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!

The Power of a Postcard

I have always been a fan of hand written notes. I started sending postcards in preschool and my hobby for it has continued to grow throughout my life. I send about 10-15 postcards anytime I visit a new place. I started to send so many it got to where I would have to do a rotation of people to ensure I didn’t leave anyone out but that I also didn’t spend my whole budget on postcards.

During my time abroad, I have mailed over 40 postcards in 5 months. I decided that I would send postcards from each place I went to and also keep one for me. By doing this, I have been able to remind my friends and family back home that I am thinking about them. It is a cheap way to update people and show that you care. The process of picking out the postcard for each person is exciting too. You have to think about the sights they would’ve wanted to see and figure out what postcard fits their personality. It sounds a little extra, I know, but I enjoy it.

It has been fun collecting them as well. I have a postcard from each city I have visited and once I return home, I plan to make a collage of them. I wanted to get a souvenir from each place that was affordable and would mean something to me through the years. I am so glad I was able to carry out my tradition while abroad and share it with my family and friends.