A Little bit of Sevilla for the People

Toledo - Panoramic Viewpoint


First and foremost, I would like to apologize to all of the devoted COB blog readers out there for my clear lack of blogging commitment. But that is all about to change. I certainly enjoy sharing my experiences with my closest friends back home, but this experience was not solely encouraged by them, it was supported by others. That includes all donors and boosters of the College of Business and it certainly includes the fine people in the advising office that had to deal with my constant misunderstandings and forgetfulness in trying to put my trip together in the weeks and even months leading up to my flight to Spain. So for that I would like to say thank you to all those who have been involved in allowing me this amazing experience and I hope you all enjoy my deep and insightful revelations and adumbrations. These could very well be misconstrued as mindless babble but I can assure you it’s all insightful or something.

With all of the good stuff out of the way, let’s get into some more good stuff.

My name is Sterling Baker and I am an Accounting Major pursuing Minors in Spanish and International Business at the UofL College of Business and I have been studying in Sevilla, Spain for almost two months now. To be honest, I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. Sevilla is a place of astounding beauty, history, and passion. It is constantly brimming with life and there is absolutely never a dull moment. Whether it is the Americans I am studying with or the Spaniards we meet that toss aside their daily duties to show us a good time, there is always something to do and someone to accompany you. I have already visited Madrid, Toledo, Matalascanas and Malaga in Spain, I have visited Lisbon and Evora in Portgual, Paris, France, and Hallgarten, Wiesbaden, and Frankfurt, Germany and I can tell you Sevilla is a place in which I could spend the rest of my life.

With all of this travel, of course I am focusing on my studies as much as possible but let’s be honest, I’m in Spain. That isn’t always the most important thing. I feel like I have seen every nook and cranny of the city already while I know that I have barely scratched the surface of the history that this place holds. It is easy to fall into a routine: To go to the same restaurant/bar every night and take the same route to school every morning and take your siesta every day exactly when your body tells you too. However, I have found that spontaneity is the way of life here in Spain. Learn something new every day and talk to someone new every day and you can’t be left wanting. They told me that the pace of life is slower in Spain, but that isn’t something that I ever planned to adapt to, and I haven’t. Putting a little American twist on your cultural experience abroad can be a good thing, and of course help counteract any culture shock that presents itself.

Castillo de Gibralfaro en Malaga


With all of that being said, I have been told that I always look too much like an American in Spain. Well… if I am not trying to be an American in Spain then what am I trying to be? A Spaniard? Too many people try to become one of the locals while they’re here, but in my opinion that is a misguided way to spend your study abroad experience. I have grown to respect the culture in Spain, in Andalucia, in Sevilla, way too much to think that I could ever consider myself a Spaniard. I am a guest in this country and I am here to learn the culture and language and maybe even impart some of my own culture to the locals here. But I am not here to become a Spaniard, and I think that outlook has helped me immensely. It is easy to take random tourist traps and foreigner discrimination (Nothing crazy, just some higher priced English menus and guys trying to make you play goalie because they think you’re an American that doesn’t speak Spanish and can’t possibly be any good at soccer) too seriously when you are under the illusion that you’re a local. Just a small rant and a little bit of advice to help yourself stay on the ups in the roller coaster that is adapting to a new way of life.

To continue, the culture is amazing. The culture is absolutely amazing. Why go to sleep at 2 when you could have a couple more hours of fun and get a couple less hours of sleep? (Opportunity cost at its finest) Why have a 3 Euro coke at a meal when you could have a 1 Euro beer? (I’m no drunkard, but who am I to spit in the face of Spanish culture and ask my esteemed camarero(a) for something other than a beer?) Why be tired when you could siesta? Why siesta when you could visit a castle in the middle of a city, or see Roman ruins underneath a city, or see a chapel in Portugal literally made out of human bones? These are hard hitting questions if I’ve ever heard one. And the answer to all of them is: It’s your choice. These things are all part of the culture and you can choose to embrace any and all parts that you choose. Many Spaniards don’t even do all of these things while others do. Spain is diverse in itself and dabbling in every part of the culture is part of the fun. Sure bullfights are said to be gruesome and inhumane, and this castle or that castle is just another castle, but I’m going to experience that for myself. When else will I see a Corrida del Torros or visit El Torre de Belem sitting surrounded by a body of water off the coast of Lisbon? Live life one day at a time and put exhaustion in the back of your mind for a few months. It’s all about the Carpe Diem, really.

Espana and more 1170

To sum up, this has absolutely been two of the best months of my life so far and I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. I have met friends, best friends, and just so many awesome people in general while missing all of the awesome people back home. But it has all been worth it so far. This has been just a taste of my experience and I look forward to uploading a few more posts in the near future (i.e. less than two months from now). But until then, thanks for taking the time to read, y hasta la proxima.

Fall break in Italy

This past week was our fall break. Luckily here in the Netherlands fall break is a week long. My friend and I from home went to Milan, Venice, Rome, Naples, and pompeii. Out of all of those my favorite was Venice it had a completely different feel than the rest of Italy or any other place in Europe that I have been to so far. After visiting Italy I would high recommend Venice and Rome. The entire week was such an over all great learning experience. I learned about their culture, food, and even learned a few Italian phrases.   IMG_6206IMG_5980

Top right the colosseum in rome  Bottom right Duomo church in Milan Bottom left Venice Island  Top left Pompeii  Middle sistine chapel Vatican City, Rome

Top right the colosseum in rome
Bottom right Duomo church in Milan
Bottom left Venice Island
Top left Pompeii
Middle sistine chapel Vatican City, Rome


Missing Home But Never Want to Go back


                I am beginning month number three in Budapest, Hungary and it is safe to say the adjustment stage has officially gone away. While preparing to go abroad you think you’re ready and it is going to be a walk in the park – “oh my gosh, a semester abroad- HOW COOL, I’ll be SO cultured!” This is true, but the phrase that hit my hard 1 week into the trip was “I have FOUR months to be here.” During the first week you want to do everything. You explore the entire city, eat tons of exotic food, do everything you can think to do- and then when you are done you realize you have a very long time to be there. Luckily for me, two weeks into my trip I got a visitor, which saved me from too much culture shock.

                After exploring this beautiful, historic, wonderful city my boyfriend, Logan, came to visit and the next day we left for a trip of our own. Since neither of us had ever been out of the country we decided to use this time to explore a set of cities that both of us wanted to see. We bought a Eurail Pass and began our 14 day journey through Europe. On the first night of our trip we ran into our first problem- the fact that we don’t know how to travel. We missed a train (probably too busy eating cinnamon rolls the size of our face) and were stuck in Vienna for a night, which ended up being not so bad. The next day we got on a new train and finally arrived in Rome. We spent the next few days seeing the entire city, eating whole pizzas to ourselves, and ending every night with a scoop of gelato. Rome was nice, but not for our waistline. After Rome we traveled to Prague which is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, it looks like it is out of a picture book. There we explored the city, took a hop-on hop-off tour and even found a Czech Crossfit Gym! After three days in Prague we moved on to Amsterdam which is the most interesting city I have ever been. There you see the most brilliant buildings with hundreds of canals. Not only was it breathtaking, the atmosphere is so carefree which is exactly why I loved it. Everyone minds their own business and does not care what others are doing around them. The BIKES were my favorite part. It is normal to ride a bike around town but the Dutch use them as their everyday “cars” carrying their children to school or riding to work in a suit or dress, it is amazing! After a few days there we traveled to our final city- Munich. I can just say one thing about this city- Oktoberfest. At the end of our two weeks we arrived back to Budapest and Logan’s flight left later that afternoon.

                Now that I have returned from dabbling through Europe I am finally back to classes and have a sort of structure to my schedule, which is nice. Luckily classes only meet once a week, the downside is they are three hours long but this helps the school week go by and the weekend arrive fast. I am readjusting back to being in Hungary rather than a purely tourist city and it feels almost normal, I even referred to Budapest as “home” while traveling. I currently have trips to Berlin, Brussels, Dublin, and the UK planned for the last half of my trip. I even have a trip planned to meet some other students from UofL in Barcelona for Halloween! Even though culture shock is real and it takes some adjusting, I still think this experience is the best thing I have ever done. I have exactly 2 months left and I already do not want to leave.


Hallo from The Hague

It has been just a little over a month and a half and it has been a blast living and studying here. As we are preparing to go on fall break, I felt it would be a good time to post about my experiences so far.

I’ll begin with the city; it is absolutely amazing and beautiful. Every morning, I get to wake up to a beautiful sight looking out towards the city. The city center, which is a few minutes away on foot from the train station (Den Haag Holland Spoor), is tremendous. There are plenty of stores many of which are very high-end. One thing is for sure though; you cannot go hungry in this city. There are plenty of places to eat from small cafes to bars that serve anything from a nice juicy ribeye to Turkish pizza. One specialty over here is called patas which are pretty much French fries and are served a lot with main dishes. The one thing that makes it notability different is that they are served with mayonnaise…now I know what you are thinking, how do fries and mayonnaise go together? Well let me tell you that it is awesome. I would never dare do that back home but over here it works. Besides the city center, the beach is not too far away which is nice on a warm day. Next, I will talk about my living accommodation.

What I wake up to every morning.

What I wake up to every morning.

Picture of the beach to make your day a little better

Picture of the beach to make your day a little better

I live in an apartment very close to school. I have two roommates; one is from Egypt and the other is from France. Space here tends to be a little bit smaller than what seems normal back home but it is very manageable. We do a lot of cooking. Unfortunately for me, my cooking is very limited except for Ramen noodles which I have mastered. My French roommate is the main chef of the apartment so I am taking notes from him to bring back home because he can fix just about anything. One great thing about living in this apartment, besides being very close to school, is the amount of other exchange students that also live here. Students come from all over the world. I have made many new friends and there are always activities going on. Just the other day, a group of us found a local park that had several soccer fields to play on so we will be making return trips there very soon. The next thing I want to talk about is school and what I do on a normal basis.

My roommates and I enjoying dinner in the city center

My roommates and I enjoying dinner in the city center

The Hague University, or De Haagse Hogeschool in Dutch, is a neat school. There are about 30,000 students that study here. The HU is divided up into different sections or buildings which are connected which makes it easy to navigate to your other classes once you get the hand of things. Classes often change rooms depending on the day so it is always good to check beforehand where you need to go so you don’t end up late. Here is an awesome tip; there is an app you can download called HHS TimeTable which you can pull up class schedules very quickly. As far as classes go, I am taking classes in finance, management, and Dutch for exchange students. Other than that, I usually enjoy riding my bike around the city (which there is a cool non-profit organization called B-Cycle-It that offers bikes to rent to students at a very reasonable cost a month). I have also been refereeing soccer games at a local club that I just happened to find one day walking through Rijswijk on certain weekends. Finally, I’ll talk about my travels.

Main atrium of The Hague University

Main atrium of The Hague University

My traveling so far has taken me to Germany and Austria. In Germany, I went to Munich, Frankfurt, Regensburg, Hannover, and Berlin. In Austria, I went to Salzburg which is on the border of Germany. With fall break here, I plan on going to Italy and then working up towards France. One note I would like to make if you decide to come over here to study: ask other exchange students about places you are interested in. Like I said earlier, students come from all over the world. They are a great source of information and can give you great tips that the internet can’t offer.

At Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

At Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

Well that has been my experiences here so far. While I enjoy my time over here, I know the days are getting quicker and soon it will be the end of the semester. If you are interested in The Hague and would like to know more, feel free to contact me at my email, amhend06@louisville.edu.

Forcing yourself into uncomfortability

Contrary to a majority of my fellow study abroad comrades, I chose a different route for my experience. I am studying abroad in France. You can save your biases about French culture or jokes of a winning-less military for someone else because I have idolized France since my first French class my freshmen year of high school. Since that point I have been intrigued of anything French. I loved speaking it and the way it sounded. I loved French history and traditions. Especially, I loved the romanticism associated with Paris being the “city of lights”.
This admiration only increased coming to Cergy, France for my fall semester to study abroad. The city of Cergy is a thirty minute train ride from Paris and needless to say a majority of my weekends during my first month here were spent navigating through the picturesque facades of the Parisian streets.
Although the city is beautiful and not a day goes by that I am not taken aback by the sheer fact of where I am standing, I would be lying if I said my entire trip has been perfect. I made this experience challenging for myself. I could have gone to a school with a group of my close friends for the summer. I could have attended a school with which our university had a specific exchange program. I could have chosen a country where the majority of its population speak English. To me though, study abroad meant something different. If I was going to study abroad I was going to make myself as uncomfortable as possible because that’s how I feel people truly grow as human beings. Out of the almost 200 exchange students there are ten from the United States and I am the only student from my university. If I had a question about a class or even something so basic as finding the grocery store there was no familiar face with which I could find a solution to the problem.
After a month here I can safely say that I am extremely glad I put myself in such a seemingly uncomfortable situation. It means that I am not reliant on people to make my own decisions. It means I am forced to branch out and acquaint myself with the people and places around me. I have learned a lot about my capabilities in this first month and I could not be more excited for the next three. A bit of advice to any study abroad student: to maximize the personal benefit of the experience make yourself as uncomfortable as possible.