So I have been in The Netherlands for about a month now and it has been nothing short of amazing. I am so happy with my decision to study here in The Hague because it makes traveling so easy! Since arriving at the end of January I have already been able to travel to France and Spain.
Since we arrived in late January we had about a week and half with no class. Sophie, Evan and I decided to take full advantage of this opportunity and booked a trip to Paris! I was surprised by how easy it was to get there (a five hour train ride). We stayed at a nice hostel called Le Regent Hostel Montmartre that was very reasonably priced and located in a super fun area. While there we got to see all of the major attractions like the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, the Palace of Versailles, etc. Besides the amazing sights that Paris has to offer, the other reason i would definitely recommend going there is THE FOOD. SO. GOOD. A Madame Croque will change your life, I have no doubt.
After returning from paris we began our first week of class, but luckily for us we only had two weeks before our Spring Break (if you call February spring…). Evan and I decided to try to find a cheap beach destination so we spent one night searching all of the internet and finally came across a great deal to Palma de Mallorca in Spain on Expedia. I would definitely recommend Expedia when flying somewhere because usually by buying a package deal you end up with a nice hotel a flight for about the same price you be paying for a flight and hostel were you to do it separate. Anyways, Mallorca was BEAUTIFUL. The beaches are not like beaches in the U.S., they’re much smaller and more like coves. Just to warn you, so you aren’t surprised like we were, wearing a top at the beach is apparently not required in Spain. The actual city of Palma is also very beautiful. There are tons of great stores to shop at and lots of little places to eat. However, my favorite part about the city was its compact size, you could walk from one side to the other in just an hour. While we were in the city we visited La Sea, the Cathedral of Mallorca and it was breath taking. We also hiked our way up to the top of the hill to visit the Castell de Bellver, a 13th Century castle. The view from up there was absolutely amazing. Besides these tourist attractions, Mallorca is known for its nightlife. February is part of the “offseason” in Mallorca, but you could still find crowds of people in the streets at 5:30 in the morning on the weekend. Some locals told us its like that EVERY night May- October so I definitely wouldn’t recommend going to Mallorca if you’re trying to get you’re beauty sleep.
The places I’ve been so far have been amazing and I’m looking forward to continuing my travels!
So, I find myself settled in half way through my second semester in Germany, and I realize my post is long overdue. Much has happened in the six months since my arrival last August, and I still have six more months to go, but already I feel I have grown exponentially and learned quite a bit. I have had some wonderful experiences thus far, the highlights of my first semester being as follows:
- Arriving in Germany homeless, and showing up in Oestrich-Winkel with only a backpack and without a clue.
- Finding one of the only apartments left in my tiny village on my first day here; where I found myself in the company of a Korean boy, and two German master’s students.
- Purchasing a bicycle and riding it every day along the Rhein River on my way to and from classes.
- Experiencing the joy of wine season in Germany. Everyone must do it once in life. There are wine festivals in almost every village in the region, and along the Rhein River you can also find quaint little wine stands. I spent several enjoyable evenings sipping nice Rieslings by the river in the company of great new friends.
- That brings me to my next point, of meeting around 200 exchange students from all over the world. I was fortunate enough to be able to surround myself with people from many different cultures, and we would often take turns hosting dinners of traditional foods from our countries.
- Sharing the tradition of Thanksgiving with over 35 exchange students at my apartment. Despite being a lot of work, many students were able to experience their first Thanksgiving, complete with bird, sweet potatoes, green been casserole, mashed potatoes, and apple crisp – a very memorable night.
- Landing myself in the hospital for a week – in the most German way possible. While attending a soccer game, I ate an undercooked bratwurst, which in turn gave me salmonella, which in turn gave me a reactive arthritis infection in my knee. Silver lining of the whole event was the quality of the German healthcare system. For eight days in the hospital, I only paid €90.
- Of course, being my first fall in Germany, I had to go to “the Oktoberfest” in Munich. To sum up the trip, I spent 24 hours in Munich, bought a dirndl (traditional Bayerisch women’s clothing or what the girls wear when men wear lederhosen), drank beer in the rain because it was too full inside, and then spent the night in a train station trying to get home. I don’t know if I will ever feel the need to go back again.
- Last but not least, one of my favorite parts from last semester – Christmas Markets. If you don’t know what a Christmas Market is, it’s exactly what it sounds like. A market full of Christmas things. You can buy wonderful handmade pieces of art, ornaments/Christmasy thigns, or traditional German nick nacks, but the best part is without a doubt, the food and drink. So many warm, delicious meals, and candies and snacks, it’s difficult to decide what to eat. And then there’s the Glühwein, which is a hot, spiced wine everyone drinks. Simply to die for.
So far this current semester has been pretty laid back. I have moved apartments and am living with one of my former roommates from last semester. Readjusting was difficult in the beginning. I went home to the States for Christmas, and when I returned, the majority of my friends from the previous semester had return to their home countries. So I had to start all over meeting new people again. I have been fortunate enough to find a new group of people whom I really connect with. Some of the happenings so far are:
- I went to Berlin last weekend, and was able to soak up all of the sights and sounds of Germany’s capital.
- I’ve been improving my German and trying to speak it often. I’ve found the little joys of just being able to schedule my own hair cutting appointment in German are very rewarding.
- Recently, I have begun tutoring a local woman in English to fill up some of my free time.
For the most part, I am going to class and taking it easy, trying to enjoy the time I have left. The weather here is starting to get warm, and I can feel spring coming. I can’t wait until it is pleasant to be outside again. Life here is really wonderful, and I looking forward to all that the rest of the semester has in store for me!
That’s all for now,
After 20 hours of flight, I finally made it to the sunny Dubai. While home may be icy with delays and cancellations, I’ve been making my way to the great outdoors. I spent my first few days here settling in and checking out the area before my internship began.
I went to the infamous Dubai Mall, which is the largest shopping mall in the world! It seems to be a shopping festival, and many of the shops are 50% off. Too bad I am only window shopping 🙁 . On the outside of Dubai Mall there is a walk with the Dubai Fountains which are a larger version of the fountains in Vegas. They are amazing!! They are also shooting up into the sky in front of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. It is huge!! I want to book this weekend to go to the top of it as they have an observatory. Oh and I had lunch at Texas Roadhouse haha, who would have thought I’d get to enjoy steak and cinnamon buttered rolls here!
So far, I am enjoying life in the sunny Dubai and my internship has been going well as I have been settling in this first week and getting to know the people and tasks. I hope to have more adventures to share as I go on and post pictures as well. I would like to explore some of the surrounding Emirates on the weekends!
Until next time,