A Letter to Myself Regarding Study Abroad

Dear Laura,

First thing: calm down. You are panicking thinking everything will go horribly wrong. You couldn’t be more wrong about that. You will come out of this experience more confident and more certain that you can do anything than you have ever been in your life. This is the trip of a lifetime and you are going to love every minute of it. Relax, breathe and enjoy it, it goes by way too fast.

Second: learn a little Czech before you go. I know it seems impossible because there are so many consonants and you have no idea how to pronounce anything you’re reading but the basics (hello, thank you, etc.) are so helpful and there are a lot more resources available than you think. Orientation your first full day will be a lot less stressful if you have a head start on the language portion.

Third: don’t panic about the packing. I know you are worried about it but you actually do a pretty darn good job. Maybe throw a pair of capris in there, I’m not sure what I was thinking not including those, but otherwise well done. And that lightweight suitcase was an amazing investment, never let anyone tell you otherwise.

Fourth: Travel. Just travel as much and as many places as you can. The only thing I regret about this trip is not taking the opportunity to travel even more than I did. And when you aren’t traveling remember that wandering the city is a valid pastime. There are tons of museums and monuments to visit and look at and there are so many beautiful things to see while just walking down the street. Find yourself a walking tour or a list of attractions and get out there.

Fifth: The public transportation system is awesome. I know it seems intimidating and you aren’t sure you will ever understand the tram schedules. It’s way simpler than you think, and you will be able to go so many places you could never find on foot. You will amaze yourself with how well you can navigate without google maps or anyone else’s help. You’ll even end up giving people directions a few times.

Sixth: You can be self-sufficient. You don’t need your family or your friends to do things. You can go out and navigate and visit places all by yourself and nothing bad will happen. Your confidence gets so much better once you realize that. Just go for it and you will amaze yourself with what you can do on your own. And once you realize you can do it by yourself in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, know that it only gets easier when you get home. The extra independence and confidence doesn’t end when you leave Prague.

Seventh, and last: don’t forget to have fun. Sure, you’re there to study and to travel but the underlying aim to this whole trip is to have fun. You will get through the stress and the doubt and you will be stronger for it, but the point isn’t to struggle through it. The point is to enjoy it.

Be safe. Have fun. And enjoy every minute of it. I know I did,


What do I miss most about Prague?

Several months down the line it’s kind of crazy to think about my summer abroad. The places I’ve been, the people I met all seem so close and so far away at the same time. As happy as I’ve been to come home and see my family and friends again there are a lot of things I really miss about Prague and my time there.

  1. The food – not necessarily anything billed as “traditional Czech food” because I really like vegetables and most of those dishes are very meat and bread heavy. However, I had some of the best food I’ve ever eaten while I was in Europe especially when I looked beyond the touristy, heavily traveled areas. There were two Italian restaurants within five minutes of my apartment and a wonderful Thai place that was well worth the fifteen-minute tram ride.
  2. The public transportation system – speaking of the trams I absolutely loved the public transportation system, not only in Prague, but in every city I visited. Prague has a giant system of trams, metros and buses that will get you anywhere you need to go in a very reasonable amount of time. I’ve heard other people who traveled say that they were glad to come home and get to drive their cars again. I was the opposite. I was perfectly happy hopping a tram every day and letting someone else drive so I could just take everything in.
  3. The architecture – I don’t know if that’s quite the right way to put it, but living in a building that’s been standing far longer than I’ve been alive and walking down the street and seeing the beauty of the buildings was a never-ending treat for me. The fact that modern buildings stuck out like sore thumbs was so different than what I’m used to back home. In the states old is a few hundred years. In Prague the “new bridge” (as described by our tour guide) dates to the 1300’s. The weight of history there is much greater than it is in the States and there is so much to learn and to see just in the facades of the buildings.
  4. The quiet – this sounds kind of odd, but Czechs in general are very quiet, at least in public, and there are strict nighttime quiet laws that reinforce that. It was somewhat surreal to walk through a crowded plaza and hear a tenth, if that, of the noise you would hear in a similarly crowded area here in the states. It became incredibly clear very quickly that the stereotype of the loud American is very true, and especially in Prague it doesn’t take a lot to be “that person.” I’m a quiet person to begin with so this aspect of life in Prague really suited me and sometimes now that I’m home crowds here can be a little overwhelmingly loud in comparison.
  5. The travel – I didn’t travel as much as many other people I’ve talked to, but I really loved it. Seeing other cities and countries is a truly amazing experience and it’s so easy and affordable to do so in Europe. My trips were well worth the time and I only wish I had been able to travel more.

I could go on. There are so many things I miss about my time abroad and now that I’m home I’m just itching for a chance to go back.

Things I Miss Most

1. I miss the friends I made. This was my first time being a part of a group in college and I wish I did it sooner. After coming home, I missed the people from the trip so much. I wish we all lived closer and went to the same college. Life gets in the way but we do try to stay in touch with each other. Experiencing everything with those people made the whole trip even better. I will forever look at the pictures and memories as one of the best times of my life.

2. The beautiful views. The cities and sights I saw were beyond incredible. Just in my home stay town of Bregenz was beautiful. We had the Pfänderbahn and other surrounding mountains that were incredible to look at, as well as, Lake Constance. We even swam in the lake multiple times. Traveling to cities like Prague, Munich and Venice all had different types of architecture that you just don’t see while in America.

3. The food. Oh my, the food was great. German food is centered around meat and potatoes, which is what I live on. But also, the freshness of the food. Europe, in general, does not have as many processed food options as America. They don’t keep as much food on hand. Plus, most of them have smaller refrigerators so they physically cannot keep a lot of food in the house. They have multiple “farmer’s markets” during the week while we only have them once a week. I noticed that prices of food were cheaper as well. Coming back, my stomach had to make an adjustment which made me look at what I was eating. When I miss German food now, I will dig up a recipe or go to a local German restaurant.

4. Exploring new cities. My program was great because I got to travel on the weekends. I visited other countries and enjoyed each of them. Learning to get around a new city with another new language, new currency and new culture is a hard adjustment to make within 2 days but you quickly make the adjustment and enjoy the changes. Being constantly busy and exploring cities is something I really miss, like any person who has studied abroad.


Some things I learned during my time abroad….

My time abroad has shed some light on the differences between United States and Europe, or at least the countries I visited. These only pertain to the countries of Austria, Germany, Italy and Czech Republic. I cannot say any other tips regarding the rest of Europe. Here are some useful things I learned and wish I knew beforehand:

  • Water is not free. Neither is refills. But you can ask for local tap water. You might just get some odd looks though.
  • In Austria, they have fountains around town that are drinkable only if they say “Trinkwasser”.
  • All shops close early and are closed on Sundays. Even the grocery.
  • They celebrate a lot of holidays where everything gets shut down.
  • Beer is cheaper than water.
  • You will see locals eating gelato and drinking alcohol at all hours of the day. Even at 10am.
  • All toilets will flush differently.
  • Also, not all bathrooms are free. Most public toilets cost 50 cents.
  • Train bathrooms are even more confusing. Each will flush, turn on water and dispense soap differently.
  • NEVER drink water from the tap on a train.
  • When eating out, remember to ask for the check or it will not come.
  • They also tend to be more quiet but that depends on the city and what you’re doing.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking everywhere.
  • Try to book rooms and trains as soon as possible.
  • Double check train tickets. If overnight train, make sure you have the right dates. (Even the train people can get it wrong)
  • To save money, eat at the grocery store. Very cheap and good food.
  • When packing, bring enough toiletries to last you a month. If not, they are fairly inexpensive to buy.
  • Ask if the bread is free before eating. Sometimes they will charge you.
  • If you happen to have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, pay with that when going out in large groups. People can pay you in cash and you can avoid all the ATM fees.
  • When visiting another city for a weekend, I recommend getting a metro, bus or tram pass to get around the city. It is well worth the price.
  • Also, check out events happening in the cities you’re going to visit. (I happened to go to Vienna when the largest open air festival in Europe took place, so we got lucky)
  • Explore your host city as much as possible. Try not to get a routine of same places.
  • Naps will be necessary—but choose wisely when to take them. FOMO is real.
  • Trains are always cold. Take a jacket or scarf with you.
  • On weekends, pack for all weather.
  • Not all trains will have Wi-Fi or outlets. (Austria trains seem to be of nicer quality)
  • If you can’t sleep sitting up, then best of luck on trains.
  • Netflix’s download feature came in handy on long train rides.

Some Reasons Why Chinese People Look So Young

Being a student-athlete at the University of Louisville, I thought I would write a little about the sports and exercise atmosphere in Shanghai.

One often think about the Chinese population as skinny and healthy people. Living in China, I understand some of the reasons why they are so skinny and young looking. Overall, the people take good care of their bodies. The food they eat is very fresh and natural, and they do not eat a lot of processed food. They are experts in making good juices, and herbal tea is an important part of their everyday diet.

First time I walked around campus at night, I was shocked to see how many people were exercising around the track and field. We have two track and field facilities on campus and both of them were packed with probably 200 people each. There were people walking, jogging and running in all eight lanes. The age ranged from young kids to really old adults all excited to get their workout in for the day. Neither of the facilities have light, but it seems like everyone likes to exercise at night because that is when they have free time, and when the temperature cools off. Not only were people running around the track, there were also many people standing next to the fence stretching, doing strength exercises, and even some people were doing tai chi. A totally new experience for me, and I suddenly understood why Chinese people usually look so healthy.

Not only does the population enjoy to exercise themselves, the support of professional athletics is also increasing. The second weekend in Shanghai, I went to see the the Shanghai professional soccer team play at their main stadium with other study abroad students. The Shanghai team played the 1/16 final in the AFC Championship that night. The stadium was really nice and was actually used during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. China is purposefully trying to increase the people’s interest in soccer, and therefore, the soccer clubs are given large amount of money to get famous international players. Oscar and Hulk are currently playing for Shanghai so it was entertaining to watch.

Walking around in Shanghai, you can also see the huge amount of bicycles. There are several bike companies that rent out bikes for less than one dollar an hour, and you can leave the bike wherever you want. You unlock the bikes by using the bike companies phone app which is connected to your bank account. The bike rental system is super convenient, and it is a good substitution for motorcycles, cars and taxis. It is also a way of promoting healthy lifestyle and activity.

As you can see, there are many ways the Shanghainese population like to stay active, exercise, and improve their health. After being in Shanghai a couple of weeks, I now know that it is not a coincidence that Chinese people are known for being skinny and healthy.

Have a great day!

China – an underrated Gem- part 3


I will now take you inside these famous structures. More specifically to their kitchens. Do you think Chinese food is the same in China than in Norway? than in Brazil? the U.S.? No! its definitely not! Is not even the same throughout China! Did you know that in Shanghai food is sweeter? That in the Sichuan province they prefer spicy and have a lot of lamb? What about that people in the south eat more white rice while in the north more noodles.

China has one of the widest varieties of spices and flavors I have seen and you will definitely not cease to entertain your palate. This along with the breathtaking views, the detailed to the millimeter ancient architecture are all the results of a society with more than 5,000 years of recorded history. When I try to find the overall value of this experience and forget the little nicks and nacks like overpopulation (I guess not so little), people sneezing and bumping into your personal space, or others, I can confidently more than recommend China. It surpassed my expectations above and beyond. It has definitely changed my point of view and helped me grow as a person and I hope you can visit too!

China- an underrated Gem- Part 2


I would now like to climb you down the mountains and talk about the millimeter precise architecture that you see everywhere across China. From the grounds of Zhanjiajie, to the mausoleums in Nanjing, to the hundreds of temples and gardens like Yue Garden in Shanghai. This style of architecture has taken shape in East Asia over many centuries. One of the main features to talk about is the emphasis on bilateral symmetry, which signifies balance. From palaces to humble farmhouses you will always find their strive for symmetry. Another main characteristic is it’s floating like ceilings and large roofs. These stress the visual impact of the width of the buildings, making them sometimes look like a woman’s skirt.

Regardless, all of this would not seem like much if I would not mention the extreme amount of symbolism and imagery that appears in these buildings. I am talking about the use of colors like red for good fortune, yellow as the imperial color, blue to symbolize the sky, or black, because the gods were inspired to descent to earth by the black color. I am specially, also talking about the different talismans carved in stone, wood, or precious metals that lie all around the buildings, representing different gods, animals, fruits, creatures, that come all together in one building to give you a detailed to the millimeter visual show and a perfectionist eye feast. This is the kind of ancient unique architecture you will find in China.

It’s Necessary to Leave In Order to Learn

The idea of spending a semester abroad always appealed to me because I was born and raised in Louisville and haven’t been away from this city for more than a week or so. Therefore, coming into college, I knew I wanted to participate in some sort of study abroad program to experience a different city and culture for a longer period of time. Since, my minors are Spanish and International Business, I decided that I wanted to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country for a semester. I wasn’t completely sure how I would handle the separation from my friends and family for so long, but I knew it was something I needed to do for myself to grow as a person. I spent months planning and debating where to study, which programs to go through, and what classes to take. I reached out to nearly everyone I knew that had previously studied abroad what they did and how their experiences were. I finally chose Sevilla, Spain because I wanted a large city with a smaller town feel that would have a strong Spanish culture.

Studying abroad turned out to be the best decision I have ever made. Being independent of my family and friends for an entire semester helped me gain self-reliance and general life skills I never would have gained back home. I’ll admit that I was put in mildly uncomfortable situations on a regular basis…but this wasn’t a bad thing at all. If anything, it taught me a lot about myself and how to handle any situation that is thrown at you. Whether it was miscommunicating with locals on a daily basis or missing the wrong stop on the metro, I learned a significant amount about handling problems and high-stress situations in a calm and logical manner.

Additionally, communicating with my host parents and locals on a daily basis helped improve my proficiency in Spanish; however, what contributed the most was the linguistic exchange program I signed up for. It essentially paired me up with a local student from Universidad de Sevilla and I would meet up with her every week and we would go to her favorite restaurants and other spots in the area and I would practice my Spanish and she would practice her English. It helped me become better accommodated to the city and the culture of Sevilla. My professors and host parents also showed me the European perspective of the United States which was not only eye-opening but also refreshing to see how other countries thought of us. The classes I took helped me realize that I’m very interested in the concept of globalization and pursuing a career in international business.

Overall, my study abroad experience improved my perspective on not only business, but the world in general. I think every student should take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad because they will learn a significant amount about themselves and develop general life skills that they aren’t necessarily able to develop in the U.S. You can only benefit from stepping outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis and experiencing new places and cultures however often you can.


5 Foods You’ll Never Get Sick of in Seville, Spain

1.        Bocadillos

            You will probably consume about a million bocadillos during you study abroad experience in Sevilla, Spain. A bocadillo is a sandwich made with Spanish bread and with many different filling options like potatoes, cheese, ham, pork loin and even fried squid. As a study abroad student, you will probably live off ham and cheese bocadillos either made by your host mom or the small little café by your school.

2.        Tortilla de Patatas

            Tortilla de patatas is basically a staple in every household and restaurant. It is basically a potato omelet and it is very delicious. Your host mom may make it for you during every meal or she might make it only once a week. Either way, you will always probably be able to eat the entire plate.

3.        Potatoes/Fries

            Speaking of potatoes, you will literally find them in almost every dish, which I am not complaining about. The best is when the potatoes or fries soak up the delicious sauce from whatever dish you order. You can’t leave anything to waste!

4.        Pork

            Pork. Is. Everywhere. Spain, especially Sevilla, loves their pork. They love it so much that you will find it hanging from the ceiling in every authentic tapas bars and restaurants. From jamon iberico, solomillo al whiskey (my favorite!), pork cheek, chorizo, and suckling pig, you really can’t go wrong.

5.        Churros

            There is always time to have a fried, sugary stick with a cup of Spanish hot chocolate, which is more like hot fudge. You will find them everywhere and they are usually pretty cheap too!

5 Things I Miss About Sevilla, Spain

1. My scenic walks to school
One of the main things that I miss about Sevilla is my walk to and from school every day. I’d leave my host family’s apartment in Los Remedios, the business district of the city, cross a busy bridge over the Guadalquivir River that runs through Sevilla and connects it to the more touristy part of the city. Then I make my way through Parque Maria Luisa, Sevilla’s principle green area that serves as a botanical garden and has as monuments spread throughout. However, the most impressive part of my walk was when I’d reach the park’s centerpiece, Plaza de Espana. It felt like I was in a movie with how beautiful and scenic everything was.

2. Never being bored
I was never bored in Sevilla. There was always something fun and interesting to do. Whether it was attending a bull fight at the local bull ring, going canoeing on the river, going to Flamenco shows every Thursday night, or even just going to the riverfront to share a bottle of wine with some friends, I always had something to occupy my time with. There was even a huge wooden structure in the shape of mushrooms in the middle of the city the locals referred to as Las Setas that we would go to for the best sunset view. I truly miss how easy it was to make exciting and spontaneous plans on a regular basis.

3. Exploring the different neighborhoods
There were a lot of students in my program and our housing was separated into four neighborhoods: Porvenir, Nervion, Triana, and Los Remedios. I was able to walk and bike to the other neighborhoods easily, and I always felt safe wherever I went. An area in Porvenir locals referred to as La Juderia (the Jewish quarter) was one of my favorite places to explore because it was the epitome of what you would expect a Spanish neighborhood to look like: narrow, cobble-stoned streets with colorful buildings that were a range of tapas bars, cafes, and boutiques.

4. My host family
Staying with a host family definitely had a positive impact on my study abroad experience. My host parents were very caring and dependable and helped get me accommodated to the Spanish lifestyle. Although they were older and felt more like grandparents to me, they were very energetic and always seemed genuinely happy to see me every time I came back from classes or a weekend trip.

5. The friends I made
I made some really strong friendships during my study abroad experience and I think it’s due to the fact that we all bonded over being on our own in a different country for an entire semester. I got to experience so many new and incredible things with the people in my program and I learned a significant amount about myself and about life in general with them.