I have been back home in the US for 5 days now so I have had a bit of time to re-adjust from life in Europe. While studying in Prague I saw some amazing things and met some amazing people. The city itself was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and its central location in europe made it a good spot to travel around from. While over there I made it to 6 cities in 3 countries. I swam in the Danube river in Vienna, relaxed in a bath house in Budapest, visited Hitler’s eagles nest outside Salzburg, had a liter or four of the Pope’s favorite beer in Munich, visited the Berlin wall in Berlin, and saw some awesome architecture in Dresden. As much as I learned in the classroom I probably learned twice as much just from the experiences I had outside of it. Every train ride was an adventure to be had. I’m not sure if I could pick a favorite place or even a highlight because everything was incredible in its own way. This trip was one of the highlights of my college career and life so far. I learned so much about other people, places and myself!
Monthly Archives: July 2012
Experience of a Lifetime
I returned to the U.S. just over a week ago from my nearly 7 weeks in Barcelona, Spain. It was an absolutely incredible experience. Though at times it was rough, when I was homesick or having trouble adjusting to the culture, I still wouldn’t go back and change anything. I absolutely don’t regret having done it. In fact, I would encourage everyone to do a study abroad program or any international experience at some point in their lives. It truly is life changing. It makes you realize what is really important in your life, and what is not so important. It helps you realize all that you take for granted and helps you to appreciate the small things in life. It opens your eyes to a whole different part of the world and widens your perspective on life in general. You learn more about yourself by learning about others, as ironic as that may be. It helps you learn how to take care of things by yourself and learn to navigate through difficult situations. Your parents and friends and family are not available to help when you thousands of miles away from them, which helps you learn to be independent and resourceful.
All in all, it was an extremely valuable experience and I’m better for having done it.
Final video blog
I would like to thank everyone who has been watching my blogs! I have had so much fun making them and so much fun in Europe! I am so blessed to meet everyone I have and see everything I have seen! I love everyone I have met and I am a changed person! Enjoy!
Barcelona is so beautiful! I have soaked up every possible sight that I can see! The architecture here is everywhere. Every single apartment building, school, park, and store is amazing. And the city is as fun as it is beautiful. Everyday after school, my roommate and I head out to explore a new sight that the city and country have to offer. So far we have been to Mt. Tibidabo, Valencia, Pamplona, Girona, the Magic Fountain, the Chocolate Museum, and countless other places! Speaking of my roommate, I love my homestay arrangement. I have a fantastic host mother, Pura, and she has a really sweet son, Javier. I have my own room with a desk, dresser, and bureau. The only downside is no air-conditioning…but luckily I’m always cold so I have adjusted quickly.
The most interesting thing that I have learned so far is about the Spanish culture built around their fútbol teams. I never knew that teams here had such a strong tie to the fans’ political ideology. I have learned about this and more in my Sports and Society class. I feel like I am learning a lot about the Spanish culture in that class. In my other class, Spanish, I definitely can tell my Spanish is improving! Our class is particularly focused around verbs, which is the weakest part of my language skills. Unfortunately, I’m not quite fluent yet, but I am in the process.
As I’m sure this blog has made evident, I am in love with Barcelona. There is such a community-feel here, which makes it seem like a lot smaller city than it actually is. This reminds me of UofL, which helps me not have homesickness. Definitely a home away from home here.
Hasta luego, Shelby
With less than a week to go left in my program, I look back on my time here in Europe and don’t know where it all has gone. It seems like not too long ago I got on the plane to Prague. My time hear in Prague has been a once in a lifetime experience. After seeing all the amazing and breathtaking sights throughout the city, I cannot begin to understand how so many people know so little information about Prague. When I told people back home that I was studying here, I was asked by some where it was. The city of Prague, is beautiful and the possibilities of things to do here are endless. Prague was never affected by bombings during WWII and the buildings are the original ones from many years ago. Traveling throughout Europe has been one of my favorite experiences while here. Thanks to bus or train access, I have been able to visit cities in Germany, Austria, and Hungary. I’ll never be this close to seeing this many cool things in different places in the United States. It has also been eye opening to talk to other students from other countries and other parts of the US studying abroad. It has given me the opportunity to experience different cultures and see how things are different in different places. If you ever consider studying abroad, I highly encourage it because it is an experience you may never get once you graduate college. You get the opportunity to travel abroad and get credits for classes.
Prague, Czech Republic
After spending a few weeks in the city of Prague and travelling in the region I can say that I love this city. There is no shortage of things to do and see here, even a short stroll down the street will lead to some awesome view or random monument. The city itself has an incredible history, the locals like to joke that if a building was built in the last 100 years then it is a baby. The fact that it was once a socialist country (until 1989) also gives it a unique vibe. They have obviously embraced capitalism though, you have to pay for everything from using the bathroom to tap water here. We found a restaurant with free WiFi, refills, and ice and our minds were blown! The classes are solid, the School of Economics is a good one so the professors have been good for the most part. As good as the classes have been I’ve probably learned more just from interaction, observation, and travel than anything else. There is so much to do here during the day and night, and Prague is pretty much dead center of Europe so it’s relatively easy to travel elsewhere from here. All in all I have no regrets so far and would tell anyone to study abroad, this program is definitely a good one but at the very least if you can ever get to Prague, even just for a weekend I would say don’t hesitate, go for it!
Prague: The Experience of a Lifetime
I am currently a little over halfway through the program in Prague with about a week left of classes and travel and I absolutely love it. The city of Prague itself is one of the most beautiful cities in the world that many of my friends back home were unaware even existed. This is a great program to be a part of and can truly say it was the perfect fit for me. The classes are very interesting and insightful and there are students from all across the world from France to Romania to Spain. One of my favorite things that I have done thus far during my travels and classes is just talking to the students from different countries and learning their different cultures and experiences they have had up to this point in their lives. Traveling is another thing me and other students in my program have also been doing together. Last week a few of my classmates and I had a nine day break in between classes so we traveled throughout Europe to Vienna, Budapest, Munich and Salzburg all in a little over a week! This is what is so unique about Europe. In the time it would take you to get to Chicago from Louisville you can get from Prague to another one of the greatest historical cities in the world, Berlin. Even with a week left in the program I can say with great confidence that choosing to study abroad in Prague has been one of the best decisions of my life. If you are even slightly considering studying abroad I would strongly recommend looking more into it. I am having the experience of a lifetime and you can easily do the same.
What I love about Italy
Since my seven weeks in Italy there are a few things I have fallen in love with about their culture and a few things that I have had a hard time adjusting too(well just one really). Here is a list of a few of those things.
1) The community/neighborhood: In Italy it is very common to see many of the same types of stores(small grocery stores, tabacchis, cafes, etc.) repeated block after block. The American in me first thought about how I just didn’t see how the storeowners could survive when people have so many options to choose from to buy the same type of product. But when I asked one of my Italian friends the first week I was here they explained to me that people in Italy are very tied to their neighborhood, so sure there may be a lot of similar stores very close but they choose to go to the one closest to where they live because they have relationships with the people. These stores are also quite more expensive than regular chain stores that may be less than a mile away, but people really enjoy the relationship and one on one service they have with the people who work at the local stores. I myself actually experienced this in the first neighborhood I lived in (I was in one of the larger apartments and they moved me to put a professor and there family in). I knew the owners of the café, the mini supermarket, and some of the bread/pastry shops in my neighborhood. I would have small conversations with them (as much as I could as I don’t speak too much Italian) and sometimes the café owner would even invite me in and give me a free cappuccino or espresso or the mini supermarket owner would give my roommates and I a free bag of grissini(famous bread in Italy) or chocolate.
2) Italians love their families: Sundays in Italy are typically considered family days. It is very common to spend the entire day with your family, and unlike in America, actually look forward to it. You might have a big dinner with your family and just sit around the house and talk or go to the local Piazza (like a square) and eat dinner there and take a walk along the river. Some of the students I know from school even designate certain weeknights to spend time with their brothers or sisters. This is something I really think America has strayed away from; as we get more and more busy spending time with family is put on the backburner. It seems a bit selfish to me in a since, and I’m not pointing any fingers because I definitely do it too, that any free time we do have it spent with friends or pretty much anything else.
3) Being Italian late: Italians are never on time. I am very OCD about time and being there when you say you are going to be. So this is something that has taken a lot to get used to, and I still really haven’t. It’s acceptable even at most work places to show up later than the time you were suppose to just because it’s part of the Italian culture to take your time and not be in a hurry- the very opposite of America.
4) The food: Food is a huge part of Italian culture. It’s not just that the food here is amazing (which, it is- I really don’t know how I’m going to be able to go back to America and eat Italian food there) and they take pride in it, but to them it’s a means of socialization and expressing their identities within Italy. It’s very common for dinners to last two or three hours because these are the times people socialize with one another, dinner more or less isn’t about the food but a means to be with people and have a good time. There are twenty different regions in Italy, each with their own types of foods they are known for so the types of food they cook, and how they cook them, really expresses their roots in the country.
Halfway Through Prague!
Dobry den! It’s been two weeks since class has started, and I’ve already learned so much about the Czech Republic! The professors have such a unique and personal viewpoint on economic transitions, and their insights give so much more meaning to the entire experience here.
Prague is absolutely beautiful! The center of the city is full of cathedrals and baroque buildings and cobblestone streets, and the outskirts are dotted with a mixture of Soviet-style buildings. It’s such an interesting juxtaposition. There really isn’t anything else quite like it.
I’ve been so lucky to meet some wonderful classmates with whom I’ve been able to do some weekend travel. We have been to Vienna and London, and we are planning to do some more travel in these last two weekends.
My time here has been amazing, but at the same time, I really can’t wait to get home. I miss my family, air conditioning, American food, my own bed and shower, and so much more. However, this has been such a learning experience for me, and learning to live without the modern American conveniences has been a true lesson in patience! I’ll always carry the memories created here with me for life.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted due partly to the fact that I’m always busy doing something over here and also because I moved into a new apartment that doesn’t have Wifi. And yes, I thought this was literally the end of the world, and still kind of do- it’s funny the things we take for granted back home. In this blog I’m just going to give you a recap of all the places I have visited thus far.
My school had a trip to the Italian Riviera planned for us (Genoa, Portofino, and Santa Margherita Ligure) and afterwards a few friends and I traveled to Cinque Terre. Both places were beautiful. The architecture of the cities, especially those of Cinque Terre made you (well at least me) stare in awe. They also had some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. My favorite part of the trip though was the hike between the first and second city of Cinque Terre, it took us a little over an hour, but the scenery along the way was well worth it.
The following weekend I traveled to a region of Italy called Sardegna and we stayed in a town named Cala Gonone. Sardegna is one of the two island regions of Italy, and unlike any other area I have been so far it wasn’t really as developed so we got to see a lot of the natural beauty of the land. It also wasn’t as touristy so it felt like a more authentic Italian experience. This trip was the only time I had problems travel wise, however. We misunderstood our program directors when they were telling us about when we could take copies of our passports instead of the real thing so we only brought a copy. I don’t know how they let us fly out of Milan without a passport, but they definitely weren’t going to let us fly back in until someone shipped us our passports. We actually had to go speak to the police in the airport and they made the people let us board our flight since the airline was the one who let us fly over there to begin with without physical copies.
The last weekend before the first session ended I went to Barcelona where parents of a friend I had met in the program were staying. We went to Las Ramblas and the beach of course, but a majority of the time we went sightseeing with her and her family. What was pretty cool about when we went was that it was two holidays for them- the beginning of summer and also their patron saints day so they had a huge celebration down by the beach with fireworks. It felt like the entire city must have been there and it was a very cool atmosphere.
My summer program is set up into two sessions, each lasting approximately five weeks with a week break in between. During the week break I traveled with a friend of mine I met in the program, Jessica, to three different countries in Europe: Greece, Turkey, and Belgium.
In Greece we first visited Heraklion, Crete. Our flight left around 6 am Friday morning from Milan, so we had to take the latest train from Torino to Milan which got us there at about 1am. Then, we had to wait two hours outside to take a bus to the Milan Bergamo airport, which takes about an hour. Our flight was two hours, and when we landed we had to take a three-hour bus ride to Heraklion. The bit of information before this was really pointless for you to read, but I think it helps to explain to you how much I hated airplanes/buses/trains by the end of the trip. We were literally using one or a combination of them every other day. In Heraklion we visited Knossos Palace. I actually remember learning about this place in my art history class my freshman year of college. It’s so strange seeing things you’ve read about or seen in a textbook in person, it puts things into a completely different context and I really think it helps you absorb the history more. We took a guided tour through it (as we did for all the other cities/monuments we visited on the trip) and learned some pretty cool things about the Minoan civilization. For example, the were the first people documented to ever have a flushing toilet and running water system, and the Aegean Sea is named after one of their myths involving the Minotaur.
After Heraklion we flew to Athens. I think it’s pretty obvious we visited the Acropolis, but on our tour we also had a guided walk around the city to some of the main government buildings and other monuments. What I thought was interesting is that we learned all the metro stations contain mini-museums of artifacts and remnants from the old city because they are really the only places in the city they have been able to dig into due to all the buildings and stuff that had already been built. I loved visiting the historical sites in Athens, but it was a little to touristy for my taste. Maybe that’s just because I’ve grown so accustomed to my home city where there are really no tourists and a majority of the population doesn’t speak English. Which to me really gives it an authentic feel, even if sometimes it’s hard to communicate with people or figure out things travel wise (I had the hardest time today at the train station because no one spoke English and ended up not getting the tickets I went for).
Next destination on our trip was Turkey. In Turkey, we visited the capital city, Istanbul. I would definitely classify it as one of the favorite places I have visited so far. It was very touristy like Athens, but it just had a completely different atmosphere. I learnt about Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in my art history class and always thought it would be amazing to be able to visit the museum and was ecstatic when Jessica said she would like to go to Turkey and visit it too. It was amazing to be able to see the architecture and mosaics of these two structures and to learn about them as well as the Muslim religion on our tour. We were even able to find a decent price on a hotel that was literally a few hundred meters away from the both. The first night we were there we sat on the rooftop for about an hour and just looked at the view and listened to the Muslim prayer call that rang throughout the city from various Mosques.
After Turkey we went to Brussels. In my opinion there honestly wasn’t much to see other than the Atomium and mannekan pis. Our reason for going to Brussels was more for the food- waffles, fries, and chocolate. I tasted some of the best waffles I’ve ever had there and we went on our own little chocolate tour of the city. Including the free sample pieces many stores gave to us (and they would literally give you a whole piece of chocolate, whichever kind you wanted) we tried about 40 different chocolates from 11 different chocolate shops. The last one we visited was most interesting, it was called zaabar, and they experimented with using spices to flavor chocolates. I tasted chocolate with juniper berries, curry, fennel, allspice, and many others I can’t recall. Most of them were gross, but it was definitely a cool experience. We also got to watch them demonstrate how they make their chocolates.
I have plans to travel to Prague next weekend, and I’m going to a US women’s Olympic soccer game the following weekend! I’m beyond excited about the latter and will definitely post something later about it.