After My Experience Abroad

After My Experience Abroad
This past Fall in Madrid has been a crazy experience. There was good and bad, as to be expected. I really enjoyed being around a new and different culture. However, I did not enjoy my educational experience as much as my experience at U of L. The professors didn’t speak English as well as I would have hoped, but I expected there to be a bit of a language barrier at times so this was not the cause of my problems. The cause was that most of my professors just flat out didn’t teach us anything in the classroom. Then we would have homework assignments over material we didn’t cover in class. Most of the class time was spent talking about the professors’ personal experiences, instead of going over the course material. One of my professors would only go over theoretical material in class. The only stuff he would cover is basically definitions. Then, somehow, we were supposed to figure out how to use this material to solve practical homework problems that were all math. How am I supposed to solve a mathematical problem using a definition? It was impossible to do. I’m not saying this because I do not want people to study abroad because I do. It was a great experience overall, it was just the school that caused me troubles. I would advise to take classes as easy as you possibly could and do not take courses for your major abroad. You will not learn most of the material while you abroad, at least in Spain. The professors there don’t want to teach, they just want to do their research. The administration at my school, UC3M, was horrible too. At the beginning of the semester I had to get some paperwork signed to prove I was enrolled in courses at the school. I went to the international office where I was supposed to get the paperwork filled out. The people at that office then sent me to a different office. I was then sent to a different office by this second office. Then the third office told me I needed to go back to the first office I visited. I went back to the first office and talked to a different person and then they filled out my paperwork. It was just that kind of stuff that made things difficult. People didn’t want to do their job, so they told me to go somewhere else, I’ve never had something like that happen to me at U of L. After reading this it probably doesn’t seem like I enjoyed my time there, but that’s not the case. I actually loved my time there. I made tons of friends from all different countries such as Spain, Germany, UK, and Italy. I want others to go abroad like I did, but I want them to have a fair warning that their school experience is going to be a lot tougher than it is at U of L and it isn’t because the classes are harder. It’s just a different culture and almost different world. Don’t let this get you down though, you will still have the time of your life there

Preparing for Your Study Abroad Departure and Arrival

Preparing for Your Study Abroad Departure and Arrival
There are many things to do to prepare for your study abroad experience. It can be stressful and cause
you anxiety. Looking back now, what would have helped prepare me most for this experience is
preparing for the initial stress of arriving. Just accept that there is going to be stress/anxiety when you
first get there. You are in a different country with a completely new culture. You go from seeing people you care about every day to not seeing them for several months. You might even be the only person
you know in this new country or you may only know a handful of people. That can be quite hard to deal with at first.
When I first got to my study abroad destination, which in my case was Madrid, I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life. My landlord was late in meeting me at my new apartment, my apartment
was a bit different than I was expecting, and I had gone without sleep for about 24 hours. It was scary to say the least. The no sleep part made everything else seem 10 times worse, obviously because no one
operates well on no sleep. Everything ended up being okay in the end though. It helps to know that
several people are in the same situation as you are, and tons have felt what you are feeling at that
moment.
Get to know your study abroad buddies from U of L in the first few weeks. They will be the closest thing you have to home while you are abroad. They will also give you some comfort because they are in the
same situation as you, scared and excited for this new experience. Also, go to any youth activities in
your country. You will meet a ton of people there and it will be very easy to make friends. In Madrid
there is this group called City Life Madrid, and they help new people/exchange students meet other
people in Madrid that are interested in similar things. City Life also puts on nightlife events that were
super fun. They had pub crawls every Saturday night and an event at a night club with free entry every
Monday. I met so any people at these events and it helped my transition to my new situation so much
easier.
Also, to help reduce your stress it is helpful to knock out all your predeparture requirements as soon as
you can. Get your visa early, because sometimes it takes awhile to process. You don’t want it to be the date for you to leave and still not have your passport and visa back yet. I would also book a roundtrip
plan ticket, so you won’t have to worry about booking your return flight when you are abroad. By doing this, you can spend up to half of what you would spend by buying the trips separate. I did this and
ended up saving about $1,000 on my travel cost. The big thing is to make small goals to get prepared for your experience and knock the easy ones out first. This will make the initial experience so much better.

Okay, Don’t Freak Out

One of the things I learned about on my study abroad is the value of keeping a cool head and realizing everything is going to be alright. One week I was traveling alone in the grandiose city of London. I was preparing to leave London and my flight to Budapest was at 2:00pm So, naturally, I try to get their two hours early; that’s what you’re suppose to do, ya know. So. I’m sitting on my bus, watching Les Miserables and enjoying life. However, I think to myself, “How weird is it that my flight from Budapest to London was at 2:00pm and that it’s the same time on the way back…” I hurriedly pull out my ticket to check the time and in big bold letter it says flight leaves at 12:15pm. Holy crap! “Okay, don’t freak out.”

My bus arrives at 12:00pm and I grab my luggage and take off running. I get to security and the line is long but luckily the dude at the front let me skip him (shoutout to dude). I throw all my stuff off and ask the lady, “Yo, I need to take my shoes off?” She’s like, “Nah, you good.” Walk through the detector, my shoes set it off. I have to wait to get patted down. The clock is ticking. I finally get passed security; I put my shoes on (don’t tie them) grab my belt (don’t put it on), my jacket, throw my backpack over one shoulder, grab my small luggage and take off running. So here I am dashing through London Stansted airport sweating bullets as I hold my pants up, trip over my shoelaces, and drop my mittens and accessories that I am also carrying. I looked like a damn fool, I’m sure. A few women verbally expressed their concerns, “Shoes untied, jacket barely on, he must be in a rush,” They had no idea. The monitor says “BUDAPEST FINAL CALL”. My gate is 10 minutes away walking but I’m running so I make it there in 4 mins. OH MY GOODNESS there are still people boarding! I MADE IT. I throw all my stuff down and take a breath…go to pull out my passport and ticket…”where’s my passport?” In my frenzy to get to my gate I dropped it at security; I missed my plane. “Okay, don’t freak out.”

This was specifically bad because it was the end of Spring Break week and I had a huge project due the next day (that I admittedly had not done nearly enough work on). The security eventually was able to give me my passport back and then I found out that there were no more flights from London Stansted to  Budapest. “Okay, don’t freak out.”

I looked up prices for nearest airports to Stansted, found a flight to Budapest, made sure that I could get a bus there and headed out. I arrived in Budapest the next morning at 2am and stayed up all night to finish my project.

Christmas Market in Germany!

Christmas is a wonderful time full of family, friends and celebration. What better way to bring everyone together than a traditional Christmas Market? I traveled to Nurnberg to see one of the most popular German Christmas Markets, and I can say that it was an amazing experience. Drinking Gluhwein (hot wine), eating warm chestnuts and hearing the German quires sing festive songs brings it all together. Now when going to a Christmas Market, I have a few things that I recommend doing, and these will be the main point of my post today.

Step 1: Get some food!

Germany is chock full of delicious street food at these Christmas Markets. Classic things to go for are any kind of sausage (Bratwurst, Rotwurst, Currywurst), Gluhwein (as mentioned before is a form of hot wine, perfect for the cold weather!), and we cant forget the sweets! Germany has long been the place to get rich cakes and oh so sweet chocolate, so don’t forget to grab some!

Step 2: Shop!

Christmas Markets are more than just a gathering of people, they are also a great place to get some amazing gifts for you or for friends and family. Stop by the shops and check out whats for sale. You will find a lot of local crafts made by residents of Nurnberg. See the picture below of handcrafted German Decorative Houses. But don’t forget about the local eatery when shopping! Germany has a plethora of dairy producers, local and national, that make some great cheese, which will go perfect with the wine that you got in step one.

Step 3: Enjoy!

These Christmas Markets really bring the festive Germany to light, Seeing everyone enjoying themselves naturally makes for a fun environment… so enjoy it! Listen to the music and try to speak with the locals (just a few German words will spark the conversation!). This is the most important step in the Christmas Market travel, so don’t miss out on it!

Thank you all for reading my quick guide to German Christmas Markets. I have added some pictures below to show you some of the things I mentioned, but I cannot capture the true feeling you get when traveling to these Markets with just pictures… go do it yourself!

A Letter to Myself Regarding Study Abroad

Dear Laura,

First thing: calm down. You are panicking thinking everything will go horribly wrong. You couldn’t be more wrong about that. You will come out of this experience more confident and more certain that you can do anything than you have ever been in your life. This is the trip of a lifetime and you are going to love every minute of it. Relax, breathe and enjoy it, it goes by way too fast.

Second: learn a little Czech before you go. I know it seems impossible because there are so many consonants and you have no idea how to pronounce anything you’re reading but the basics (hello, thank you, etc.) are so helpful and there are a lot more resources available than you think. Orientation your first full day will be a lot less stressful if you have a head start on the language portion.

Third: don’t panic about the packing. I know you are worried about it but you actually do a pretty darn good job. Maybe throw a pair of capris in there, I’m not sure what I was thinking not including those, but otherwise well done. And that lightweight suitcase was an amazing investment, never let anyone tell you otherwise.

Fourth: Travel. Just travel as much and as many places as you can. The only thing I regret about this trip is not taking the opportunity to travel even more than I did. And when you aren’t traveling remember that wandering the city is a valid pastime. There are tons of museums and monuments to visit and look at and there are so many beautiful things to see while just walking down the street. Find yourself a walking tour or a list of attractions and get out there.

Fifth: The public transportation system is awesome. I know it seems intimidating and you aren’t sure you will ever understand the tram schedules. It’s way simpler than you think, and you will be able to go so many places you could never find on foot. You will amaze yourself with how well you can navigate without google maps or anyone else’s help. You’ll even end up giving people directions a few times.

Sixth: You can be self-sufficient. You don’t need your family or your friends to do things. You can go out and navigate and visit places all by yourself and nothing bad will happen. Your confidence gets so much better once you realize that. Just go for it and you will amaze yourself with what you can do on your own. And once you realize you can do it by yourself in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, know that it only gets easier when you get home. The extra independence and confidence doesn’t end when you leave Prague.

Seventh, and last: don’t forget to have fun. Sure, you’re there to study and to travel but the underlying aim to this whole trip is to have fun. You will get through the stress and the doubt and you will be stronger for it, but the point isn’t to struggle through it. The point is to enjoy it.

Be safe. Have fun. And enjoy every minute of it. I know I did,

Laura

What do I miss most about Prague?

Several months down the line it’s kind of crazy to think about my summer abroad. The places I’ve been, the people I met all seem so close and so far away at the same time. As happy as I’ve been to come home and see my family and friends again there are a lot of things I really miss about Prague and my time there.

  1. The food – not necessarily anything billed as “traditional Czech food” because I really like vegetables and most of those dishes are very meat and bread heavy. However, I had some of the best food I’ve ever eaten while I was in Europe especially when I looked beyond the touristy, heavily traveled areas. There were two Italian restaurants within five minutes of my apartment and a wonderful Thai place that was well worth the fifteen-minute tram ride.
  2. The public transportation system – speaking of the trams I absolutely loved the public transportation system, not only in Prague, but in every city I visited. Prague has a giant system of trams, metros and buses that will get you anywhere you need to go in a very reasonable amount of time. I’ve heard other people who traveled say that they were glad to come home and get to drive their cars again. I was the opposite. I was perfectly happy hopping a tram every day and letting someone else drive so I could just take everything in.
  3. The architecture – I don’t know if that’s quite the right way to put it, but living in a building that’s been standing far longer than I’ve been alive and walking down the street and seeing the beauty of the buildings was a never-ending treat for me. The fact that modern buildings stuck out like sore thumbs was so different than what I’m used to back home. In the states old is a few hundred years. In Prague the “new bridge” (as described by our tour guide) dates to the 1300’s. The weight of history there is much greater than it is in the States and there is so much to learn and to see just in the facades of the buildings.
  4. The quiet – this sounds kind of odd, but Czechs in general are very quiet, at least in public, and there are strict nighttime quiet laws that reinforce that. It was somewhat surreal to walk through a crowded plaza and hear a tenth, if that, of the noise you would hear in a similarly crowded area here in the states. It became incredibly clear very quickly that the stereotype of the loud American is very true, and especially in Prague it doesn’t take a lot to be “that person.” I’m a quiet person to begin with so this aspect of life in Prague really suited me and sometimes now that I’m home crowds here can be a little overwhelmingly loud in comparison.
  5. The travel – I didn’t travel as much as many other people I’ve talked to, but I really loved it. Seeing other cities and countries is a truly amazing experience and it’s so easy and affordable to do so in Europe. My trips were well worth the time and I only wish I had been able to travel more.

I could go on. There are so many things I miss about my time abroad and now that I’m home I’m just itching for a chance to go back.

Things I Miss Most

1. I miss the friends I made. This was my first time being a part of a group in college and I wish I did it sooner. After coming home, I missed the people from the trip so much. I wish we all lived closer and went to the same college. Life gets in the way but we do try to stay in touch with each other. Experiencing everything with those people made the whole trip even better. I will forever look at the pictures and memories as one of the best times of my life.

2. The beautiful views. The cities and sights I saw were beyond incredible. Just in my home stay town of Bregenz was beautiful. We had the Pfänderbahn and other surrounding mountains that were incredible to look at, as well as, Lake Constance. We even swam in the lake multiple times. Traveling to cities like Prague, Munich and Venice all had different types of architecture that you just don’t see while in America.

3. The food. Oh my, the food was great. German food is centered around meat and potatoes, which is what I live on. But also, the freshness of the food. Europe, in general, does not have as many processed food options as America. They don’t keep as much food on hand. Plus, most of them have smaller refrigerators so they physically cannot keep a lot of food in the house. They have multiple “farmer’s markets” during the week while we only have them once a week. I noticed that prices of food were cheaper as well. Coming back, my stomach had to make an adjustment which made me look at what I was eating. When I miss German food now, I will dig up a recipe or go to a local German restaurant.

4. Exploring new cities. My program was great because I got to travel on the weekends. I visited other countries and enjoyed each of them. Learning to get around a new city with another new language, new currency and new culture is a hard adjustment to make within 2 days but you quickly make the adjustment and enjoy the changes. Being constantly busy and exploring cities is something I really miss, like any person who has studied abroad.

 

Some things I learned during my time abroad….

My time abroad has shed some light on the differences between United States and Europe, or at least the countries I visited. These only pertain to the countries of Austria, Germany, Italy and Czech Republic. I cannot say any other tips regarding the rest of Europe. Here are some useful things I learned and wish I knew beforehand:

  • Water is not free. Neither is refills. But you can ask for local tap water. You might just get some odd looks though.
  • In Austria, they have fountains around town that are drinkable only if they say “Trinkwasser”.
  • All shops close early and are closed on Sundays. Even the grocery.
  • They celebrate a lot of holidays where everything gets shut down.
  • Beer is cheaper than water.
  • You will see locals eating gelato and drinking alcohol at all hours of the day. Even at 10am.
  • All toilets will flush differently.
  • Also, not all bathrooms are free. Most public toilets cost 50 cents.
  • Train bathrooms are even more confusing. Each will flush, turn on water and dispense soap differently.
  • NEVER drink water from the tap on a train.
  • When eating out, remember to ask for the check or it will not come.
  • They also tend to be more quiet but that depends on the city and what you’re doing.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking everywhere.
  • Try to book rooms and trains as soon as possible.
  • Double check train tickets. If overnight train, make sure you have the right dates. (Even the train people can get it wrong)
  • To save money, eat at the grocery store. Very cheap and good food.
  • When packing, bring enough toiletries to last you a month. If not, they are fairly inexpensive to buy.
  • Ask if the bread is free before eating. Sometimes they will charge you.
  • If you happen to have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, pay with that when going out in large groups. People can pay you in cash and you can avoid all the ATM fees.
  • When visiting another city for a weekend, I recommend getting a metro, bus or tram pass to get around the city. It is well worth the price.
  • Also, check out events happening in the cities you’re going to visit. (I happened to go to Vienna when the largest open air festival in Europe took place, so we got lucky)
  • Explore your host city as much as possible. Try not to get a routine of same places.
  • Naps will be necessary—but choose wisely when to take them. FOMO is real.
  • Trains are always cold. Take a jacket or scarf with you.
  • On weekends, pack for all weather.
  • Not all trains will have Wi-Fi or outlets. (Austria trains seem to be of nicer quality)
  • If you can’t sleep sitting up, then best of luck on trains.
  • Netflix’s download feature came in handy on long train rides.

Some Reasons Why Chinese People Look So Young

Being a student-athlete at the University of Louisville, I thought I would write a little about the sports and exercise atmosphere in Shanghai.

One often think about the Chinese population as skinny and healthy people. Living in China, I understand some of the reasons why they are so skinny and young looking. Overall, the people take good care of their bodies. The food they eat is very fresh and natural, and they do not eat a lot of processed food. They are experts in making good juices, and herbal tea is an important part of their everyday diet.

First time I walked around campus at night, I was shocked to see how many people were exercising around the track and field. We have two track and field facilities on campus and both of them were packed with probably 200 people each. There were people walking, jogging and running in all eight lanes. The age ranged from young kids to really old adults all excited to get their workout in for the day. Neither of the facilities have light, but it seems like everyone likes to exercise at night because that is when they have free time, and when the temperature cools off. Not only were people running around the track, there were also many people standing next to the fence stretching, doing strength exercises, and even some people were doing tai chi. A totally new experience for me, and I suddenly understood why Chinese people usually look so healthy.

Not only does the population enjoy to exercise themselves, the support of professional athletics is also increasing. The second weekend in Shanghai, I went to see the the Shanghai professional soccer team play at their main stadium with other study abroad students. The Shanghai team played the 1/16 final in the AFC Championship that night. The stadium was really nice and was actually used during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. China is purposefully trying to increase the people’s interest in soccer, and therefore, the soccer clubs are given large amount of money to get famous international players. Oscar and Hulk are currently playing for Shanghai so it was entertaining to watch.

Walking around in Shanghai, you can also see the huge amount of bicycles. There are several bike companies that rent out bikes for less than one dollar an hour, and you can leave the bike wherever you want. You unlock the bikes by using the bike companies phone app which is connected to your bank account. The bike rental system is super convenient, and it is a good substitution for motorcycles, cars and taxis. It is also a way of promoting healthy lifestyle and activity.

As you can see, there are many ways the Shanghainese population like to stay active, exercise, and improve their health. After being in Shanghai a couple of weeks, I now know that it is not a coincidence that Chinese people are known for being skinny and healthy.

Have a great day!
Katrine

China – an underrated Gem- part 3

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I will now take you inside these famous structures. More specifically to their kitchens. Do you think Chinese food is the same in China than in Norway? than in Brazil? the U.S.? No! its definitely not! Is not even the same throughout China! Did you know that in Shanghai food is sweeter? That in the Sichuan province they prefer spicy and have a lot of lamb? What about that people in the south eat more white rice while in the north more noodles.

China has one of the widest varieties of spices and flavors I have seen and you will definitely not cease to entertain your palate. This along with the breathtaking views, the detailed to the millimeter ancient architecture are all the results of a society with more than 5,000 years of recorded history. When I try to find the overall value of this experience and forget the little nicks and nacks like overpopulation (I guess not so little), people sneezing and bumping into your personal space, or others, I can confidently more than recommend China. It surpassed my expectations above and beyond. It has definitely changed my point of view and helped me grow as a person and I hope you can visit too!