Introduction to Rome

Hey there cardinals! My name is Savannah and I am currently studying abroad in Rome, Italy at John Cabot University. My major is marketing and my minors are computer information systems and international marketing. A fun fact about me is that I also cheer for the university on the all-girl squad!

Here are some facts about my program and why I chose JCU in Rome. First, I wanted to go somewhere that had lots to do and see since I would be there the most in my study abroad but wasn’t extremely touristy like Paris or London. I felt that Rome was a perfect combination between beautiful locations and tourism. Second, I wanted to go to a place that had many English speakers, and thankfully Rome has many English speakers. Next, I wanted to go to an accredited school that would be welcoming to Americans, and John Cabot University was perfect: it’s an American Liberal Arts college based in Rome. Finally, I needed to pick a program that fit the dates I needed: with tryouts for the cheer team being on May 12th and the first week of practices being planned for the last week of June, I needed to find a program that fit between those dates. Luckily, JCU in Rome fit all these requirements perfectly!

How did I get to JCU? I went through SAI study abroad programs. They were more expensive than directly applying to the university, but I wanted to go with a program for a few of the benefits offered. First, it is my first time coming to Europe, so I wanted to have a program that would check in with me every few days to make sure I am safe. Second, programs have multiple services that you may not think of that they include in their price: airport transportation, cell phone service, health insurance, 24-hour emergency service, and my personal favorite: included excursions. While abroad, I wanted to be able to do things I wouldn’t be able to do if I just came on vacation. I of course was taking classes here, but I also am able to go on adventures unavailable to tourists through SAI. Next, An unanticipated benefit of coming in a program that I did not think of until I got here was that there are a group of people you can fall back on and become closer with. All of the SAI students that are here in Rome have become my friends, and even outside of SAI sponsored events we are hanging out and going on adventures. It’s nice to already have friends who worry about your safety on the first day here!

I have only been here for a few days and do not start class until tomorrow morning, but I already have learned so much about Rome! First, carry enough currency with you throughout the day. Many places here in Rome, more than I expected, do not allow cards and only accept Euros. There have been multiple times already where we have had to pass up restaurants or shops because multiple people in the group only have cards and do not carry cash. Do not be that person! Second, walking is essential here in Rome. In three days, I walked a combine total of 33 miles! I knew to pack my nice walking shoes and shoe inserts, but even with those my feet hurt so bad at the end of the day. Get heavy duty shoe inserts at best, and at worst do not plan to walk everywhere in sandals! Every single one of my friends wore sandals the first day, and have blisters so bad that now they can’t even wear shoes without it hurting!

I wanted to just give a brief summary about me for this first post. Thank you for reading, and come back next week to hear about my first week of classes in Rome!

-Savannah T, Class of 2020

A Semester in Spain

This past semester in Spain has brought me the most amazing experiences and adventures. I have met so many new friends I will forever remember, and all the countless trips taken throughout Europe have been wonderful.

Madrid is completely different from Louisville so the adjustment was real! Living in a small flat with 6 other roommates sharing a small kitchen and having to air dry your clothes because there is no such thing as a washing machine was definitely unusual, but after some time it becomes natural. I really enjoyed the fact that I was able to just walk everywhere rather than rely solely on driving from place to place. The metro is also just about the greatest thing you need when you’re too lazy to walk. This semester abroad really tested my cooking skills as well, which I had not seriously mastered yet.

The commute to university was much different than I was used to as well. Everyday I would walk 15 minutes to the train station, take a 15 minute train ride, and then walk another 10 minutes to campus. This maybe was the biggest adjustment I had to make early on. But what once seemed so unusual, became an everyday routine and a part of my normal life here in Madrid.

The opportunity to be able to travel almost every single weekend I was able to was incredible. I have always had a passion for traveling and this was a dream come true for me. Going to new places with new friends and staying in hostel after hostel is something I will never forget. A few missed trains and a flight add to the struggles but what previously seemed like the end of the world at the time, I now look back and laugh at the stress such little things can cause, especially being in another country. All the wonderful places I was able to see has created memories that will last me a lifetime and all the pictures taken along the way are great reminders of the fun times I was able to have.

I had the wonderful opportunity to become very close with people all around the world and even some great new friends from the US as well. The instant connections I formed with everybody was amazing and all my new friends will be missed so much, but I do hope one day later on I have the great fortune of seeing some of my new friends again. Countless trips to Retiro Park with friends and going to eat tapas and hang out at bars also become very routine when I was not occupied with school. These little memories will be the ones that I miss the most because of how normal they became to me and how much fun was spent just doing the little things with each other.

I was blessed with a fantastic opportunity to live out my dreams and I have to thank my parents more than anything for this. I also thank the University of Louisville for presenting me with the opportunity to achieve this dream of mine. This whole semester abroad has taught me more about myself than I never thought before. I am grateful for the things that I learned about myself and life in general while studying abroad. While I did study abroad for the purpose of school, this was much more than just that, everything learned during this journey was worth every moment.

Six month life as an exchange student

I think this semester is meaningful and special for me. At the first day of the Welcome meeting in the McEwan Hall, there are more than 1000 students to participate, it represents this semester the university have thousands of exchange students came from different countries around the world to choose University of Edinburgh as place to continue their further education. The number of students made me surprised. After all, University of Edinburgh is a one of the famous university in the world. And I also joined the welcome party from business school, and I met some friends from different countries. When studying in the University of Edinburgh, the style of learning is not same as the United States. For instance, the demand for consciousness is higher here, professor don’t care about your attendance. The lecture no more than 50 students. Also, the assessment information are consists of one group project and only one exam across one semester. Student only can choose three classes to take each semester. In the University of Louisville, we probably have four exams and some quiz as the usual time, but mainly are multiple choices. In addition, most of students only have one class for each course within one week. Therefore, I spent most of the rest time traveling around Europe. When had a group project, most of members spends a lot of efforts to their job. I have to mention that it’s difficult for me to understand thick Scottish accent. Edinburgh as the capital city of Scotland, compare to Louisville, will more lively in city centre and evening. It’s so distinctive to the lifestyle in the Louisville. Besides, most of Edinburgh’s housing and building were built since hundreds year ago, it makes city look historical and cultural. But I need to mention that Edinburgh not well, at least I don’t like it. Windy, rainy and still cold even on May. The winter almost from October to April.

At first, I went to London, a big and bustle city similar to New York City. Others country such as France, the Czech Republic and Brussel. They don’t have too many skyscrapers, instead, lots of tradition decoration buildings with European atmosphere. Quite uniquely different city structure to the US. My favourite country is Switzerland, a beautiful and peaceful place. The snow mountain is particularly beautiful around city. The train never miss the time it shows on the schedule lists. When you living in one of Europe countries, it’s so convenience for you to go to any Europe country. Going to different countries in Europe as we go to every states. When I went to Belgium for four days trip, I also went to Luxembourg, three hours train from Brussel. Train are convenient and main transportation for Europe people as their travel method. That’s why I love Europe, public transportation is developed and convenient. Not like the US, mostly travel by aircraft or self- drive, developed public transportation only in some big cities. Compare to the US, the price will little higher such as food, transportation. But relatively cheap when travel by air. Most of people would love to choose low cost flight such as EasyJet, Ryanair. When I flied from Edinburgh to Copenhagen, it costs me no more than $50. It’s a cheap way for student to travel. Furthermore, I also went to Morocco, North Africa in the spring break (20 days learning day before final exam). If I studied in the Louisville, it’s hard for me to have chance to go to Africa, and it will cost a lot when taking plane and spend more time. I only spend no more than $300 fly from Manchester to Casablanca (more than $1000 to set off in Louisville).

Last but not least, you can always find some new thing everywhere in Europe. I prefer to the Europe’s lifestyle, relaxed and cautious about the thing to do.

After living in the UK and traveling around the Europe, allows me to learn more culture and show me a totally different world.

Host families

The Value of having a host family:

I had a very positive experience with my host family. I originally wanted to have an apartment with other kids in my program, but changed my mind at the last minute. My study abroad program (ISA) did a great job of paring me with another student who I got along great with, despite not knowing each other at all. ISA also did a great job of pairing you with a host family with similar language abilities as you. For example, if you speak great Spanish, your host family may not speak much English, and it would not be a huge barrier. Alternatively, if you only speak English, your host family would most likely be close to fluent in English. The students in the same household are usually partially selected on the same basis; my roommate Sam and I had a similar speaking ability as one another. We were both intermediate Spanish speakers, so we had somewhat of a tandem effort to communicate with our host mom most days.

 

Meals:

A very nice advantage to living in a homestay is the family meal time every night. Our host mom would cook for Sam and I every night (except for days we were traveling). She was an incredible cook, every night would be a new dish that seemed to get better and better each and every time we sat down to eat. The best part of the home cooked meals was that this part of the home stay was included in the program cost, so we paid the same price for the entire program as others in apartments but our living arrangement came with two meals per day. This is a huge reason I chose to live in a home stay, it allowed me to spend money on extra travel and other experiences. Also, if you do not know how to cook or you are interested in trying new authentic Spanish dishes, this is definitely the route for you. Another cool thing our host mom did was a group dinner with other kids in our program. She was friends with another woman who was a host mom for our same program, so we all got together and had a dinner party one night.

 

Laundry:

Our host mom did our laundry on a weekly basis, which was very nice since I did not bring many clothes, and since it was summer, my clothes were always sweaty and smelly. This is so convenient when you are always on the go, or traveling a few days a week. Not having to do any chores really opens up your day and lets you spend it how you want.

 

Supervision/Support:

Being on your own is always nice, but having someone to give you advice and be concerned with your well-being is very nice, especially in a foreign country. Our host mom was very caring and made sure we were doing well at all times. Most host parents take their job seriously, and want to do well in order to keep it. Our host mom really took pride in being our “mom” for the summer and went to great lengths to make sure we had everything we needed to do well in school, in travel, and in the new community. She even dragged me out of bed to get to school most mornings!

 

All in all, I would recommend living with a host family to everyone.

Travel

Packing:

This past summer in Spain, I took multiple weekend trips with a group of my friends from my school program. A great way to save money and energy while traveling is to travel LIGHT. Most trips were only about 3 days each, and I was able to fit everything I needed into one backpack. I never had to lug around multiple bags or suitcases, and I saved at least 20-30 euros on each flight by not checking a bag (it is not fun dealing with lost baggage in a foreign country). Most airlines have bag size requirements for carry-ons, but a modest sized backpack is usually within those limits.

Granted my trip was in the summer and required less/smaller clothing, but in winter months I would recommend wearing outerwear on the flight to save bag space (the cabins are normally chilly anyway). And when I would bring multiple pairs of shoes, I would tie the second pair together by the laces and string them through the loop on my backpack to save space.

Travel light: save money, space, and energy.

 

Hostels:

During the summer, I stayed in hostels almost every time I traveled. Most hostels have single, double, and group rooms for very reasonable prices, I would recommend booking a few weeks in advance to price shop as well as make sure your whole group is accommodated. The rooms with more privacy and access to bathrooms will typically be the most expensive, but still beat hotel prices most times. I would also recommend purchasing a lock, as most hostels have lockers for personal items (very convenient, nice to have peace of mind). I did not have many problems with hostels, and typically the other travelers were in my age range. The most useful service for finding hostels was Hostel World, you can view information and reviews and even book/pay for your stay. Their website and customer service are both great. I had a positive experience with hostels and recommend them, especially for groups.

 

Public transit:

In every country I visited, I used public transportation to get around in metro areas in a quick and convenient way. In Barcelona, rode the metro (subway) to save time and money. There are texis but the metro is much cheaper. You can get into the metro for about a dollar each time, and ride to any point in the entire city. You can literally ride the metro all day if you want to, once you are in then you are in. Usually, I would walk to my destination if it was within a few blocks or if I was not in a rush, the weather was great most days. The nice thing about the metro is that you can buy the passes in bulk, and you can also buy an unlimited pass for a month or multiple months. ALSO remember to keep your receipts for your passes if it is a large amount. If you lose your physical card you can have the staff print you a new one for free. The transit staff is typically very helpful and understanding, many people lose the small card that is used for getting on the metro.

Advice for Conquering Europe!

Europe has so many different cultures squeezed into one continent that going abroad and staying in just your host country would be a huge waste of your opportunity. With all the money that you are already spending to get over there, you might as well make the most of you stay.

For me, seeing it all was my goal from the beginning, which helped me to plan my finances better. That being said, I was still booking a few flights or buses the week of some trips, which means I paid more than I would have if I planned things ahead of time. I was lucky enough to see 14 countries and 33 cities throughout Europe in my 4.5 month stay. They included Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Scotland, Ireland, England, Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Hungry, Switzerland, and Italy.

For booking travel, I used GoEuro a lot, especially around Spain and Portugal. Then, when I knew that I was flying I used SkyScanner to help narrow down to my best flights from my time constrictions. I could only travel on weekends from Friday to Sunday and had a couple long weekends spread throughout where I could hop from country to the next. Twice I had to layover in the airport because my flight landed around 1 AM and my connecting flight didn’t leave till around 6/7 AM, which I highly discourage anyone from doing if at all possible to avoid.

Picking out your hotel or hostel is your next step. If you have the points or the money, pay for the hotel because it will be nicer than the hostel guaranteed. However, most hostels are good too if you know what to look for on the websites. I used HostelWorld to look up places. They also have an app that you can download and have your confirmations on your phone. Firstly, put in your parameters like the dates that you are traveling, where you are traveling, the number of beds needed, private room or not, needs for WIFI, included breakfast, and many other accommodations that you can select to your liking. Then, you’ll get a list of all the matches. Typically, the closer you get to the city center the closer you get to the main sites and the more expensive your hostel will cost. European cities for the most part have excellent city-center transportation, so go for a mid-range distance from the center so you don’t pay the expensive hostel prices. Finally, look through the reviews. I only stayed at hostels that had 1,000 or more reviews and an overall rating of 7/10 or higher.

Next, you need to figure out what sites you want to see. I took a two-pronged approach to this. First, before I arrived, I Googled the places where I was going and looked for top touristic places and best food. Then, I saved the places that I was interested in visiting to my Google Map by either starring the place after finding it on Chrome or labeling it as a place that I “Want to Go” in Google Maps. Second, after arriving at the hostel where I would be staying, I asked the Hostel front desk people what the best sites to see and eat were. Typically, they have a map that they provide you from a local tourism company, but their advice was always genuine and almost always the most incredible things to see and do.

Finally, the most important advice when traveling anywhere. Stay flexible and adaptable because inevitably things will go wrong, and you will have to adjust to your new situation. Be sure not to take things too seriously and laugh about all of it because before you know it you’ll be back home planning your next trip.

5 Survival Tips for Spain

1) Refresh Your Spanish

Download Dulingo to your phone and start practicing. Most people especially in the service industries of Spain know some English phrases and words, but to explain exactly what you want or need you’ll, need to at least speak some Spanglish. Best would be if you could hold a conversation with at least 70% Spanish and 30% English. But, you can get by with your wits and you phone’s translating app. I recommend Google Translate, because it’s easy and you can download Continue reading

Pinterest and Planning

Previously, I wrote a post about travel tips and how to get to your destination.  I had never been to Europe before studying abroad, and I had a lot to figure out.  I knew traveling on weekends would not give me very much time in each place.  After figuring out I needed to make travel arrangements in advance, I realized I needed to plan out my day to day activities in each place I went.  Cities like London have so much to do, and a weekend there is not nearly long enough.  This is where planning my time was most critical to being able to see most things.

Pinterest was the biggest thing that helped me plan my weekends.  There are so many blogs out there from people who documented their trips.  Most of the time you can find “self-guided walking tours” of any city you want to travel to.  When doing research for each city I would Pin 3-5 posts, then make a list of which things I wanted to see and which to skip.  Then, I would look at a map of the city and decide which things were close together.  Below is my London itinerary for example:

Friday:

  • Paul’s Cathedral (we stayed in the Club Quarters Hotel at St. Paul’s)
  • Houses of Parliament
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Tower Bridge
  • Tower of London
  • Leadenhall Market (for Harry Potter fans)

Saturday:

  • Madam Tussauds Wax Museum
  • London Eye
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Platform 9 ¾ (Harry Potter again)
  • Harrods

As you can see, we did a lot in two days.  For the London trip, I purchased a two-day London Pass.  This allowed me to get into each attraction (except Madam Tussauds and the London Eye) and most of the tickets included fast passes.  I would recommend getting the London Pass, but not for more than two days, because the price goes up at three days, but the amount of attractions included does not.

Pinterest was also helpful in places that are not as commonly known.  When visiting Lisbon, I would not have known to visit Sintra, Portugal without seeing a pin about it.  It turned out to be one of the coolest cities I visited.  There was information on how to get to Sintra from Lisbon, what to see, and how to get around the city.

The one drawback of Pinterest for studying abroad is its advice on packing.  I read so many blog posts about how to pack, and followed their advice, but ended up not having enough clothes.  My advice on this would be to do research on what kinds of clothes are sold in the country you will be living in.  Personally, I did not like the clothes sold in Spain and around Europe.  This may not be the case for everyone, but some research would have gone a long way with me.

Overall, Pinterest can be a great resource for your time abroad and will help you plan your travels well.  It will help you make the most of your time there and see as much as possible!

Weekend Travel Advice

This past semester, fall 2017, I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain. The thing I was most excited about during my time in Europe was being able to travel around to different countries. When it came time to plan my trips, I realized it was not as simple as I thought it would be. I heard it was easy to pick a destination at the beginning of the week and fly out Thursday or Friday. However, I was very wrong about that. While travel is cheaper around Europe, it takes planning to get the best deals. Below are some tips and things to watch out for that will make traveling much easier and more affordable.
• Plan Ahead! One of the biggest things I can stress is planning ahead. It will make everything much easier throughout your time if things are planned out. I planned almost all of my trips, and booked them, in early September. I did most of the traveling in late October through the beginning of December. Laying everything out at once allowed me research when the best time to go certain places is and be able to see everything I wanted to see.
• Flights: The cheapest flights are at the most inconvenient times. Budget airlines are great, but in order to get a good price, usually the flights are very early or really late. Sometimes the trains do not run early enough to get to the airport before your 6am flight. To get to the airport you will need to get and Uber or taxi. Another thing that I have heard a lot of people running into is flying into the wrong airport. Many times, budget airlines do not fly into the main airports. Make sure you double check which airport your flight goes to, so you do not get stuck an hour outside the city you are trying to visit. The budget airlines are also strict about bag size and charge a lot of your bag is too big. My advice is getting a large backpack, because I never saw a flight attendant check the size of a backpack.
• Hotels: Finding a place to stay is another challenge I faced. I would not recommend hostels, since there are so many other options. The couple times I used Airbnb it was a pleasant experience, especially when we had multiple people traveling together. Booking.com was the website I used for most of my trips. After booking 5 trips you get a discount on all other trips! Plus, there are plenty of reviews, so you will know what you are getting. I found that splitting a hotel room with one other person gives you some privacy and more security for your things. Compared to a hostel, splitting hotel room is the same price and gives you more peace of mind.
Traveling is one of the main benefits of studying abroad. Experiencing all the new places and cultures will open your eyes, and make you think differently about the world. Getting to your destination can be tricky, but if you plan ahead and know how to get from place to place you will be able to relax and enjoy!

The Pros and Cons of a Few Cities/Country

Here I give to you is the pros and cons of a few countries/cities that I visited in on my time abroad from Kentucky. To start the list off let’s discuss…

Munich, Germany

Munich was the first place I visited, and I wish I hadn’t gone here first because I feel like I would’ve appreciated it a whole lot more if I had already known what to expect out of a European city. Anyways, Germany, as my impression from spending about four days here was that it was very car centric, which I loved because of my love of cars, and extremely overcast, like the Netherlands. While in Munich some friends and I stayed at an Airbnb of a nice man. My only remark with this Airbnb stay is that the beds were impeccably comfortable – Europeans don’t know that they really sleep on cardboard mattresses every night. However, the main reason we went to Munich was for Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest, honestly, was everything I hoped it would be and more. The best way to describe it or even try to compare it to is the Kentucky State Fair. All the guys are dressed in Lederhosen and everyone is walking around with a beer in hand on a big plot of land with massive beer tents on all sides with a carnival with rides in the back of the place. Everyone I met on that excursion was extremely friendly and wanted to share life stories with – which at this point all I had to say for myself is that I had just arrived by train from the Netherlands. Additionally, downtown Munich was gorgeous with dozens of historic buildings and the royal gardens with lots of art galleries. Overall it was a 10/10 trip I wish I could go back and do again – mainly for the Bavarian food.

The Netherlands

Moving forward, I feel that its important I talk a little bit about the Netherlands, which was my home country while I was away. The Netherlands is extremely friendly but gloomy country. It is always raining or way too windy to walk with overcast skies. However, I was lucky enough to have a flat about 25 minutes from the beach in The Hague. At the beach there was a pier with an oversized Ferris wheel, a dozen restaurants on the actual beach and several more food and clothing stores on the boardwalk up and down the coast. When I first arrived in August, the beach was heaven. Additionally, getting to and from the beach was a breeze. I had bought a second-hand bike as my transportation for the four months that I was going to be there but the actual trains and street cars that were within the country were very accessible. I wouldn’t say that they were cheap compared to other countries I visited like Slovakia but for the price it wasn’t bad. During the week I would occasionally take the train 25 minutes up to the capital of Amsterdam to explore everything the city had to offer – it was a lot. The Hague, where I was staying, is more residential and Amsterdam is a big tourist trap most of the time. I would also go southeast to a city called Rotterdam to party with friends at concerts or bars which was fun since the young people scene wasn’t great in The Hague – lots of older people. Overall, I loved the country and loved calling it home.

London, UK

Finally, I wanted to briefly touch on my five-day excursion to London with one of my good friends because I feel like Americans are obsessed with British people and I want to shed some light on it. Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to throw shade at the British I had an amazing time while I was there; however, London is overrated. Everything in London is geared towards tourists and the prices reflect that in the food and all the activities to do. That being said, there is so much history and amazing culture to be seen in this large, dated city. The three biggest things that stood out to me was the Shakespearean theatre. The theatre was not original, but it was close to it since it is made from sticks and stones – literally. Additionally, the art scene in London is nothing like I have ever seen or experienced before; and, I don’t get impressed easily when it comes to art. The art galleries are impeccable, and free, and there’s an ally tunnel with tastefully done graffiti everywhere that’s done by artists and it’s just insanely beautiful but also comedic. Anyways, the last thing I thought was amazing about London is the fact that you could take a boat down the river as public transportation – like what??!

Hope you all enjoyed the very short reviews of just a few places I went to this past semester.