Time is Flying!

I cannot believe that as I am writing this I have been abroad for just a week short of three months! The time here has been nothing but amazing. Since writing last I have had the opportunity to travel some in between classes. A large group of students from the US, Canada, and Turkey went to Barcelona, Spain for our first break. It was absolutely amazing. After the four days in Barcelona we traveled to Paris for a couple, and saw the main sights.

Last week a large group of us were in Ireland, on St. Patrick’s Day. We got to see a huge parade and literally everyone in the city wearing green, whether is was a crazy hat, face paint, scarfs, shoes, you name it and it was green. The best part of the trip to Ireland though was the day we went to the west coast and saw the Cliffs of Moher. They are absolutely unbelievable. They stand 750 feet above the ocean and looking at the pictures doesn’t do the experience justice. If you ever get the opportunity to travel into Ireland go to the Cliffs of Moher before you leave.

Yesterday I bought my plane tickets to Greece for my week long break in April. I couldn’t be more excited! Our group currently consists of four and we are planning on spending a few days in Athens and then possibly making it out to one of the Islands around the city.

I have also taken several trips within France, and feel as though I know Paris like the back of my hand. Being a group of college students, on our way home from Ireland we thought, “Our plane is landing around 10PM and our train back to Bordeaux is at 6:30 AM so we don’t need to get a place to stay for that night, we can walk around Paris and see the city at night.” This would have been the perfect plan had it not been the first time in two weeks that we had experienced rain. It made for a great time with friends, lasting memories, and we even learned a Russian card game while sitting outside of the train station waiting to head home. And how many other people can say they have been standing underneath the Eiffel Tower at 3 a.m.?

I absolutely would trade this experience for anything! From being waterlogged in Paris, to walking through the museums, to being in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day, I honestly could not ask for a better semester. If anyone reading this is on the fence about study abroad you definitely need to go.


Well… My semester break is coming to a close – and quickly! I have had the last month and a half off from school, which is our big break between the winter and summer semesters. I will be the first to say that I have been trying to make the best of my time! Throughout the last 6 weeks I have been all over: Berlin, Hamburg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Stuttgart, Paris, Strasbourg, Munich… and that is not the end of it I will be off again tomorrow, hopefully – though I am not sure in which direction (I am thinking east…).

The plan, tentative as it may be, is to head off to Budapest this week, return on the 31st, and then head back out on the 2nd. I would like to head out to Croatia and Slovenia, but heaven only knows where I will really end up! For the rest of the month of April, as classes begin, I plan on being in Mainz – except for a brief trip to London with my friend Pat (who is studying through Sister Cities in Montpellier this year).

Except for all of the traveling things have been… well, still pretty exciting, now that I think about it! I have been working quite a bit lately at for the international office at my university – I have been translating a substantial number of documents for a new website that we are creating for international students, and I am pretty excited about the progress we have made! Not to mention the wonderful experience I have had getting accustomed to a German working environment – though, my office is probably more of an exception to the rule, rather than the rule itself… Either way, I really find it rewarding and interesting.

On a personal note – I met Noam Chomsky yesterday! If you are not familiar with him; he is (arguably) the most famous living linguist (81 years old) and a very well respected political critic. He revolutionized the we understand languages… anyway, he came and gave a guest lecture at my university, of all places, and I was lucky enough to meet him afterwards (although, I was far to intimidated to say anything intelligent).

Nonetheless, I will get back after I am a little more settled in the new semester! After all, I have barely been home 5 days in the last month and a half!

Liebe Grüße

P.S. More to come! I have to run now, but I will write again!

My first week in Beijing!

March, 2, 2010

I have already been in Beijing for a week now.  I cannot believe I have survived the first week!  This is my first time away from home and doing everything on my own.  At first, I was scared about being in a new environment and not knowing anyone, but now I have made several good Chinese friends and everything is coming along very nicely.  This is such a great opportunity and will be a value added to my experience.  The food here is AMAZING!  People are so willing to learn English!  I had a chance to sit in a Microeconomics class taught in Chinese and it was really cool to see the text books and the power point slides (in English) being quite similar to the ones we use back in the state.  These Chinese students are learning materials in English when they are still having trouble comprehending the language itself.  These students spend hours upon hours with the dictionary, trying to understand the meaning of the word while also needing to understand the class materials!  English is one of the hardest major for Chinese students, others being pre-med and engineering.  I just cannot get over the fact that these students are taking classes in English when they don’t fully understand the language!  My classes so far have been very interesting.  We have three students in our class who are from the U.K and it was interesting to see how they conducted businesses.  One example we discussed today was the trend in technology; how the U.S and the Chinese younger generations are fast phase consumers wanting the latest phones and other new gadgets, where as in the U.K, majority of the population are okay with the five year old phone.  There are so much to learn from this culture and many things to see.  Even the local people who live in Beijing have not seen some of the famous attractions.   My goal right now is being as open as possible and trying new things.  I recommend anyone who wants to come to Beijing to study should definitely learn some Chinese because it will help you out greatly in every aspect of daily life!   

I just had an amazing vacation…

Today has been my first day back from an eight-day trip across four different countries. One day in Paris, four days in Barcelona, three days in Amsterdam, and 4.5 hours in Brussels, which blew me away regardless. I can honestly say that studying abroad has been the most rewarding decision I have ever made. Disregarding enough red tape to wrap around the Eiffel Tower, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I have been in Bordeaux for eight weeks now, and I am still blown away by how beautiful a city it is. It is easy to call it home because the size of it feels like Louisville, for all of you “The Ville” natives. The architecture is vibrant and different, and the city center is just plain beautiful when it is lit up at night, and I don’t mean because of the McDonald’s signs that are all over the place.

Walking around can be fun, and I highly recommend it, but when that Charlie horse kicks in, I recommend public transportation. It is truly fantastic here (actually in most of Europe, I have noticed). Three different tram lines that take you to all of the important places as well as back home – for must of us. Then of course there are buses that take you everywhere else.

The first day of class seriously felt like my FIRST day of class. It was very intimidating walking into this building alone filled with people whose language I don’t speak, so god forbid I get lost trying to find my class – especially since I missed orientation. But in a matter of minutes I was already making so many friends, and during lunchtime even more so. Most if not all of international students are very friendly and eager to make meet new people, so being shy is not an issue.

Class sessions here are interesting. One class goes for three weeks (called a sequence) and that is the only class you take that sequence, and then move on to the next one. Sometimes you will have class everyday for three weeks, and sometimes like during the current sequence, some people are in a class that meets for two days this week and then you have a five-day weekend. You can also choose to take a sequence off, as long as you take four. This is what I am currently doing. I don’t have class again until the end of March, which gives me the opportunity to travel.
You go to class for three hours, if not more, with half hour “coffee breaks” every hour and a half. I personally think this makes the day go by faster, because three hours of class here go by much faster than an hour and fifteen minutes at UofL.

The food here is also pretty amazing. Not exactly the fourthmeal you are used to (although kebabs have become a suitable substitute). And the best part, tipping is uncommon and you pretty much don’t do it. Although, food prices here are kind of steep, so it’s like a balance.

Traveling around Europe can be very cheap as long as you know what you are doing several weeks in advance. There are cheap airlines all over Europe, but the train will become your standard mode of transportation. They are cheap, but comfortable. It is somewhat difficult to plan ahead where you want to travel because some of you will not truly get to know each other until you arrive abroad. Even then you will also meet other international students abroad who will want to come with or you will want to go with them.

It is very easy to fall into the same rhythm you may be accustomed at UofL, which is get up, go to class, come home, go to bed, do it again tomorrow. This is why I advise you to join a club at the school – there are lots of them at ours – to keep you busy.

So far my time here has been nothing short of spectacular, and overwhelming in a good way. There is always something to do, and the Melting Potes students always have something going on for the international students. I have made so many amazing friends from all over the world, and seen so many things that I had only ever read about in Wikipedia articles. As I said before, this has been the most rewarding decision I have ever made.