel if you want to enjoy your stay, I could not be happier that I had the chance to see Barcelona. Many cities are not worth visiting if you have to travel 16 hours round-trip, including an uncomfortable overnight bus ride, and especially if you will only have one day to enjoy your destination. Barcelona, though, is a special city that made all of the uncomfortable travel worth my while.

Because we only had one day in the city and had not planned well, we really did not even scratch the surface. The things we did get to see, though, were unforgettable.

The Gothic Quarter is an area of the city that combines some of its oldest architecture with other areas that were restored in the 19th and 20th centuries. This area includes the Barcelona Cathedral, which is somehow not the most notable religious sight in the city, as well as Museu Picasso. Picasso spent much of his time in Barcelona in the Gothic Quarter, which only adds to its allure. Free tours of this area are given daily, but it’s also a great area to explore on your own.

After the Gothic Quarter, we visited La Boqueria, a massive market in the center of the city. At the market you can buy fresh seafood, fresh meat, fruits and vegetables, and much more. It also has a wide assortment of restaurants, including the famous Bar Pinotxo. Right next to La Boqueria is La Casa Beethoven, which is a perfect place to buy gifts for music-lovers.

Later in the day, we visited Sagrada Familia. Everyone I was travelling with had heard how stunning a building this is, and we all knew we wanted to go. I took several pictures inside and outside of the church, but none of them do it justice. If you are in Barcelona, Sagrada Familia is absolutely a must-see. Of all the places I have seen in Spain, many of them unlike anything I have seen before, this one is the most spectacular. The building is still under construction, and I can only imagine what it will look like once it is finished. General admission tickets are 15 euros online, and getting into the church is a simple process.

The last major sight we visited was Park Güell, a large public park that showcases the tile work of Antoni Gaudí. The park also provides a great view of the city and a walking path that is shaded by beautiful flowers and trees. This is perhaps a lesser known attraction of the city, but well worth the visit, especially for those who are interested in art and the works of Gaudí. Entrance to the area of the park that shows Gaudí’s work costs around 7,50 euros, but there is free admittance to the rest of the park. For me, the free admittance was sufficient and still allowed me to take good pictures of the city and landscape.

If you are going to Barcelona, I would recommend staying for more than one day and having a good idea of what you’d like to do once you arrive in the city. There is so much more to see than the places I have mentioned here. But, for a spur of the moment day trip, you could do worse than seeing some of the sights I was able to see during my short time in the city. All in all, Barcelona seems to me a wonderful place, and it has probably been my favorite city in Spain. Anyone who has the chance to go should see the things I have listed here and so much more.

Sonnwendfest in Bregenz


Sadly, my study abroad is coming to an end this week. However, this weekend, I got to experience a little bit more of Bregenz, Austria, where I have now studied for over four weeks.

I attended the Sonnwendfest on Saturday 6/23. Sonnwendfest is an annual celebration on the Pfänder in Bregenz, Austria. The celebration is a festival with a bonfire, sausage, drinks, and fireworks on top of the local mountain. I hiked up to this festival with some of the individuals I have met while in Bregenz!

View from the festival

The bonfire is meant to honor an old pagan tradition and also is meant to recognize the fires that often occur on top of the mountains during summer.

The bonfire – created annually to celebrate the summer solstice and to honor an old tradition

The celebration concludes with fireworks above this bonfire.

Fireworks above the bonfire to end the celebration

I am extremely grateful for my experiences on my study abroad in Bregenz. I am fortunate to have been able to participate and to have met all of the great people I have met here!

Celebrating my last weekend abroad with people I have met during my KIIS program!

At the end of the night, we returned to back to town. I have enjoyed studying in Bregenz because I have gotten to see smaller, local traditions such as this festival. I would encourage anyone studying abroad to get to know local traditions in addition to traveling as much as possible and in addition to studying!

View on our hike back to town of Bregenz, Austria

Thanks for reading!

-Peggy S.

A word on the people of Spain

As I was getting mentally prepared to study abroad, one of the things I thought about most was meeting new people. Thinking about interacting with native Spaniards made me nervous because, although I am here to study the Spanish language, I began my trip thinking I would not have the abilities necessary to have meaningful conversations with native speakers. Within my first few hours in Spain, these fears diminished quickly.

Although every person will react differently to an American student/tourist speaking their native language badly, I have found the majority of native speakers to be extremely patient and helpful, as long as I put forth a concerted effort to speak and understand. This is important for two reasons. One is that being able to work my way through conversations, even if I struggle to speak perfectly or to fully understand what someone else is saying, is invaluable in helping me to improve my abilities. The other is that each time I have a positive experience with a native speaker, I gain more confidence to talk to more people, and the more Spaniards I meet, the more appreciation I gain for their culture and their country.

One example of this sort of interaction is a conversation I had with an elderly woman on a train between Sevilla and Málaga. I sat next to her for awhile thinking about how to properly engage her in conversation. I finally settled for asking her if she lived in Málaga, and the conversation never stopped after that. She told me all about her life and her family, the history of Spain, and the pride she has for her country. Although I did not even come close to understanding every word she said, and I did not get a chance to speak much myself, I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. Getting to know a complete stranger in a different country and in a different language can be a profound experience, and I am fortunate to have had this opportunity during my trip.

My advice to anyone trying to meet new people in a different country is simple. Just try. Not all people will be as welcoming as some that I have met, and you should always be wary of people trying to take advantage of/rob you. It may also be the case that people in other countries are generally not as willing to talk to Americans as they seem to be in Spain. But if you are in a place where you feel comfortable, and especially if you have any ability to speak the native language of the country where you are staying, don’t be afraid to engage people in conversation. I am confident that some of my most memorable experiences from Spain will be the new people I have met and the conversations I have had with native speakers. If you want to truly experience the country where you are staying, the best way is to get to know the people who live there.

Little Luxembourg Getaway


After being in the sleepless diverse city of Brussels for over five weeks, I was anxious any excited to finally have an opportunity to explore a new country. Luxembourg is a small nation tucked between the valleys of Germany and Belgium, and the entire country is just slightly larger than the metro area of Louisville. I was very excited to get an extended weekend off work to explore the city on the weekend and attend meetings at the Luxembourg National Bank on Monday.

Being from a small town, the city of Luxembourg was a heavenly getaway. I didn’t mind that almost all the shops were closed on Sunday and I was excited to be back in a place where strangers smiled as they passed you on the streets. I was lucky to be able to travel here while the world cup was going on because they were having a small festival in the city center, much different from the drunken late night festivals that go on in Belgium. While I stayed away from the carnival rides, I tried my fair share of caramel crepes, churro ice cream cones, and Italian pan pizza.

Monday was when the real work started, and as I have had many amazing experiences with Fulbright this summer, I never expected to be able to have lunch with the CEO of the Luxembourg National Bank and the acting Ambassador to Luxembourg. Both of these accomplished women were so welcoming and friendly during our meeting, and it was an opportunity I will never forget.- That is I will never forget the amazing five course meal or the words of wisdom from these role models.

I feel as if I have just arrived in Belgium last week, but I know my two months here is quickly coming to an end. As I was nervous to take an internship abroad, I know this has been one of the most important experiences in my education thus far. The Fulbright Belgium Executive Director, Erica Lutes, told me when I first arrived to not underestimate any opportunity that arises, because in a moment’s notice you will go from grabbing coffee in the Midi-Station to chatting with members of the Flemish royal family at a reception without even knowing who they are (which really did happen!) The bustling city of Brussels truly never sleeps, but I was glad to be able to catch up on my sleep schedule by not working 60+ hours a week in the relaxed hidden nation of Luxembourg.

Five Things I love about Nantes, France

Five Things I love about Nantes, France  


  1. Lunch

There are many things I love about lunch in France. First, you have an hour and a half to eat which is really nice. You can actually enjoy your food. Second, French baguettes are simple but delicious and you can get them fresh from the bakery each day. French pastries top off a good lunch, they are second to none. My favorite is pain au chocolat which is basically a chocolate filled croissant.

  1. City center shopping

In the city center of Nantes, there are all sorts of boutiques in the midst of historic old buildings and fountains. Designer brands on every corner give you a feel for how important fashion is in France. They love their skinny jeans, jean jackets and Levi’s t-shirts.

  1. River time

In Nantes, there is a little river that runs through the city. In the evening, the French meet their friends and enjoy time together by the river along with great French beer and wine. It is a simple habit that makes for a peaceful lifestyle.

  1. Crepes

I mentioned pastries but crepes are on a different level. My favorite is Nutella but there are so many options. If you are ever in France, you must get a crepe. Creperies are on every corner so they are easy to find!

  1. Gardens

The Japanese Gardens and Jardin des Plantes are amazing places to visit in Nantes! The Japanese gardens neighbors the river so it is a nice place to see little water falls and picnic with friends. Jardin des Plantes has a goat petting zoo, birds, ducks, ponds and beautiful walking trails. The goats are so cute!