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Spraang Breeeeaaak

Time September 9th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

Last week, all of the Uni students were off for spring break.  It’s still weird thinking spring break is in August/September, but then I realized I’ll have TWO spring breaks this year, so I can’t complain.  Students travelled all over NZ to get a look of some of the greatest things the country has to offer.  I knew a lot of people who traveled to the north of the South Island to Abel Tasman.  That place is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in the country, which was confirmed when my flat mates came back from there and showed me their pictures from the beach tramp they did.  A few of my mates and I decided to do something a little different.  We figured this would be the best opportunity to travel to the North Island and see what’s happening up there.  We wanted to be adventurous and what’s more adventurous than renting a campervan and living/traveling in it for a full week?!  Let me tell you, this was one of the coolest experiences of my life.  Not only did we get to see the beauty of the north, but living in a van with four people was mean (Kiwi for cool, good, etc. I hope I’m using that right).  Everything is so tight you have no choice but to get to know the people you’re with and lucky for us, we all got along, no problems at all.

We started in Auckland and picked up our van, which we eventually named Rhonda because every car needs a solid name.  Then we began our trip going north to Matakana where we were able to take in an incredible sunset on a beach.  We travelled back down the east coast, stopping at Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula, which is better than advertised.  We continued down the coast driving through Tauranga and then moving inland through Rotorua and Taupo, three amazing places that I wish I had more time in.  We finished up in Wellington on Friday afternoon and were able to experience the Wellington Night Market and try some pretty unique food.  We flew back from Wellington to Dunedin on Saturday, exhausted, smelly, but with some of the best memories we’ve made since being in New Zealand.  Going back to school this week was not easy after such a great trip, but it definitely reignited the travel bug and I can’t wait for my next adventure!


If you want to read a more detailed version of my trip, check out my other blog .  In the next few days, I’ll be putting up a day by day break-down of where we were and what we did .  Cheers!


When the Tourist Becomes the Tour Guide

Time June 6th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

[alternative titles for this post: Spring Break 2016 // I Have Visitors! // Lauren Uses a Map!]

All I want to do right now is close my eyes and breathe. (is that a song?) This is for many reasons:

  1. I finally can do that now that I can breathe out of my nose again after being sick for the last 2 weeks.
  2. The Northern Ireland air is so fresh and crisp and beautiful!
  3. I’m finally done with my three essays and 1 final exam.
  4. I’m leaving in 1 week! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? I’M KIND OF FREAKING OUT!!

All of the above are also reasons why I’ve been absent from this blog for a while. Granted, I was already behind, but getting sick really knocked me out. It was terrible timing to get sick right after I came back from England a few weeks ago. I had papers to write and friends to hang out with, but I was also stuck inside for four days in bed while the weather was absolutely gorgeous. I literally sneezed and completely missed Ireland’s spring.

I was able to enjoy the beautiful weather over spring break though. My family came to visit me at the perfect time and enjoy Northern Ireland in all of its glory. I know it’s what you’ve all been waiting for, so without further ado, here’s a recap of my family’s visit during spring break!

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The City of Light (and Dark)

Time April 22nd, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Ah Paris, the city with perhaps the biggest reputation of all the places we visited, and a city I could not wait to explore. However, while the few days we were there were a ton of fun, they also unfortunately seemed to support the not-so-positive stereotypes of Paris being a difficult place to visit.

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Easter in Eastern Europe

Time April 20th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Ok confession time, I had every intention of posting a separate blog post about every city we visited over spring break but alas, the real world happened and I just didn’t have the time (or the internet connection) to be able to post as frequently as I wanted. But fret not! I am back in beautiful Cardiff with a steady Internet connection and a laptop that I know will not let me down on the posting front. Instead of a post for every city I’m going to do a little bit of condensing, but I think I’ve got it all organized! Without further adieu I give you Easter in Eastern Europe.

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My Mini Amazing Race

Time May 28th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Check out my video from my 20 day spring break adventure through Europe. Just think, this could be you! Do you think you could live out of a backpack? Where is your dream travel spot? Hopefully after seeing my video I can inspire you to check out some of the amazing places that I was able to visit! I hope you enjoy!!


Mid-Semester Break – The Trip of a Lifetime

Time May 6th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Words cannot describe the amazing time that I had on my mid-semester break, so I decided to make a video slideshow to show my journey from Brisbane to Cairns. Here it is! Enjoy!




Philosophical Moments in Neuquen

Time December 18th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be Talking about…

I. Neuquen

II. How to make empanadas

III. Vocabulario

IV. Musica

V. Previous posts

VI. Coming soon


I. Neuquen


I spent the first half of my September spring break in Valparaiso, and then I popped down to Neuquen to visit my friend Yamila who recently graduated from Soka. (1 hour stopover in Mendoza between Valpo and Neuquen—just enough time to brush my teeth in the bathroom and change my shirt. Felt like an absolute BOSS at traveling.) Both were great visits, but I never want to spend that much time on a bus again.


As much as I enjoyed Chile, it still felt so good to be back on Argentine soil. I hadn’t realized until I’d left how much Argentina had become a part of me, and not just in my accented Spanish. Although Neuquen was about 12 hours south of everything familiar to me in Argentina, I knew I was back “home” when I heard Yamila shout, “Che boludo!” in response to being tackled by a friend.


Neuquen probably won’t show up on your list of must-see locations in Argentina—it was pretty quiet—but I’ll say that it was definitely a pretty place. For me, it was the site of a lot of needed reflection on my experiences.


More than anything, it was a relief to reaffirm that I really had learned something about Argentine culture and I understood it now. When I first met her and learned she was from Argentina, it didn’t mean much to me–I had no idea I’d be living there for half a year. She could have just as easily been from Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, or Venezuela as far as I was concerned. So, the reality of her life outside of Soka was a complete mystery to me. Between arriving in Argentina and meeting up with her, I had a secret fear that upon talking to her I’d realize that I hadn’t actually learned “real” Argentine things or that I would have learned the “wrong” Argentine things…but there were no secrets and no mysteries. Her Argentina was the exact same Argentina that I was coming to know and love.


We spent a lot of time discussing what it meant to us to have traveled (while she was at Soka, she did her study abroad in Japan) and what we learned about ourselves in the process. After living in the US and Japan, she’s not purely Argentine anymore, culturally speaking. She lives in some gray zone in between all of them that will never exist on a map. And that’s how I’ve begun to feel too. I want to keep traveling until my body and/or budget force me to stop, I want to surround myself with people who also like and understand traveling, and I want to maintain a worldview that doesn’t cut off at the edge of my backyard.


And I guess that’s some of what they mean when they say you can never go home again.


One night we went to classical music concert, put on at one of the congressional buildings because they still don’t have an official concert hall building. (Yamila plays violin, so she had plenty of opinions about that. However, she’s also one of few Argentines I’ve talked to who actually likes la presidenta Cristina Krischner.)


By far, my favorite thing we did together was to sit on the bank of the river where she goes swimming every summer, sipping mate.


img_2797 img_2798 img_2800

A close second was making empanadas in her kitchen.


However, neither of the high points of Neuquen beat the moment when I came home to Mendoza. GLORY HALLELUJAH I’M OFF THE BUS. (Too bad the next weekend was the one I went to Cordoba—another long bus ride.) Because I got off the bus with a great big green backpacking backpack, hostel representatives came flocking to me, trying to sell me a night in one of their beds.


“Thanks, but I don’t need a hostel,” I said to one of them.


“Why not?”


“I live here, che!”


II. How to make empanadas


I think the recipe on this website explains it better than I can myself right now.  (I tend to use more hand gestures than words when explaining how to cook.) But I can offer you a couple of additional tips.


-Empanadas can be fried or baked, depending how unhealthy you want to be. Both are pretty simple—common sense, once you’ve read through these directions, but if you want to be very precise about it you can Google around and find exact temperature settings, how long to leave it in etc. (After using my host mom’s Oven of Death to make mother’s day cookies, I’ve kind of given up on precision.)


-You can also get pre-made dough if you don’t want to make it from scratch. Here in Argentina, you just buy the little circles of dough at the store. At home, flattened Pilsbury biscuits give you that flaky, buttery goodness.


-This bears mentioning again, even though it’s also included in the linked recipe: use water each time you want the dough to stick to itself. That’s the only real trick to it.


– Once you start using other fillings, you’re departing the territory of “authentic” empanadas, but if you like to cook and experiment, I say go for it. There’s not much that wouldn’t be delicious tucked inside an empanada. Here in Argentina, I’ve mostly seen beef (Chile has almost the exact same thing, which they call “pino” and includes hardboiled egg and one whole olive) but you can also find capresse, cheese, ham and cheese, chicken… etc. Once, back home in New Mexico, I had a sweet one with a sugary glaze on top and pumpkin inside. Let your stomach be your guide.


-That said, I wouldn’t recommend using salami as a filling. We attempted it and, although they were still tasty, it did a weird textural thing after we fried them.


III. Vocabulario


           Lomo – I believe I’ve told you a bit about this word once before. Well, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. It can refer to a) a cut of meat, usually in a sandwich, always delicious. b) A hot bod. c) Un lomo de burro, a speed bump. Turns out it’s because that cut of meat is off the rump reason, which is where all 3 uses come from.


Lloviznar – raining lightly (sprinkling, drizzling)


IV. Musica



In honor of Yamila’s Spanish-Japanese culture shock and its intersection with mine, here’s a song about a guy getting his Latin dance on in a Japanese city.


V. Previous posts

1. Antes de que me voy  Before I Leave 

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”  

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 

7. Trip to Las Termas

8. Daily life in Mendoza

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

12. My Mate for Life 

13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 

14. Pros and Cons 



VI. Coming soon

The Student’s Life
Trabajo Voluntario
Rafting in San Rafael

Chile Part II
The return to BA

Mar del Plata

A few tips on hostels

Reverse culture shock

Goals – accomplishments and compromises



“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” – Paul Theroux ~ Spring Break in September!

Time October 12th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

From being abroad for the past three and a half months, I’ve learned that what I love more than anything is to be more of a traveler than a tourist. I really like just going somewhere and discovering things to do, instead of having a scheduled itinerary and being stuck in one of those horrible buses having facts screamed at you that you’re never going to remember. But, when you travel, you get to do what you want, when you want, and how you want. To me, that’s so much more rewarding.

So, 4 am rolls around Thursday morning (the 20th of September), and myself and 3 of my friends grab a taxi to the Cairns Airport for our 6 am flight to Brisbane. And this is the beginning of spring break… in September haha! So, of course, our airport experience had to be stressful in some way (never runs smoothly, does it?). First, one of my friends couldn’t get his boarding pass to print, so he had to go to the counter. And, naturally, they wanted to weigh his bags. For the next 9 days, we decided to live out of a backpack and small carry on (which we packed to the brims and both items were WAY over the weight limit). So, the lady working at the counter wouldn’t give him his ticket until his bags weighed in at the right amount. So, we hid behind a ticket kiosk and just started unpacking all of his stuff and hiding it. Eventually, we made it through. However, once it was time to board the plane, my carry on became the item of concern. This is because it JUST met the measurement requirements. Before I boarded, I got pulled aside to place my bag in once of those pre-measured metal boxes. I literally forced my bag to fit (which it did), but the wheels were hanging out. The one airport attendant was like nope this is not acceptable, but the manager was like that’s fine just go through. So, for the rest of the flight, I was on this attendant’s bad side and he called me out two more times for having my phone out (the flight attendants didn’t even announce to put them away yet) and because my seat was slightly reclined (which I didn’t even notice haha). But, the rest of the flight was uneventful and we arrived in the Brisbane Airport at 8am. Then, we caught a taxi and headed to our hostel (Chill Backpackers). 

Chill backpackers was a decent place. The rooms were a little crammed and it was on the way outskirts of the city- but we managed. The first day we just explored Brisbane and at night went to the Brisbane Festival. Brisbane is a unique city, but there wasn’t too much to see or do in the area (which we soon found out from a travel company we talked to in town haha). But, the next day, five more of our friends flew in to Brisbane. So, we explored and decided that we wanted to go rollerblading. Rollerblading was awesome! It was years since any one of us had done it last, so we felt like we were little kids again. Later that afternoon, we had a brewery tour at XXXX Brewery (which we had to take a boat, a train, and a bus to get to haha). Then, that night, we were at the Brisbane Festival again enjoying the music and nightlife. The next day, we did some shopping in the city, grabbed dinner out, and packed up for the bus we had to take the next morning.

At 7:45am the next morning, we took a 6 hour bus ride to Hervey Bay. The bus wasn’t too bad, since we all got our own seat and basically slept the entire ride. Our hostel in Hervey Bay was perfect though! We got two cabins with beds, a kitchen area, and a bathroom. The hostel was located in a really residential area, but we were able to walk to the beach and the pier. The next day, we booked a day tour for Fraser Island -the largest sand island in the world! It was quite a trip to say the least and totally not what I expected. I’m not a big tour person (I hate being stuck in vans driving around all day and having like 5 minutes to see sites), but a tour was virtually the only way we would get to see the island. The roads were CRAZY- all sand, bumpy, and tricky. The huge tour buses were fine since they were equipped with the wheels and power engines to take on the sand. However, a lot of cars were stuck at points. Fraser Island was amazing though! The beaches were stunning, and we got to see a lot of gorgeous places on the island and even a few wild dingoes! 

The next morning, we were off on a whopping ten-hour bus ride to the Gold Coast (yes, we really didn’t plan this trip well haha). The amount of traveling we did was insane- but we loved every single moment of it. This was a long ride- but before we knew it we were in the Gold Coast at Aquarius Hostel! The next day, six of us decided we wanted to go deep sea fishing.  We are notorious for screwing up directions- so we ended up on the opposite side of the bay we were supposed to meet the boat. So, the boat came and picked us up so we could start the day on time. On the boat ride out, we caught smaller fish for bait and saw a few dolphins and a sea turtle. Then, for the entirety of the afternoon, we were out in the middle of the ocean fishing. We caught a ton of huge tuna from poles that were hanging off the back of the boat. I caught a bonita fish on my line, and another friend of mine caught a flathead. We were really pleased, since apparently the group that went fishing that very morning caught nothing. Also, on the ride back, we saw whales jumping out of the water. It was one of the coolest things I have ever witnessed and I can’t believe we saw it- simply incredible.


 When we got back to coast, we had to take the fish we caught with us (which the guys on the boat were nice enough to gut). However, we now had six huge tuna, a bonita fish, and a flathead fish in our possession, and our hostel didn’t have the knives we needed to filet. Therefore, I walked into a seafood shop and was wondering if I could make a deal with the people that if they filleted our fish for us we would give them some of our fish (market value of the tuna we caught was approximately $200-$300 a fish, and the flathead fish is valued at $70 per kilogram). Therefore, we had over a grand worth of freshly caught fish in our possession. I had the one lady who worked there convinced that it was a good deal, but then the manager came over and shot the idea down, saying he’d charge us per kilo to fillet the fish (which was way too expensive). So, we left the seafood shop, and a lady came out and told us to go to the camper van park and that there was more than likely someone there who had knives we could use. The camper van park was quite a trek (especially carrying 6 huge tuna), but we made it!  We were able to borrow two fillet knives and use their fish cleaning station. Our group became quite a spectacle haha- six girls filleting these HUGE fish. But, we did it! We took the filets home, marinated them, grilled them, and ate them- super delicious! That experience was probably one of the best and oddest things I have ever done haha. 

The next morning, we had surf lessons on the beach. Well, one of the many beaches (it was kind of on the outskirts of the Gold Coast). It was a great day for surfing- bright blue skies and awesome waves! Surfing wasn’t as hard as I expected, but that is probably because I have snowboarded and skateboarded before. However, it was completely exhausting and you got beat up a lot from the waves and what not. The rest of the day we spent on the gorgeous beach, which wasn’t too crowded and had a ton of adorable dogs running around on it. The following day we spent at the beach in Surfer’s Paradise, did some shopping, and ate out at a Chinese restaurant. 

The next day, we took a flight home to Cairns. And we were COMPLETELY exhausted. It was quite the adventure! And it’s something we will always cherish, with all of the crazy mishaps and what not. But, it is always good to be home. Living in crammed hostels for so long was kind of wearing on me. But, we made it, and we got to see a lot of different places in Australia. And, I am pleased to say, we were definitely travelers more than tourists (which makes me INCREDIBLY happy). Here’s to one month left in Australia!


Spring Break: Part 3

Time October 10th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After an exciting week in Queenstown we continued on to Te Anau in order to experience Fiordland. We did part of the Routeburn track which I really enjoyed. I wish we could have done more of it since we only got to hike about three hours out before turning around. We made it to our goal though which was an amazing waterfall. It was a great day and really got me excited for the Milford Track which I will be doing in a few weeks. The views throughout the hike were amazing and even the ride in was fun due to all the views.

The next day we went to Milford Sound. We hit snooze a few too many times and were running a little late for our cruise that we pre booked. This caused us to do a little speeding to make up time. I do not recommend it. The road to the sound is extremely curvy and it was quite a scary experience. We made it just in time though. We literally had to run out to the boat as it was pulling away from the dock. The cruise was well worth the stressful morning though. It started off a little slow but once we got further out in the harbor the views were amazing. We were lucky enough to have it rain too which usually would be a bad thing. In this case though the rain adds to the beauty. Whenever it rains tons of waterfalls form along the rocks. Even though it wasn’t raining hard it was still a site to see. Also, we encountered a pod of dolphins which was a really nice surprise since I didn’t even know that was a possibility. Milford Sound was really nice but it didn’t fully live up to my expectations. It seems like everyone thinks that is the number one thing to do in New Zealand but I personally think the glacier walk was more interesting. That night we just relaxed at our hostel which was much needed.

The next day we thought it would be a good idea to drive to Dunedin via the scenic highway. We drove all the way down to Bluff so that we could be at the southern most point in New Zealand. We got some oysters there which were amazing! Expensive but amazing. Then we continued with our journey and drove up along the coast. We stopped at Nugget Point right as the sun was setting. We kind of underestimated the amount of time we would spend in the car so we didn’t get to do all the little side trips we would have liked but it was still a nice day. We arrived in Dunedin around 8pm and after getting some food we all went to bed since we were so tired. I never want to be in a car for ten hours in one day ever again!

On our first full day in Dunedin we took a few tours. We started the day with a tour of Cadbury Chocolate. It was the most delicious tour ever since we got so much candy. They even gave us little cups of melted chocolate which was the highlight for me. After the tour Caroline, Lauren and I went over to the University of Otago campus to get some lunch. The campus is really nice and kind of made me wish that I studied there. After filling up on some cheap food we made our way over to the Speights Brewery for another tour. It was really informative and was a lot better than the wine tour. After we finished walking around the brewery they took us into a room where we could sample the beers. I didn’t plan on starting to drink at 2pm but who am I to complain. After the free beer tasting we went next door to the pub and met up with Adam and Nick who are in Megan and Lauren’s group. After a while we decided we needed some food so we went to this mexican restaurant near the octagon which is the center of the city. It was the first place with real mexican food so I was pretty excited. That night we went back to the hostel and played some drinking games with the other people staying at the hostel. It was really nice to hang out in the common room since before this part of the trip we were always too busy or tired to just hang out. I met people from England, France, Hong Kong, Germany and Ireland. It was really fun and talking to them made me change my views on travel. I always thought traveling was something that people who couldn’t find jobs after graduation did. But now I really want to travel after I graduate. Everyone I met was so happy and social that it seems like a really fun thing to do.

On our last full day in Dunedin we went to Baldwin Street which is the steepest street in the world. Megan and I ran up most of it but got a little tired before reaching the top. We then made our way to the botanical gardens. They were not as good as the ones in Christchurch but there was a really cool aviary. Once our friend Adam finished his tour of Cadbury we went over and picked him up to go to the peninsula. We went to the only castle in New Zealand which was a little underwhelming but still a cool thing to say you saw. After that we went on a quest to see some penguins and sea lions. Sadly we couldn’t see any penguins without taking a tour which we didn’t want to pay for. We did end up seeing a sea lion though. That night a big group of us from the hostel went out in Dunedin. It was a blast and was the perfect way to start wrapping up the trip.

On our last full day on the south island we went back to the peninsula to try and find more sea lions. We ended up finding quite a bit and even got to roll down the sand dune on our way to the beach. After hanging our with the sea lions for a bit we started the trek back to Christchurch.

The next morning we woke up before dawn in order to catch our flight back to Auckland. I couldn’t have had a better spring break! It was a blast and really made me start to thing about what I want to do after graduation. I now know that I want to have a year of just backpacking around at some point in my life.


Operation Spring Break: Milano!

Time May 29th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello my glorious blog readers!  Welcome to another addition of my spring break abroad.  Destination: Milan, Italy.  On this part of my journey, I traveled primarily alone, which was a unique and unforgettable experience.  I was in Milan from April 15-18.

Before I departed for Milan, I spent a few days at Palma de Mallorca, Spain.  This was intended for a nice relaxing few days on a beach, but it was mostly raining and chilly.  Palma is an island located in the Mediterranean Sea.  It has a beautiful cathedral with a nice city centre.  I wish I was able to get outside of the city because it has pretty views and great hikes.  I also realized how much Spanish I lost since I stopped taking it in high school.  Whoops.


View of the city centre


A beautiful walkway along the city centre


Cathedral de Mallorca

Sunday, April 15 – I flew into Bergamo (about 45 minutes northeast of Milan) at seriously the smallest airport I’ve ever been in.  I was in and out of there in about 15 minutes, and without an immigration check.  Since I was in Spain before I arrived in Italy, I bypassed all immigration thanks to the Schengen Agreement.  The Schengen area comprises of 26 European countries that eliminates border controls with other Schengen members.  You do need your passport when first arriving into a Schengen country, but then you have free control to travel for 90 days in those 26 designated countries without stopping at border controls.  The United Kingdom and Ireland are not part of the Schengen Agreement, so whenever I enter the UK and enter/leave the Schengen area, I have to go through immigration.  It’s kind of a shame because I go to so many cool places, but I have very few passport stamps to show for it.  But quite honestly, it is a massive time saver.

After arriving at the hotel, I went out for my first Italian dinner: penne arrabiata with pane, a glass of white wine, and a glass of champagne.  There was quite an interesting mix at the restaurant.  The two waiters were hilarious older men both fluent in English.  They both made me feel welcome in my first night in Italy.  The restaurant customers were also international, which added to the interesting mix of Milan.  I found out very early that many Italians spoke English pretty well, and it could be that way because Milan is Italy’s industrial city.

Monday, April 16 – I checked out a travel book of Milan from the Cardiff library, and it had guided walks that I spent the entire day walking on.  I walked to many different cathedrals, parks, ancient infrastructure from the Roman Empire, and castles.  I stopped for a slice of pizza and ate it at the Santa Maria delle Grazie, the church that holds Da Vinci’s Last Supper.  The great thing about Milan is that it is easy to get around; the city is not that big.  You can walk everywhere, and there is an underground train system for fast travel.


A bridge at Parco Sempione


Alter at the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio


The best known Roman ruins in Milan, Colonne di San Lorenzo, date back to the 2nd Century


Naviglio Grande, a canal that used to be important for trading is now home to cute restaurants and bars

Tuesday, April 17 – I went on a walking tour of Milan that included going into the Duomo, stopping for a café break, and checking out The Last Supper.  The Duomo was very impressive, but I wish I had a chance to check it out longer.  I would have liked to walk up to the top of the cathedral; the views are supposed to be amazing.  There were large stained glass windows with tapestries everywhere.  After the Duomo, we went to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is between the Teatro alla Scala and the Duomo.  The Galleria holds designer stores with extremely overpriced restaurants.  We later stopped at a café where I had a cannoli and some tourists had tiramisu.  I met tourists from all over the world, but my group consisted of mostly Americans.  After walking a bit throughout Milan, we ended up at Santa Maria delle Grazie where we saw The Last Supper.  You need tickets in order to see the fresco, and they sold out.  Luckily, the tour provided tickets, and it wouldn’t be a trip to Milan without seeing The Last Supper.  The fresco is held in the most unbelievable room ever: it is completely pollution free.  They are very strict about the amount of people seeing the fresco at one time, which is a huge change from years ago when tourists could walk right in without a problem.  The painting underwent a massive restoration that took 21 years to complete, and it seriously looked stunning for a 15th Century wall painting.  There is another massive fresco on the wall opposite to The Last Supper, but no one noticed.  It is quite unfortunate because it is a beautiful fresco, but people overlook it because of The Last Supper on the opposite wall.



The Duomo


The stained glass windows at the Duomo


Inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II


With my cannoli!


At the Santa Maria delle Grazie on my way to see The Last Supper

Once the tour was over, I found an amazing gelato place that specializes in chocolate gelato.  After a quick break at my hotel, I went out to dinner with a mutual acquaintance who was studying abroad in Milan.  We went out for pizza, espresso, and cannolis at night.  It was nice to see a different perspective of Milan through the eyes of a local student.  We walked to the Duomo, and it was packed with people trying to sell you things.  One thing I hated about the tourist places: it was crowded with foreigners trying to sell you useless things like stupid toys, umbrellas (even though I had one), sunglasses, etc.  I found this everywhere I went, and I was always worried this was some elaborate scheme for them to steal my wallet.


My amazing gelato


At a chocolate bar enjoying a wonderful espresso

Wednesday, April 18 – I had a few hours to kill before my flight to Barcelona, but it was pouring.  I toughed out the weather for one last gelato, and at the shop, I noticed two Americans ordering a gelato.  They totally stood out with their massive backpacks and their mannerisms.  At the airport, I ran into the same Americans from the gelato shop while in line to get on the airplane.  I found out they were in a group of five students, all of them studying abroad University of Iowa students, and all of them from the Chicago area.  It was completely unreal.

Italian word of the day:  Bar.  When we think of bars, we think of parties, alcohol, beer, whatever.  When you see the word “bar” in Italy, be prepared for coffee drinks and desserts instead of ale.


Six Weeks of Europe

Time May 7th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Internet access, I have come to find out, is not always the most reliable when you are European-country-hopping for six weeks and staying in budget hostels.

Nevertheless, I have returned from the excursion of a lifetime back into the eagerly awaiting and open arms of my dear Oxford. Yet another reason why I urge anyone studying abroad to spend at least a whole semester (two terms at Oxford) abroad: It will take at least the first several weeks just to get acclimated to your surroundings. Come Spring Break time, you’re eager to get out and explore, which is amazing and mandatory in every sense of the word. Yet it is an equally wonderful feeling to know that, while you are looking forward to going back to your home home, you have a new home-ish city to return to. Coming back to Oxford really did feel like coming to a home away from home. It’d be such a shame to miss out on that feeling– I’m definitely not ready to say goodbye yet.

I decided the next few posts will be more photo bloggish on account of me feeling like I’m swimming in photos. I’ll pick a few pictures of from each city I traveled to (in order, for the most part): Wales with the Butler group, Dublin, London, Matlock, Paris, Florence, Rome, Venice, Salzburg, Vienna, Prague, and Amsterdam. I’ll spread them out over the next few posts, however, so as to not entirely crash the internet.

(I’m hoping to create some sort of video slideshow with music and all of that nice stuff, but I can’t make any promises as to when that will be accomplished. If I put it in parentheses I don’t feel quite as guilty if it takes longer than planned.)

It was a beautifully, delightfully long six weeks of travel. I feel like I soaked up a big part of the world I’d never experienced before. And, let me tell you, it feels good.

So now, let us begin in Wales, London, Matlock, and Dublin.

The Butler excursion to Wales was unbelieeevably fun. A couple weeks before you go, they let you list some top picks for activities you’d like to do. Some choices are half- and full-day hikes, a castle tour, a trip to a beach town that I currently forget the name of (Welsh is not a pronounceable language, mind you), kayaking, canoeing, a high ropes course, mountain biking, etc. I elected to do the castle tour to get a bit of history, a trip to the beach town, and a half-day hike (a word of warning. By half-day hike, they do not mean ‘leisurely walk through a nice park.’ It is very, very much a hike. But a breathtaking one, at that). It was a wonderful three days conveniently placed right at the end of my term. Lovely to see all of the Butler friends we met at the London orientation, and the perfect way to start of what was to become an insane six weeks straight of travel.

I then headed off to Dublin for about a week to visit a friend of mine who’s living there. I elected to take the ferry, per one of my tutor’s suggestions. Cheaper than flying? Probably. It depends. I for one went during the week of St. Patty’s Day, so all of the flight prices were painful to even look at. The ferry will cost you about £40 each way. It’s kind of a fun, new way to travel. Depending on the ferry you take, it can take either 3.5 hours or 1.5. The 3.5-hour is essentially a floating hotel. It is massive and comfortable, though pretty slow. The appropriately named “Jonathan Swift” ferry is what it promises. Swift. But in ferry-speak that also means 1.5 hours of so much sloshing around that it takes all the concentration you have in you just to make walk 20 feet to the bathroom. I’ll leave the pro and con weighing up to you. Overall, I’d recommend it as a method of travel.

ANYWAY. Dublin is just wonderful. It has all the old-world-y charm of London, but at about a quarter of the insanity levels. It’s a much easier city to be in, overall. Don’t get me wrong- I absolutely love London. Dublin is a bit more relaxing, however. Some must-sees: Trinity College, the Book of Kells (staggeringly awesome), the Guinness and/or Jameson factory tours should you so desire. Also! I HIGHLY recommend catching a train to Howth. A lot of tourists seem to be under the impression that you can’t see the impressive, obligatory Irish cliffs/ocean views unless you’re on the west coast. THIS IS SILLY. The train takes all of 45 minutes, and plops you down in a charming seaside village. If you walk away from the station east toward the ocean, you can walk up into some of the neighborhood streets, which will then lead you up to some mind-blowing hiking paths. Do it. For the sake of your Dublin experience, please do it.

My Dad then flew into London, where we stayed for a couple days. The must-sees here are all pretty obvious and easy to find. Unfortunately, I haven’t spend enough time there to really have insight into the cool, lesser-known things. But I’m sure all of the London study abroad folk have and would be happy to recommend some. All I can say is, prepare to be impressed. London is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. It’s stressful, busy, sometimes difficult to navigate, and if you don’t go in with an open mind and a patient attitude I can see it being easy to be overwhelmed by (especially if you’re like me and until now have been inept in the ways of travel). So the solution is simple: be open-minded and patient. You will get SO much out of the city when you are. Trust me. So much.

And lastly (for now) is Matlock. Matlock is an area of the Peak District, Derbyshire in England. It’s a couple hours outside of London, I believe (after taking at least a dozen trains, I can’t even remember the timing of it all). Let me attempt to convey the beauty of this place. Have you seen the 2005 Pride and Prejudice? Do you remember Mr. Darcy’s house? Firstly, if you haven’t, I recommend that film. Secondly, and more importantly, I recommend this place more than just about anything. The kindest people I’ve encountered in Europe to this day (we got hopelessly lost, found out we were a whole town away from our hotel, and a realtor offered to drive us in her miniature car to the hotel, if that helps describe it). It’s like wandering around some kind of dreamland. Full of the tiniest, most charming towns you can imagine. Hills everywhere. And just. So. Much. Green. London and Oxford are relatively flat, so this place was very unexpected. Chatsworth House (Mr. Darcy’s House) is, in my opinion, THE must-see here. It’s a massive palace full of some incredible art (the sculpture room, also in the movie, is stunning). And the grounds are enormous. Gardens everywhere, one of the most beautiful views you’ll ever see, and I just can’t even think of anything else to say except ‘go there.’

I think you’re probably with me when I say that’s enough for this time around. I’ll return with some, hopefully slightly more brief, words and photos of the other cities. And then I’ll return to blogging about life in Oxford, when I can focus on some more interesting writing rather than feeling completely overwhelmed by how much I have left to post. Stay tuned for Italy!

Travel-high-ly, sincerely, and until next time,




Rugby World Cup Highlights

Time September 14th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on Rugby World Cup Highlights by

I spent my Spring Break in Auckland, New Zealand with the main goal of experiencing the Rugby World Cup. These are the video highlights from the Opening Ceremonies and Opening match.

Find more videos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University