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mid semester break

Time April 4th, 2016 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, New Zealand | No Comments by

For our mid semester break we get a week off and my friend and I decided to travel to Fiji. It was SO much fun, I 100% recommend it. The weather in the spring is pretty hot and humid but there are so many cool activities to do. We visited a couple islands, did zip lining, swam with sharks, snorkeled and went sky diving! We got pretty burnt though lol, but on Mana island they had a spa and they offered a sunburn treatment so we did that a couple times. It was so great, the lady just put ice cold towels over our burns and put lotion on us. It was so worth the 30FJD. Everyone is super friendly in Fiji as well, kids are running around and just come up to you and ask what your name is. Then you both spend like 5 minutes trying to pronounce each others names. I could never pronounce their names the right way. They were so cute though. Read More »

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Traveling While At LSE: French Riviera – Nice, Antibes and Cannes

Time September 17th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

At last I’m where I’ve already dreamt of going, the French Riviera. Based in Nice, I spent 5 days here and visited a dozen places including Cannes to the south and Ventimiglia of Italy to the north. This post documents my journey around Nice and to the south, including Villefranche-sur-Mer, Saint Paul de Vence, Antibes, and Cannes.

I was very lucky to have a good friend who’s native to this area to show me around. Having someone who knows the areas and more importantly, someone who has a car, truly makes a difference. It saves you the time and energy to plan transportation, and allows you to go to charming but relatively unknown places so you can enjoy beautiful scenery in serenity (taking great pictures without other tourists getting in the shot).

On the first day, we drove up to a Villefranche-sur-Mer, which is immediate to the north of Nice. It was the first place I truly visited since landed in Nice. Little did I know it would turn out to be my favorite among all the places I visited in French Riviera. It is such a charming town with a beautiful harbor, and there are not that many tourists. In addition to walking around the town, I would recommend driving to top of the hill to get a view of the harbor.

Then we drove down to Saint Paul de Vence, which has a more medieval feeling to it, compared to Villefranche. It’s pretty touristy, and the place has many art galleries.

After Saint Paul, we drove further down. Driving pass Antibes was a really fun experience because the old city of Antibes has really narrow roads that can only accommodate one small car.

We ended up in Cannes to end the first day. Cannes is more modern and polished, compared to the residential nature of most of other parts of the French Riviera. The cities has many nice shops and restaurants, as well as sandy beach to relax on – perfect way to wrap up the day. One thing to note here is that, if you long for soft sand, then you have to drive west to Antibes and beyond, because beaches around Nice are composed of pebbles and rocks.

 

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The Food of New Zealand Part 1

Time May 21st, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, New Zealand | No Comments by

My long awaited blog post. I’ve been wanting to write about food since day one but have been holding off for as long as I could.

When one thinks of New Zealand, food is probably one of the last things that comes to mind. When asking kiwi’s what the dish of New Zealand is there really isn’t a definitive answer. They don’t necessarily have their own style of cuisine like the French, Germans, or Italians do. If I had to pick a dish that Kiwis do better, I would have to say meat pies. This and fish and chips are some of the most widespread, beloved items; but being from New England the fish and chips are never as good as what I get from home. I do have a fondness towards meat pies though. Whether its influenced by the tenderness of the meat and the flaky crust or my love of Sweeney Todd, I can never get enough of them.

With such a diverse population, Auckland has heaps upon heaps of different styles of restaurants. Unfortunately for me, my budget is limited but even still I somehow find myself consistently rewarding my study efforts with food. I am most consistently eating Japanese food, I just can’t seem to find a satisfactory Japanese restaurant at home so I’m making sure to take advantage of that. I have eaten more than my fair share of sushi and ramen; it’s affordable, fresh, and most importantly, delicious!

Next to sushi, I tend to splurge on pizza and the occasional hamburger. There is a spectrum of pizza, at the bottom is the $5 personal pizza places scattered around town. These will satisfy a craving but aren’t necessarily the most delicious pizza. For one, at least for the place I visit, they don’t put sauce on the pizza! Essentially it’s a round cheesy breadsticks. How you can call it pizza without sauce, I’m not sure, but even still I buy it; the appeal of crispy baked cheese for affordable prices will draw anyone in. At the top of the tier is Sal’s pizza. This pizza is the closest they have in New Zealand to the pizza that can be found in the States; cheesy, very big, and with sauce. Even though it’s not as good as our pizza, it’s resemblance to home helps to cure those small blights of home sickness, also so much cheese!

Much like my quest for authentic Mexican food, which I long gave up on, I have been trying to find a quality burger. I have been to the top ranked burger places in Auckland and still haven’t been satisfied. My search is for the following: Fresh buns, a nice array of toppings including bacon, a runny egg (not required), but mainly a juicy well seasoned, medium rare patty. Every place I’ve been to has nailed both the toppings and buns, but not the patty which Is most important for me, it’s what makes the burger. They either, overcooked it/ haven’t really seasoned it, or simply cook flat patties. It’s kinda sad but I do have high expectations seeing the amount of cattle that are around New Zealand.

I blame the travel channel and food network for my obsession with food. They’re too much of an inspiration, both raising my standards of expectation and always making me want to eat. Most people would say sightseeing and adventuring around are their main focus of travel, but for me, it’s the food.  Yelp and tripadvisor are my guidebook to all the best eats and I’m very gracious to them.

I can keep talking about food for ages but doing so has made me hungry….

Part 2 to follow shortly.

Time to scavenge through the cupboards.

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Cuddling Koalas, Kissing Kangaroos, and Taking in all the Views

Time April 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, Australia, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

As promised, here’s a link to the video of my first two months in oz! There’s much more to come, but it’s hard to explain all that I’ve gotten to see and explore in words so here you go! Hope you enjoy it :)

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Not Your Typical Spring Break (Part 2)

Time April 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

Dear Closest Confidants,

I know you all have been waiting more than a week to see where the riveting adventure led us after Prague, Munich, and Vienna, so I am here to provide.

After Vienna, Ryan and I caught a train to Budapest! Read More »

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Spring Break: Alexandria, Egypt Pt. 1

Time April 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Sharjah UAE, United Arab Emirates | No Comments by

*Note: written on drive from Alexandria to Cairo and edited at the hotel lobby outside Cairo same day

Finally, spring break, a much needed break from the the hustle and bustle of life at university. For spring break IFSA-Butler invited us to travel Egypt for the week. When I heard of the opportunity I was very excited. On the trip with me is Moises, another IFSA-Butler Student, Kiri, our program director, Dr. Mohamed El-Komi of the Cairo program and program directors from Alexandria and Cairo. I would like to thank IFSA-Butler for this opportunity, because I know without them this trip would not be possible. Lodging, excursions and meals have all been provided by IFSA-Butler and have been very generous!

This was my first experience with regional flights in the Middle East and I have been told they are quite the adventure, but Egypt Air wasn’t too crazy. Yes, they showed the same 1980’s movie twice and the saftey videos didn’t work, but the flight itself wasn’t bad, and they served tea through out the trip! We were met by Dr. Mohamed, Mariam and Moataz at the airport outside of Alexandria and were on our way. Our first night was to be spent at the Opera. We had to change in the bathroom of the restuarant we were at, but I think we turned out pretty good. We listened to Egyptian jazz drummer, Yehya Khalil. It was a very enjoyable and relaxing start to our break.

The next day was very busy! we started with a wonderful breakfast on the Mediterranean Sea. We then went to visit the University of Alexandria where IFSA-Butler Students would study if they chose to. We were given a tour of their facilities as well as their intensive Arabic program. Their Arabic program is much more refined and intensive as it is in Sharjah. We then walked down the street to visit the Alexandria Library. The library is gorgeous inside and out. Outside the building is covered in over 120 different languages and inside it hold a museum and the largest reading room in the world. Lunch soon followed, and with lunch came some deliciously fresh sea food. Dr. Mohamed did it again, the man knows how to order large amounts of delicious food! After lunch we took a brake that allowed me to watch the sunset from our apartment and then we went to dinner along the corniche.

Day two was also very busy! After grabbing a small breakfast from a bakery, we visited a day care that IFSA students usually volunteer at while in Alexandria. I met some great four year old children who thought I was quite the sight. being my height and not Arabic made me stand out! It was fun to play with the children some in the classroom and the playground. All of the children are working on learning Arabic and either English or French. It was very impressive to have a four year old talk to me in Arabic, French and English in the same 10 minutes. It makes me wonder once the United States makes a large push for foreign language in public schools. We went on to visit the Egyptian Museum of Alexandria that shows the blend of Roman and Greek culture with Arabic culture through out history (Don’t forget Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great!) After that we made a quick dash to the Citadel. The Citadel sits on the same land that the Lighthouse of Alexandria once was. The Lighthouse was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient world and was abandoned in 1323 after being greatly damaged by earthquakes. The Citadel though is a magnificent structure and provides great views of the Mediterranean.

We just took a quick stop at the City Center and had some delicious shwarma and are off to Cairo for the remainder of the trip. I can already tell this will be an exciting drive! the street is crowded, has no lane lines, and isn’t paved in many parts. Kiri and I plan to watch ‘The Mummy’ on the trip there.

This has been an eye opening trip already. It is great to see another side of the Arab World outside of Dubai. It is a part of the region that many may consider the “true” Arab world when compared to the sights of Dubai. I’m excited to see what Cairo has to offer, but not so much the traffic I have heard so much about!

I will post again after our time in Cairo, until then!

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Academics, Academics & MORE Academics

Time April 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, Australia, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s about that time in the semester where things start to get crazy. Mid-Semester break is just coming to a close as I finish vacuuming all the sand out of my room from the sunny coast, and UQ opens back up for classes tomorrow (Monday) with 8 weeks still remaining in the semester. The first half of the semester has been pretty quiet in regards to assignment because Australia’s education system is much more UK based than anything else. Most of the course grades come from final exams and long research essays/projects which are due near the end of the semester. It’s been a challenge to stay motivated not just because I’m in the beautiful country of Australia, but because the learning is so independently based that my mind is still having a difficult time adjusting. Even guidelines for assignments are much more vague than in comparison to those in the US. For example, while my school in the US might give a topic with bullet points of framework on what should be included, here at UQ the assignment instructions for one of my research papers is as follows: “Complete original research and assemble a 2000 word essay referencing secondary works for support”. It’s pretty frustrating for me since I like to have structure and know exactly what is expected from me, BUT there’s always some positive that comes with the negatives. Read More »

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When in Rome, Do as the Tourists Do

Time April 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Scotland | No Comments by

I am writing this post in Italy, on a small tablet, with minimal access to WiFi. This lack of WiFi has been particularly challenging and has add led to some of this post’s most interesting stories. Before beginning, however, I want to comment on the conclusion of my previous post. I stated that my plan for this post was to interview people in Scotland about the queer experience there, but I had difficulty doing so. I did interview one person, who was able to confirm my previous evaluations of the differences between Scotland and the U.S. Being from New England originally, he had experienced the differences in culture and claimed that people in Scotland are generally more accepting of homosexuals and are indifferent with regard to someone’s sexual orientation. A good example of this is the fact that this individual is openly gay in Scotland, but has not felt comfortable being out to people in the States (and shall thus remain anonymous). Listening in on conversations at an LGBT+ meeting, I found that people in Scotland consider the U.S. to be backwards. With regards to the new Indiana religious freedom law, one person said he felt sorry for me that I had to live in a country where discrimination can be legalized. I don’t think American society is a bad as it is perceived to be, but it’s still embarrassing that we have that reputation. Speaking of perceptions of different cultures, here was my first impression of Italy:

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It looks crowded, doesn’t it? Well, it was worse in person. This is a picture of the Vatican, which was so packed that it was impossible for me to get a good picture. At least, that’s my excuse for why that picture isn’t great. Italy is an interesting place, and by that I mean it was too similar to America for my liking. Like in the U.S., few people I encountered spoke any language but their native language. Also like in the U.S., the police officers carry guns and are not the sort of people you would go to for advice. (The police uniforms in Florence, however, are much more stylish than those in the States). The train system is also incredibly confusing, as I will describe below.

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This is Pompeii. It looks less crowded than Rome, as I got in when it opened at 8:30 and ran ahead of the other tourists. My original plan was to explore Pompeii on Saturday and visit Mount Vesuvius on Sunday. I took a train from Rome to a place called Salerno and was supposed to catch my train to Pompeii 8 minutes later. However, none of the trains on the timetable said Pompeii, and so I ran to the ticket office to find out which train to get on. There was a sign saying “Tickets” pointing down a stairwell, and so I dashed down the stairs. At the bottom, there was a sign pointing up the stairs that also said “Tickets”. I was very confused but eventually found the ticket office. They told me the name of the station the train was going to, and I found out that it was at platform 3. I had less than a minute left to get on the train, but I couldn’t find how to get on to the platform. A kind onlooker helped me out and told me that the train to Pompeii was actually at platform 5. I ran there and barely made it on to the train before it departed, thinking how lucky I was to have run into this man. Had he not told me to go to platform 5 instead of 3, I might have ended up in some small town in the south of Italy with no clue how to get back. As I was thinking this, the conductor came by to check tickets. When he saw mine, he exclaimed, “Pompei! Pompei!?” He said a lot of things in Italian and made some hand motions that I interpreted to be directions telling me to get off at the next stop and take a train back to Salerno. This was, of course, a misinterpretation, for the next stop did not have a train station, and I ended up in a small town in the south of Italy with no clue how to get back. No one there spoke English or French (of which I can speak a little). I was able to use the name of the train station, Salerno, to get some helpful hand gestures, and I ended up on a bus back to the train station. Through much confusion, I eventually made it to Pompeii, with no time to see the ruins. I made a plan  for the next day to see both the ruins and Vesuvius on a very tight time schedule. Somehow, I accomplished this and made it to my train on time. The train, however, stopped for some time and was 12 minutes late to the station where I had an 8 minute layover. I missed my train back to Rome, where I was supposed to meet my friends at a particular time and place. There was no WiFi anywhere, so I couldn’t tell my friend what had happened. When I talked to the ticket office, they sent me on a train heading south that would have gotten me to Rome about six hours late. I got off this train and bought all new tickets to Naples and then to Rome. I was three hours late, my friends were worried and had searched for me for an hour, and I had no idea where they were staying. Luckily, I found a place where you could pay to use the internet on a PC, and I was able to Facebook message and meet up with my friends. This was not to be the last of my troubles.

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This beautiful golden river is in Florence, a magical place that is much less crowded and much more Italian than Rome. My friends and I went around to all of the different tourist attractions, looking at them from the outside rather than waiting in line and paying the admission fees. We had a lot of ice cream (gelato) and ran into someone I know from the IFSA-Butler Scotland program. We all agreed in preferring Florence to Rome, and our next place was even better:

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This is Cinque Terre, the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It is a collection of 5 coastal villages along a span of 7.5 miles. There are two main trails between the villages, the coastal and the mountain trails. Part of the coastal trail was closed, so we took the grueling mountain trail and were treated to stunning views and sunburns. We stayed in a hostel in one of the villages Wednesday night and watched the sun set over the Mediterranean. Thursday, we finished our hike and bought train tickets to Venice. As you probably expect by now, this did not go as planned. Our first train was late, causing us to miss our second train. In order to get to Venice, we ended up having to pay close to $200 in addition to what we had already paid. The moral of this story is that you should never book Italian trains in advance. After two days in Venice, I left for France, where I am now concluding this post. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the train system will be better and that it will be easier to communicate with people.

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Manuel Antonio

Time April 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Costa Rica | 1 Comment by

Hola! So a few weeks ago I went to the most visited national park in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio. We snorkeled, hiked, saw some incredible animals, banana-boated and went to the gorgeous beach, and I want to share some pics with y’all!

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This Is What Are Dreams Are Made Of

Time April 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

I feel like the past few days have been a dream, they were so surreal and wonderful that I can’t believe they actually happened, but then I flip through the over 300 pictures that I have and I’m right back on the winding streets of Rome with some of my best friends complaining about how much we’ve walked and planning our next gelato stop. Until now, Rome has just sort of been a place that doesn’treally seem real. It’s a place of such immense history and culture you would have to spend years there to really be able to see it all. We had 3 days.

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Venturing Out of Lima

Time April 9th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

Paracas was this crazy adventure that a group of us decided to go on. It was our 2nd weekend out of orientation, our first weekend after classes had “for real” started and – I don’t know – maybe we wanted  to exercise our freedom. Read More »

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Merseyside Musings

Time April 8th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

I’m getting to the point in my semester abroad where things are starting to get serious. Well, by “things,” I really mean school. While I’ve been doing my best to keep up with lectures and assignments all semester long, the structure of the Irish university system puts a lot of emphasis on final exams and papers. So, with only a couple more weeks of classes left ahead of me, pressure is starting to mount. Luckily I have a solid plan for tackling all that lies ahead, so if I stay focused I should be able to avoid any truly soul-crushing stress levels. But before that all descends upon me, let me tell you about my most recent trip. UCD’s four-day Easter break was one of the last travel opportunities of my time here, so I decided to pop over to the English city of Liverpool to see what I could see.

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Los Juegos Caribe

Time April 7th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Cuba | No Comments by

Over the past couple of weeks has been the annual Juegos Caribe at the university. All the facultades at UH compete against one another in a mix of sports, sort of like the Olympic Games, but with fewer events. In each event, the top 3 individuals or teams would even receive bronze, silver, and gold looking medals. Even better, each participant gets a University of Havana shirt that is unique to your facultad. As study abroad students, we are registered in the facultad de Filosofía, Historia y Sociología, and our Cuban friends were really thankful for our help.

Personally, I competed in mostly running events, getting 2 silver medals in the 5k and the 4x400m relay. In addition, we had a bunch of people from our program and residence compete as well in a bunch of different sports like, soccer, swimming, basketball, and Judo. It was also really cool to see all the people coming from each facultad to come and support everyone in all the events. No matter what sport it was, each one pulled in a crowd to support your team. As I normally run for my university’s club cross country team, competing was something I really missed, and having the all the support of our friends from school made it even better.

As the games came to an end, points were tallied amongst all the events, ranking each facultad. Economía placed first once again, but some of my Cuban friends joke that their classes aren’t very difficult, so they have way more time to train for the games, but with everyone’s hard work, Filosofía, Historia y Sociología placed third. So if you plan on coming during the spring semester, definitely don’t forget your soccer cleats, track spikes, or goggles, because the facultad really appreciates the help of all the foreign students each year!

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European Explorer

Time April 6th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

As I’m writing this, I am sat at the Marseille-Provence airport for my second flight of this 3 week European adventure waiting for our boarding call (we were supposed to board like 2 minutes ago and don’t even have a plane yet so we’ll see how this goes). We had a very brief stay in Marseille, and it wasn’t all sun and sea, but it was still a lovely start to a crazy few weeks.

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Halfway done ALREADY?!!!

Time April 6th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, Australia, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hey guys!

Just a quick little update while I run around throwing heaps of clothes and swim suits into a bag for our week adventure in Mooloolaba and etc. for Easter break! Sorry that I’ve been away awhile but time really does fly when you’re having fun traveling & sightseeing {errr…I mean studying}. It’s about that time for MIDTERMS which are surprisingly different from what I’ve experienced in the US. It’s much more relaxed in that it’s more independent preparation and the lecturers do not get on you all the time about it. Also, my midterms just so happen to be AFTER the mid-semester break which isn’t the greatest. To apologise for my LONG absence I’ve been working on putting together a video of my first two months here in Australia for you all to see! It’s not quite finished yet but I will get right back on it when I return from my holiday away from a holiday {Sunshine Coast with NO WIFI=peaceful}.

In the past month I’ve been to Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast which is super touristy but also lots of FUN! We celebrated Leigh’s 21st at the Hard Rock Café (living up to our ‘Americanness’) and were probably WAY over excited to see American bacon in our meals hahaha.

It’s been raining quite a bit lately so I have quite the collection of movie tickets because it’s something fun & cheap to do on South Bank. We had a great Easter Brunch today with heaps of celebrations, french toast and of course CADBURY!!!

A word about uni life at UQ: They love to give out group assignments and make you collaborate with all different people. At first I was really hesitant to work with all Australians but it has turned out to be really good connections and I’ve made some new friends who invite me home to real Australian meals!

EXCITING NEWS TO COME: Me and my friend Maddie bought tickets to Cirque Du Soleil: Totem coming in just a few short weeks and also booked a sneaky little weekend getaway in about 5 min of planning to Melbourne!!!

Pictures will come with the video I post as soon as I get back into Brissy the end of the week!

Much love to you alll xxx!!!

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10 Hours in Glasgow

Time April 6th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

Two weeks ago, Karen, Morgan, and I spent the day in Glasgow. It’s actually quite cheap and easy to get to – the ride is about 90 minutes, and a round trip ticket only costs about £5.50. The bus arrived in Glasgow at approximately 10:30 AM, and the tone of the day was set when, on our way to find some breakfast, we walked by a man who opened his front door and exclaimed, ‘Oh, what a beautiful day in Glasgow!” We stopped at a Pret A Manger to grab some coffee and consult the guidebooks, mapping out the next few hours. After breakfast, our first two stops were The Willow Tea Rooms and the Glasgow School of Art, both of which turned out to be vaguely disappointing, or at least less exciting than we had come to believe. Willow Tea Rooms, though designed by the famed architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, was just an actual tea room, when we had assumed it was some kind of museum. The school of art, while also impressive on the outside, was not open to the public unless you paid to join an hour-long tour.

From there, we regrouped and hopped on the subway to go to Kelvingrove. The Glasgow subway system is fantastic. It’s literally just one circle, so even if you do somehow get on the wrong train, you’ll eventually end up where you need to go. Before heading to the museum, we walked through the University of Glasgow campus for a wee bit and took a detour through a park. It was absolutely gorgeous weather, and we were feeling great. The Kelvingrove Museum was also really impressive. It didn’t seem to be organized in any specific way, at least to an untrained eye, and had everything from great works of art to history to natural science. It was absolutely worth the trip and while the museum had a lot to offer, it wasn’t unmanageably huge, so we were able to see most of it in about two hours.

After Kelvingrove, we made our way towards St. Mungo’s Cathedral, a stunning building which, according to the guidebook, provides visitors with a “vague Gothic thrill.” Unfortunately, by the time we got to the cathedral, it was closed, so we just admired it from the outside. We then walked back toward the city center to find dinner (we ended up eating at Rumours, a great Malaysian restaurant) and catch the 8PM bus back to Edinburgh.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed Glasgow, I am glad that I chose Edinburgh as my study abroad destination. Glasgow is much larger than Edinburgh and has a significantly more city/industrial feel to it. Unlike Edinburgh, where you can walk pretty much anywhere in less than 30 minutes and streets and buildings are all distinct, Glasgow was kind of difficult and disorienting to navigate. I would absolutely go back and the city has a ton to offer, but the trip also confirmed that Edinburgh is the place for me.

 

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Not Your Typical Spring Break (Part 1)

Time April 1st, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

People of the world,

 It’s good to be back “home” in St. Andrews. I just returned from a two week break from class, which the Scotts call the Proper Royal Holiday Bequeathed Upon Us by Her Majesty or something along those lines. I’ll just stick with Spring Break. If I were back home, I probably would have spent my time relaxing in the sun at a traditional Spring Break hotspot like Cancun, Miami, Cabo, or Lake Havasu. This “break,” I found myself sprinting around the cities of Prague, Munich, Vienna, ********, ******, and ********* (tune in next time to see the other exciting three cities!!!!!). I can’t wait to tell you all about them, so let’s get started.
Prague

Prague may be best known for its… ummm well, I’m not really sure what it’s best known for, but now I  love it for its cheap everything and beauty. I spent the two weeks traveling with a fellow American buddy, Ryan, and we planned to stay almost exclusively in places we found on Airbnb, a hip, cool new website that lets you rent out rooms, spaces, or entire homes at fabulous prices from verified people. It can be cheaper than a hostel and definitely less sketchy than Couchsurfer. Our first Airbnb residence was right in the heart of Prague and worked out perfectly, the host was great and my favorite part was the USSR era elevator that whizzed you up and down the building without doors (Please keep all hands, arms, and legs inside the vehicle at all times).

After arriving in Prague and riding the elevator a few times, we went down for a bite to eat. I ordered goulash and a beverage and thought I might be taken out to the back and beaten because I couldn’t afford the 84Kc bill. Luckily, I looked up the conversion rate and discovered that I had just spent a mighty $2.50 at a sit down restaurant. Prague, you and I just might get along. We did some sightseeing (don’t worry, there will be pictures), determined that Prague had rightfully earned its name as the City of a Hundred Spires, and went to a basketball game. Woah, woah, woah, drop the mic. I know what you guys were thinking, a basketball game? Really Adamthefish? Yup, that’s right.

We wandered over to a big soccer stadium (Ryan plays collegiate soccer so there’s a magnet between him and soccer fields or something, not too sure how it works, just science I guess) and from there we saw an arena in the distance. I guessed ice hockey so we walked over. Just our luck, it looked like we were in time for a match. As we neared, we were shocked to realize it was a basketball game. I go up to the ticket counter and struggle for information due to the language barrier. A man heard my struggles and walked over and said “tickets?” and just handed two tickets to us. Without much of an idea of what we were in for, we walked in and were led to our free court side seats. Oh perfect, it was Prague versus some team from Estonia, my favorite teams! We were stoked for the game but I still had no idea what the game was going to be like, until it began. During one of the first possessions, one player passed the ball to his teammate, which proceeded to bounce off of his head and bounce to the other team. Other than that, it was a awesome experience and the game was interesting, to say the least. I never thought I’d find myself in a professional basketball game in the Czech Republic.

Munich

Munich was beautiful and orderly. It was also the first place I was able to wear shorts on this side of the Atlantic. The first thing I noticed was that all of the bike lanes are attached to the sidewalk and not the road. It makes so much sense! It may be a bit more expensive but keeps bikers away from cars and cars away from bikers. Our Airbnb in Munich was a bit further from the city center, but the underground system was phenomenal (modern wood seats with no gum, whaaaaaaat?) and we could get around the city with ease. We visited the site of the 1972 Olympics, the BMW factory, the famous Hofbrauhaus, strolled through some parks (including the Englischer Garden, which is known for the surfers that test their skills in the river that flows through it), and spent a lot of time enjoying the sun in outdoor “gardens”. We spent our last day at the Deutsches Museum, Germany’s museum of science and technology, where I nerded out for a few hours. I probably would have spent several days in there if most of the information wasn’t just in German.

Vienna

Vienna was GRAND. Our Airbnb was a five minute underground ride away from the main drag called Stephansplatz Square. Vienna had a great underground system as well, and our Airbnb host was awesome. He invited us to come out with him our first night there and we obliged, of course. Moments later, I found myself in Celeste, a coffee shop with a 60 year old playing dub step on the first floor and a live jazz band in the basement. Everyone was speaking German and it was EXACTLY where I wanted to be. The next day we toured “the ring,” a five kilometer look that encircles all of the main sights in Vienna. That made it pretty easy for tourists. There were many different roads like Schubertring, Schottenring, Burgring, and Universitätsring, but as long as it ended in “ring,” you knew you were on the right trail. There were city funded bike rental stands throughout the central area of Vienna and the first hour was free so Ryan and I developed a nice pattern of ride, return, and repeat. The bikes could be returned to any of the stations so we got around most of the city with that method. There were some last minute bike races to avoid paying any sort of fee once we broke an hour, but that was all part of the fun. 


After a bit of exploring we cruised over to the Naschmarkt, a lovely outdoor market. I don’t usually do the whole bread, thin meat, and cheese thing because it’s not a real meal but I decided to go for it because I wanted to be authentic and classy. After some perusing, we find a stand that looks good. I approach without much of an idea what anything is called and say, “Something cheap?” The vendor looks back and says, “Cheap? Yes!”And then he proceeds to slice me some sheep and I suddenly realize he interpreted my “cheap” as “sheep.” Ryan had a bit of fun with that one. The next day we toured the Schonbrunn Palace, the summer palace of the Hapsburgs, the ruling family of Austria and several other regions.

Then we got on a train to Tune in next time to see where Ryan and Adamthefish travel next!


And as usual, here’s a little video of snippets from all three places. For some reason I always forget to film horizontally maybe I’ll get it by the last post.

Cheers,

Adamthefish

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Croi follain agus gob fliuch

Time April 1st, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Hi y’all!
Life is happening so quickly – I can’t believe that I am about 3/4 of the way done with my time here in Ireland. People keep asking me how I feel about going back home, and I never have an answer for them?
It definitely feels like there’s a lot to accomplish before then, so maybe that’s why I’m confused about it. It’s definitely school crunch-time here. Technically, right now we are on two weeks of Easter break, and then we’ll have one week of class after that, and then it will be reading period and finals, but I have two classes that will finish before then – I have my final for Irish tomorrow (the 1st- HELP ME), as well as a final paper for another class due. I have 4 other long final papers due within the next 2.5 weeks. After having to have done a pretty negligible amount of homework this entire time, it all feels like a bit much right now, but I know I’ll be fine.
Paddy’s Day was really fun. All of us IFSA-Bulter Galway students decided to have a potluck breakfast, with toast and eggs and bacon and sausage and beans and scones and sticky cinnamon buns.We played Irish music, and a couple of Irish kids from other apartments also showed up and asked if they could join in because they heard it. There was a parade in town so we all went to that too. It was small but really cute – all the little kids from the local schools were marching in it, playing instruments and dressed up in their little uniforms. After the parade, everyone dispersed and went to clubs/pubs/bars, which open at like 8 am. When you order something, they ask if you want glass or a plastic cup, so you can take it outside, because everyone is just drinking in the streets. Everywhere, it was so crowded you could barely move. It was kind of nuts but also very entertaining. The highlight was probably when one of my friends (who shall remain unnamed…) found an adult-sized leprechaun costume that someone had abandoned on the street, and put it on and refused to take it off for the rest of the day.
Irish-ness is definitely starting to rub off on me. I’m starting to use all these weird phrases and expressions and inflections. The other day, I was sitting on the couch doing homework when one of my Irish roommates, Mark, came in. He asked me how I was doing and I said “Alright” without really emphasizing the “t” at the end, which is very Irish – he laughed and pointed it out and I hadn’t even noticed that I’d done it. I’ve also been trying to speak Irish with one of my other Irish housemates, David, who knows a lot; conversations kind of go like this:
David: “Dia dhuit! Cén chaoi bhfuil tú?”
Me: “Dia is Muire dhuit! Tá mé togha, go raibh maith agat. Cén chaoi bhfuil tú fhéin?”
David: “Níl mé ródhona anois. asdkhasjkhdjakshfgkjashfkjhasjfkajsdjfhas?”
Me: “……yup.”
Oh well. I still love it a lot anyway.
This weekend was IFSA-Butler Adventure Weekend at the Killary Adventure Center in Connemara. I had the time of my life. It’s in the middle of nowhere – there’s no connection to the outside world whatsoever. You stay in the centre, you eat in the centre, you do all the activities in the centre. You got to choose between all these crazy activities: Saturday, I did the High Ropes course, the Zipline, and the Giant Swing (a swing that gets pulled way, way, way up in the air and then released), and Sunday morning I did Laster Tag. We were all cold, muddy, disgusting and joyful at the end of every session. It was so much fun as well to get to see all the friends I had made that are in different IFSA-Butler Ireland programs (in Limerick, Cork, Dublin, and Belfast) as well. Saturday night, we had a huge dance party at the Adventure Centre – I don’t think anyone sat down for the whole 4 hours. My roommate and I were so exhausted that we literally slept until 2:30 in the afternoon on Monday and to be honest I probably could have done that again today (thank god we don’t have classes right now or I would be going REALLY crazy).
I’m off to do some more studying for Irish. Wish me luck…
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Bagpiping through Supermarkets

Time April 1st, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

A couple of my IFSA-Butler pals and I went down and spent a night and day in Westport in county Mayo a couple weekends ago. It was really lovely – we rented bikes and went on a path called the Greenway, all through the countryside. We saw so many sheep and little lambs. We went all the way to the next town, Newport, and back – 14 miles total! For someone who probably hasn’t really ridden a bike since I was twelve, it was a bit rough on my legs, but so beautiful that it was totally worth it.

 

 

We stopped in at the local supermarket before we were going to get back on our bus to Galway, when all of a sudden, this bagpiping, drumming band came marching right through the place. It was a surreal experience.

 

 

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Celebrating my Birthday Abroad

Time March 30th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Sharjah UAE, United Arab Emirates | No Comments by

This month I was able to celebrate my birthday abroad. I turned 21 earlier this month and had the opportunity with many of my friends I have made the last couple months. Celebrating my birthday was a moment that made me feel a little homesick. Birthdays are something that everyone is used to celebrating with family and their close friends, but when you are abroad you don’t have your family or your old friends. I can’t deny that I did feel a little homesick, because I did miss my family and friends, but new friends here didn’t let it get bad or let the feeling stay around too long. Read More »

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Learning How to Fail

Time March 30th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Costa Rica | 2 Comments by

Hey everybody! I’m so sorry it’s been so long! I’ve actually had this post written and saved for quite a while now, but I realized I never posted it. I promise I’ll start posting more consistently again; CR life has just been crazy busy! Anyway, enjoy… Read More »

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Argyll Adventures and Water Polo

Time March 30th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

My Dearest Readers,

 As some of you may know, I play water polo. A lot. I am a member of the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Men’s Water Polo Team and will enter my senior (and final) season this fall. Water polo and the team are extremely important to me so I want to return from Scotland without the typical abroad “broadness”that one gets when they eat out frequently and consume tons of liquid calories. My goal while overseas was to stay in decent shape and swim occasionally if I was lucky enough to have a pool (other than the North Sea) nearby. With that in mind, I decided to register at the University of St. Andrews athletic facilities during my first week so I could to use their gym, or at least the outdated, crowded labyrinth of rooms that they refer to as a gym. I mentioned that I was interested in playing water polo to the staff member who was helping me register and he happened to be close friends with a member of the University of St Andrews Polo Team, whom he said he could put me in touch with. Arik the team member, reached out to me and we arranged to meet.

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Weekend trip to Picton

Time March 30th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, New Zealand | No Comments by

Well it took me quite a long time to get this posted but last weekend we went up north to the top of the South Island to Picton where we swam with dolphins, went to a winery, and Kayaked around the sound. Read More »

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A More English View of Things

Time March 30th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Scotland | No Comments by

This past week saw me visit Hadrian’s Wall, a wall that once separated Scotland and England. It is now south of the border, meaning that I was actually in England for the first time. (It was the border that moved, not the wall). I went with my unlucky friend from previous posts, Robbie, and our intent was to backpack and camp along the wall for 16 miles. We barely made the train leaving from Edinburgh, and we arrived in the town of Haltwhistle (very English) late at night, without a place to stay. We ended up talking to the owners of a pub there, who told us of a campsite close to the wall, which happened to be somewhat far from the town. We made it to the campsite and found that it was eerily quiet (and closed for the night). There were some bizarre little creatures wandering around in a wooden pen. In the dark, we couldn’t tell that they were geese until they started going crazy, apparently frightened by us. We ended up traveling onwards and camping on a hill that was in some kind of pasture. In the UK, it is now legal to camp on private property, provided that you follow certain rules. This has been a controversial issue, as trespassing is still forbidden in the city, and farmers therefore feel that this law discriminates against them. As such, we left quite early in the morning, without leaving any traces, but not before taking this picture:

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It is quite English, is it not? The transition from the great treeless mountains of Scotland to the rolling hills of England seemed very abrupt, as if the landscape were conforming to tourists’ stereotypes. The towns near Hadrian’s Wall also seemed stereotypically English. I was informed by a UK resident that this is often done intentionally near the border in an attempt by locals to distinguish themselves from their Scottish neighbors to the north. (When attempting to buy a pizza with Scottish pounds, I was jokingly accused of trying to pay with “Monopoly money”). One of my favorite things about the change of landscape was the comparative ease of hiking. The hills below are not quite as intimidating as the mountains of the Scottish Highlands.

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We also got the privilege of seeing a solar eclipse on our hike. In direct defiance of what everyone told us, we looked at it. Shockingly, our eyes did not burn out of their sockets and we both maintain perfect 20/20 vision.  Now where did I put that keyboard I was just typing on? Ah, here it is! As I was saying, we looked at the eclipse along with some locals, who later offered us a ride to our destination. As tempting as the offer was, we chose to continue walking. They were very kind in giving us directions and even drew us a map of how to get there. They also told us to look out for a location up ahead where part of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was filmed:

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Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a good place to stand and capture the entire tree in the shot. It does look the same as in the movie, though. We also learned from these kind folk that the town from which I had booked our return tickets was actually 5 miles south of our end point along the wall. So, after traveling about 15 miles that day, we gave up and took a bus the additional 5 miles. We camped out in a hotel room that night and watched YouTube parodies of The Lord of the Rings. We were truly roughing it, as this hotel didn’t even provide us with little bottles of shampoo. The next day, we toured an abbey that was mostly constructed in the Middle Ages. It’s absolutely incredible to imagine the amount of effort and resources that went into constructing this building, which had enormous stained glass windows, grand stone arches, and a museum detailing its construction. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of this, as my phone ran out of battery life. We made it back safely and without having anything bad happen to us (which is unusual for our trips). My next post will be from Italy, the site of our next trip.

As a postscript to this post, I would like to mention that I was invited to listen to a talk on gay marriage given by a Catholic priest, who gave a number of arguments against it. The goal was to invite a dialogue with the queer community, but only one active member of the queer community attended. She asked some important questions, and the priest gave the response that many Church officials in the UK are considering support of same-sex civil unions. In the UK, these offer the same benefits as a marriage, but with a different title. This is a surprising difference between the marriage debate in the US, where many of the arguments for gay marriage stem from the desire for an equality of legal benefits. According to the priest, the debate in the UK is more about an equality of terminology. This is something I want to look into more, and the plan is for my next post to contain interviews of locals on their opinion of the matter. Gay marriage is still a topic of much debate here, and there were protests scheduled (but cancelled) by the queer community in response to allegedly anti-gay religious services being held on campus. With regard to a different debate, I encountered a man the other day who was distributing pamphlets arguing against Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, at the same university from which Darwin graduated, 156 years after the publication of The Origin of Species. It made me wonder if the debate about gay marriage would last just as long. Perhaps some debates are here to stay.

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Thinking about home

Time March 30th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, New Zealand | No Comments by

dscn1551 Well I guess its that time, I’ve been in New Zealand for about 1 1/2 months and i guess I am pretty well settled in, and now I should start telling you about it. Read More »

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