Home Stays: A Day in the Life

I have spent my entire five weeks here in Bregenz, Austria living with a host family in their home. I just wanted to talk about the experience, ease some worries about living with a host family and give a few tips from my perspective.

To be honest, I was completely freaked out by the idea when I signed up for my program. What if they don’t like me? What if Ican’t communicate with them? What will their house be like? Will it be awkward to be staying in their home? I just had to remind myself that it is all part of the experience and can only enhance my time studying abroad here.

One the first day when we arrived in Bregenz, my roommate and I were greeted by a very kind man who we soon found out would be our host father. He so kindly carried our luggage back to the house where we met our host mother. Our new home, only 2 blocks away from the school building, was an apartment style building (common in places like Austria). Our host family occupied the 3rd and 4th floors. On the 3rd floor was their living quarters, with a kitchen, living room, bedrooms, and such and then the 4th floor is where our bedroom, bathroom, and host brother and sister’s rooms were. Very plain (white walls and simple furniture) but very clean and modern.

Because we were separated by floors, I actually didn’t see my host family as often as I would have liked. We seemed to always miss each other. But I also had to realize that their lives didn’t stop because we were here. They have jobs, school, meetings, appointments, and hobbies just like any other family. It was never awkward after the first initial meeting; they were very kind and accommodating to all our needs and staying with them really made my experience here in Bregenz.

Eight Tips for Living in a Home Stay

  1. Bring a gift. You will be staying in their home for a month or so. It is polite to bring them a gift from your hometown or state to show appreciation for letting you stay with them.
  2. Make your showers shorter. Europeans use less energy in all aspects and it is normal to only have 5-7 minute showers.
  3. Communicate. Let them know what time you will be coming home, where you are going on the weekends if you are traveling, if you need anything, etc. They’re your temporary parents and are excited that you are staying with them!
  4. Be respectful. There are tons of fun things to do at night, but don’t have too many late nights or be super loud when you are coming home. They have work and school too!
  5. Find quality time to get to know them. I had a difficult time with this because I was so busy and so were they, but cherish those moments at breakfast or when they invite you for coffee and cake.
  6. Always ask. You want to change the time of breakfast, ask. You want advice on where to go on the weekends, ask. You want to have someone over during the day to hang out or work on homework, ask. Its just polite and courteous.
  7. Be prepared to pay for laundry. It typically costs the host family around 3.60 euros to do a load of laundry. Its nice to reimburse them especially if you need your clothes washed a lot.
  8. Clean up after yourself. It is pretty self-explanatory, but you are living in other people’s home so make your bed, clean up the bathroom, recycle your trash, etc.

And remember, these host families volunteered to have you stay at their home. You are not a burden or a chore. Also, leave a good impression on them so they will give other students just like you a great experience in their home!

-Get excited for studying abroad! Katlyn

My host brother, roommate, myself, and host father at our program party!

First 2 weeks in Torino

Ciao from Torino, Italy! I’ve been keeping a journal during my time here and am just now getting around to posting on the blog, sorry!


Brett Moreno and I boarded our flight from Louisville to Frankfurt, Germany and were absolutely ecstatic. After our long 9 hour plane ride we were finally in Europe. We had breakfast in Germany while waiting for our connection to Torino. Once arriving in Torino we took a cab to our hotel. We arrived a few days earlier than required to get adjusted to the time difference and do some sightseeing. Once getting settled we were off to explore Torino. We found a local café and had lunch then wandered the streets looking through windows and looked around the open market. The next day we journeyed a little further. We walked along the River Po and through one of Torino’s beautiful parks that goes on for about 2 miles. It was absolutely gorgeous. We saw an old castle in the park as well!

A few days later we met up with everyone in the USAC program at a hotel downtown. From there all the students went to dinner at a local pizzeria and got to know each other a little. After dinner the USAC Staff took us on a short walking tour around Torino. They showed us the main squares in downtown, some good local places to eat, and told us a little history about Torino. The following day we moved into our homes for the next 5 weeks. Brett and I live in an apartment right by the school; it’s only about a 5 minute walk. We unpacked and ate at a local restaurant called Il Barone, it was fantastic! And it had English translations on the menu, which was quite a relief since very few people speak any English in Torino. The next day we met the USAC program downtown for a bus tour around the city. We saw so many amazing places such as the church where the holy shroud is kept, the Olympic Stadium, Olympic Village, went on top of the hill overlooking the entire city, and so much more. Sunday was our free day and our last day off before we started school.

Walking tour of Torino. Piazza Castello- the main square in Torino


We woke up Sunday morning and spontaneously decided to go to Milan for a day trip! The train ride was about an hour and a half. In Milan we saw the enormous castle in the center of the city and we saw the Duomo, the largest Gothic Cathedral in the World! Milan was absolutely breath taking. We also saw the famous shops in Milan, since it’s the fashion capital of Italy, and one of the top in the world. We finished our day off with some fresh gelato and headed back to Torino.

The Duomo, the largest gothic cathedral in the world

Arco Della Pace in Milan

Puts into perspective how big Castello Sforzesco is!


Monday we met at school for orientation. There we went over everything we needed to know about our stay. We got our class schedule and had the chance to meet our teachers. While abroad I am taking Elementary Italian I and International Marketing. Both classes go towards my International Business Minor as well as my Marketing Major. The USAC staff gave us what we call “the bible.” It has everything in it from useful phrases, to good local restaurants, to cheap airlines, a list of all the USAC trips that are available, etc.


The first week of school went well. I liked both of my classes and both of my teachers are amazing. The classes are very small, only 3 total in Italian and 8 total in Marketing so everyone is very involved which is great. Even though each class is 3 hours long, it doesn’t feel like it because class is actually fun because everyone is actively participating. Friday after class, Brett and I boarded our train to Venice!! We could hardly contain our excitement on our 4 hour train ride there. When we stepped out of the train station in Venice we were right on the Grand Canal at nighttime! It was so beautiful. We took a water taxi to our hotel, which was right on the water! The next day we went to St. Mark’s Square, took a ride on a gondola, wandered the city, and bought tons of souvenirs. The gondola ride was like our own private tour. Our gondola driver told us all about the history of Venice, showed us buildings where famous people had lived and so much more. We both got amazing oil paintings to hang up at our houses back home! After a long day we headed back to the hotel to rest up and catch our early train back Sunday morning.

Beautiful Venice, Italy

Gondola ride!

St. Mark's Square

Traveling in Europe: Hostel Style

Every weekend during my trip here is Bregenz, Austria, I am able to travel. I have been to Munich, Salzburg, Heidelberg, Mannheim, Florence, Pisa, and Venice so far. They have all been wonderful trips and each day is an adventure. But you might ask where I stay or how I can afford to stay in so many places…..well, the answer is hostels.

Youth hostels are for students just like you and me that are traveling all around Europe or even the world. (Fun Fact…we actually have some in the US in the larger cities) They are usually for students under the age of 26. Depending on the individual hostel, you will be staying in a dorm like room with a community bathroom or a private room with your own bathroom (which I would recommend for hygiene and safety reasons). The type of room also makes the price vary. Personally, I have paid between 23 euro-40 euro for one night.

Many hostels have a 24-hour reception desk, great for safety and late nights out, that are very knowlegdable about the city and usually have a lot of information for students who are working on a budget. Another great thing, all of the hostels I have stayed in have Wifi, which is nice to let someone know you made it to your destination safely and research things to do. Breakfast, discos, pools, and air conditioning are all amenities that I have had the pleasure of enjoying in hostels.

Needless to say I would recommend staying in hostels during your stay in Europe or wherever you are traveling! Here are some links to get you started!

Hostels.com (General search engine for hostels)

Hostel Worldwide (General search engine for hostels)

Haus International (Recommended hostel in Munich)

Meininger (Recommended hostel in Salzburg)

PLUS Florence (Recommended hostel in Florence)

Alloggi Gerotto Calderan (Recommended hostel in Venice)

Good luck and enjoy the traveler’s life,

Katlyn Whelan

Panama: The Islands and Rainforests

If you love the outdoors and wildlife, you would love Panama! I never thought I would see a wild sloth in my life, but I did. I hiked through two rain forests, and visited three islands (two in the Caribbean, and one on the Pacific side). I love nature and the outdoors, so this was definitely a treat.


Three-Toed Sloth!

Food at the Island Toboga

We ate this at a tiny shack of a restaurant in Toboga that had no running water (the owner, and only employee, fetched rain water from a barrel), but it was the best tasting fish I have ever had! I was a little leery about the head still being on it but it was delicious!









Arrival at Toboga






The ruins of the Spanish fort at Porto Bello



On the way to Isla Grande



Panama City, Panama: A Great First Study Abroad

I just returned a few weeks ago from studying abroad in Panama City. I went with the LALS and Communication Departments’ one-month long program that they do every summer during May, and I just have to say that this was a great value for the money. The program was about $2,600 for the month not including the plane ticket (they have a package that includes the plane ticket for about $3,500 but I strongly recommend just buying your own plane ticket because it will come out way cheaper, since the plane ticket only cost $590). The program costs include staying in Las Vegas hotel  the entire time, six credit hours of classes, and at least a couple of excursions every week,  including a a day going to two Caribbean islands and two days at an all-inclusive resort. If you’re worried about funding, you automatically get the Panama Scholars award which varies year-to-year, but this year it was $900; with that funding, in addition to the  College of Business grant, I only had to pay for food and spending money– the rest of my trip was totally paid for. If you don’t know any Spanish, don’t worry at all because you’re in groups most of the time, so about the only thing you have to do is order your food at restaurants. Also, most of the youth know enough English to at least help you out. This is a great first study abroad trip (although it was my second) because it’s only 3 weeks, and although they only offer 5 classes with the trip, many of them will cover general education requirements if you need them (for example, Panamanian Culture counts as a CD 1, and Conversational Spanish can be used to fill you foreign language requirement). I assure you that it’s not hard to get there, and you will have the experience of a lifetime. It was tons of fun!

Salzburg: “The Sound of Music” Tour

I am currently studying in Bregenz, Austria, but every weekend we are able to travel anywhere with the use of our Eurail Global Pass. This weekend we spent a day and a half in Munich, Germany and then made our way south to Salzburg, Austria. Known for its Lake District, Salzburg is a beautiful city to visit. And more importantly…..it is where the outdoor scenes of “The Sound of Music” were filmed.

We paid 40 euros to have a guided tour provided by Panorama Tours (which I would highly recommend). They provide a service to pick you up from your hotel in case you have trouble navigating the bus system in Salzburg, which was amazing. We then boarded a tour bus that took us all around Salzburg and to the Lake District to learn about the history of the city, the Von Trapp family, and the filming of the movie. We visited several iconic places like:

Leopoldskron Palace (the boating scene)

Gazebo at Hellbrunn Palace (“16 going on 17”)

Salzburg Lake District (opening scenes)

Mondsee (the site of the church and wedding)

  Mirabell Gardens (“Do-Re-Mi”)

The tour was definitely worth the money. We were able to see the entire city, learn about the history, and the movie all within the four hour time frame. The employees and tour guides were wonderful, very outgoing and seemed to love their job which made it much more enjoyable. I would highly reccommend this tour and visiting Salzburg in general

-Tchus! Katlyn Whelan

Seoul -Tips and Recommendation.

South Korea is a ethnically homogenous country. Taste in cuisine, as well as thought and overall ideals are in unison and heavily influenced by Confucian ideas. Though South Korea is known as the country in Asia with the most English, it is mainly the youth that speak it. Learn a few phrases of Korean such as “thank you” and “how are you”. It gives the people pleasure that we have an interest in learning the language.
Seoul is a very modern city, other than temples and national landmarks such as the empirical palace, one is not likely to find historical architecture in the city. There are however many things to do none the less.
First and foremost is shopping. There are many shopping districts in Seoul that are open at night time only or day time as well. If you’re a girl than the shopping district built around the women’s school Ewha University is the place to go. It is the most prestigious women’s school in the country, not to mention the architecture itself is breath taking.
To get a feel of street stalls and outdoor eating at night, Dongdaemun is the place to go. Clothing prices are similar in the majority of street stores and unless an item is out of season is not on discount. People here take pride that the clothing that is being sold is made in Korea. There are even shopping mall buildings after shopping mall buildings in this district.

Food here is very shocking. Not in the weird ingredients way. But that the taste is very consistent for dishes no matter what store you go to. Majority of dishes, especially soups and stews are prepared ahead of time, and thus can’t be modified. Modifying dishes here is an unusual concept so be prepared for them not to understand. Pork is the preferred meat and most vegetables are pickled. Meat is in just about every dish here. And being a vegetarian in this country can prove a true challenge.
Missing home and craving some food? There is a district just for foreigners. Itaewon district. Prices here are a bit high, but are definitely worth it if you miss home a bit. Just about all of the service staff here know English as well. So no worries and enjoy the feel of home.
Last but not least, mountains. Korea is a very mountainous country. The pass time for many people here is to enjoy a day hiking mountains; particularly the elderly. Mountain paths are very well maintained. Beautiful scenery, fresh air and if the mountain is near Seoul. A breath taking view of parts of the city. I’ve hiked up 3 mountains so far and plan to climb at least one more before I leave.

All of these places can be reached by subway. So one of the first things to do is find a subway map of Seoul. It’s an investment that will pay off. to travel from one district to another costs about $1-$2 USA. Public transportation in short is very cheap and very affordable.
Just a few suggestions and tips. More to come soon.