Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Returning in time for the time crunch

Time April 27th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

I’ll be brief. Possibly. Don’t hold me to it.

I’m back from Edinburgh! Seeing my parents again after so long was lovely, as was having the stress of living and stuff taken off my shoulders for a bit. Admittedly I’m a rubbish cook and spend most of my time going to food courts instead of cooking, but still. Nice to have home-cooked food again, at least. Travel, as always, is both fun and exhausting. There’s something to be said for doing a whirlwind trip up the U.K., but the drain that puts on you from having to sleep somewhere new every night isn’t nothing. It’s worth it, though, and I think that’s what matters most.

So. I got back on Saturday night and had a prior engagement (read: Dungeons & Dragons, because I am a Nerd), which meant that Sunday was more properly the time I was back. And Sunday is a lovely day to come home on and all, it really is, but there was a slight hiccup in that I had an essay due. On Tuesday. Not a small essay either. There was some fretting, a lot of time spent in the library, and more coffee than either I or my stomach can comfortably think about. It got done, mind you, but it probably wasn’t the prettiest thing I’ve written. I wonder if I should regret that, that my work suffered a bit, but I find that I don’t. Traveling abroad entails a little bit of putting the experience of travel in front of the experience of schooling, I think. I’m broadening my horizons in a deliciously literal sense, and if the grade I’m getting in a class that is only pass/fail suffers a bit for it, then I suppose that’s a price I can live with. That’s not carte blanche advice to flip school the bird and go off into the sunset, mind, but the scales needn’t be as exactingly even as you might have them be at other times. To each their own.

I’m still daydreaming about Vindolanda. Emperor Hadrian almost certainly stayed there while supervising the construction of Hadrian’s Wall, did you know? They found evidence of a really high-quality home under the stones recently; they think that’s probably where he lived. For buildings that no longer stand, the stones at Vindolanda still house a lot of amazing stories. I’ll tell you more about all that later, though. For now: more essays. And travel considerations. You know the drill.

Share

Travel Fun

Time April 24th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

Greetings from Edinburgh and a cozy hobbit-hole home that’s outfitted like a mansion. The next few posts might be a bit out of order in terms of temporal progression; I’ve been doing a bit of travel, and things tend to get mixed up along the way. That’s a good sign. It means I’ve been having fun.

Now, it was last Friday that my parents came to visit. I’d been expecting the visit and looking forward to it, for the simple reason that I am a very, very tactile creature and there is a necessary adaptation period before you can hug your new friends without it being awkward. No such barrier exists among family; my parents have gotten many, many hugs over the last few days. It’s been very nice traveling across the U.K. with them in a car (the first time I’ve been in a car in three months, in fact), staying at places that range from a ridiculously massive and swanky hotel by the Thames in London to a tiny little inn out in Partney, Nowhere. All of the experiences have been great, especially since I’m not the one paying. Of course, not every piece of traveling with parents is ideal. After three months of setting my own schedule and not having to rely on or wait on anyone else for my plans, being just along for the ride is a bit jarring. Getting told what to do after a time of essentially making your way in life alone takes some getting used to. I imagine this is one of these things that’s more or less tolerable depending on the sort of person you are, and the sort of relationship you have with your family. I’m lucky – as long as I have a book, I don’t really mind what it is we’re up to. And the things we’ve gotten up to while traveling are well worth any small frustrating. Read More »

Share

UK Travels

Time April 19th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

During the month of April I went to England and Northern Ireland. My first stop was London, England. I was meeting a friend who’s also studying abroad this semester; the same friend that I traveled to Amsterdam with! London is a very busy city with a lot of people in it! At times it was a little overwhelming. It was nice that the public transportation was so easy though. It was also nice that it runs 24/7! That can be something frustrating about Scotland’s public transportation. Although the public transportation was pretty intense in London, it was relatively easy to navigate! Of course I was with somebody who knew where they were but I think it would have been fine if I wasn’t. On the first night we went to a play! It was called “A Comedy about a Bank Robbery”. It was pretty funny and was about exactly what the title says! The humor was just silly and didn’t require much thought! It was nice to just relax and watch a play for pure entertainment.

The next day we went to Westminster, which is the main tourist site! It was interesting because I had been there about 11 years ago and once I walked off the tube I had this overwhelming sense of nostalgia. I was transported back to my 9 year old self. It was such a wonderful and exciting feeling! I’ve never experienced something like that before. The power of nostalgia was so strong! At this moment I captured a picture of Big Ben, which I’m really proud of! I feel like it came out so well! Read More »

Share

Bonsoir and Happy Days

Time April 11th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

After a jam packed month filled with many weekends away, I concluded my March trips with a quick stop in Paris where I met up with my sister Hailey and my cousin Erin as they were passing through on their travels. Writing that sounds crazy, that we just “met up in Paris for the weekend,” because how often does that happen? Life is pretty cool.

Throughout the weekend we did the typical Parisian tourist activities; we walked through the Notre Dame, strolled down the Champs-Élysées, ate crepes and macaroons and drank good wine, and we saw the Eiffel tower. But I think my favorite part was just being with family. At night in our AirBnB we would play cards and chat just like we would any other time back at home, and after a few months away from home those moments meant so much.

paris paris2 eifel

And as for the city and Parisians, they’re a lot nicer than the stereotype suggests. We shopped at a French market one morning and all of the vendors were so kind to us. The city is dirty, as they say, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. To be honest, Cardiff is a dirtier city than Paris. Regardless, I recommend spending some time in Paris if you get the chance. There is literally nothing happier than eating a banana and nutella crepe while strolling through the Luxembourg Gardens. Although as hard as it was to say “au revoir” to the city, it was even harder to say goodbye to Hailey and Erin

Another glimpse of home I got recently was a visit from Joe—something I had been counting down the days for. On Wednesday at 2 AM I left my flat for the early bus to London, where I took a second bus to Gatwick airport. After waiting the longest 30 minutes I think I’ve ever waited, I saw Joe coming out of Arrivals and we got our movie like airport reunion. Okay that may be a little dramatic but it was so nice to see him after so long. We took a bus into the city and spent the afternoon in London. Read More »

Share

A Break in Uruguay

Time March 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

The weekend before classes really started everyone in the Buenos Aires program was swept away for a short vacation in Uruguay. The first few weeks had been intense, with us trying to get a grip on a new country, getting used to living 24/7 in Spanish, and working with a completely different university system. Uruguay was a chance for a break before we had to buckle down.

Read More »

Share

Trains, Planes, and Buses that Depart at 2 AM

Time March 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | 1 Comment by

Spring has sprung! And Cardiff is filled with blooming daffodils that are literally everywhere. Each day that I run through Bute Park (gotta counteract all of those Welsh cakes) brings more and more of the bright yellow flowers that are sprouting up everywhere. I’m pretty convinced that by the end of the month I won’t be able to see grass anymore, just daffodils. Speaking of the end of the month, it’s March. Who would have though I’d have made it this far?

Anyways; it’s March, my hair has gotten longer, I’ve turned in three essays, I’ve learned how to make a proper meal, and I’ve gotten to season six of Gilmore Girls. And if you have any intentions of watching Gilmore Girls sans spoilers I suggest that you stop reading this now because I am about to spoil the ending of season five, and I’m deeply sorry for any pain this may cause. Rory is leaving Yale. She’s dropping out. She’s having an existential crisis, doesn’t know what she wants out of life, and is making rash decisions that will have pretty big repercussions in her life.

So you’re probably thinking, Alex, why are you writing about Gilmore Girls? Well I’ll tell you: watching her make these big, monumental decisions made me feel some sort of solidarity with her. Not that I’m dropping out of Drake, or Cardiff, or moving into my grandparents’ pool house, but I’m reaching the point in my semester where I’m questioning what I want out of my time here, and if I’m getting it. I’ve blinked and suddenly I’m halfway done with my time here. I don’t know how it happened, but I’m realizing one distinct fact: four months is not enough time abroad.

I remember my first week here—I was so sick, which made me homesick, which made me wonder what I had gotten myself into. I remember talking to my mom about how many of my friends who went abroad for j-term were just getting home and getting ready to go back to Drake for the semester. I asked her, “Should I have just done that?” She told me no, I’d be mad at myself if I didn’t have a whole semester.

Mom, I know you’re reading this and so I’m just going to encourage you to refrain from jumping up and down with glee as I write these three words: you were right. A j-term simply wouldn’t have been enough time. It wouldn’t have given me a chance to get homesick every now and again, to struggle through the tough days where everything seems unfamiliar, and to learn how to be on my own. All of which aren’t always pleasant experiences, but what self-growth comes from easy days and familiarity? A j-term also wouldn’t have been enough time to travel everywhere I want, to see all of the sights that are on my bucket list (which seems to get longer and longer every time I go to cross something off), and to make the friendships that I’m finding myself surrounded by. I’m not even sure four months is enough for all of those things even with every weekend jam-packed with travelling like mine have been, which I will now segue into describing.

The other weekend I left my cozy room in Cardiff to head to the lovely town of Lucerne, Switzerland—a place I fell in love with completely. It was one of those places that make you say “I have to come back here someday.” It had all of my favorite things—mountains, a lake, and really great cheese. The weekend was magical for many reasons, but there are two things in particular that I will probably always think back on with a smile when I reminisce on my trip to Switz: Fasnacht and Mount Rigi.

Fasnacht taught me something about the Swiss people—they are doing something right. It’s a carnival that runs from Thursday to Tuesday right before Ash Wednesday that’s dedicated to eating, drinking, and dressing up in elaborate costumes that put my 20 years of Halloween outfits to shame. Confetti covers the streets where marching bands parade up and down playing music all throughout the night (and at 5:30 on Monday morning because apparently that’s part of the tradition too). Food trucks are everywhere with grilled sausages, raclette cheese, and warm wine. There were people of all ages, all adorned in costumes, and all seemingly having a wonderful time. It was amazing. It was filled with joy, and I consider myself to be so incredibly lucky that my one weekend in Switzerland fell over this carnival.

fasnacht

But it gets better. Ever heard of the Swiss Alps? That was a joke I’m sure you have. Have you ever seen them from across a sparkling lake on a sunny day? I’m bragging now but Katie, Annelise, and I hiked up Mount Rigi and had lunch on a grassy hill with a view that can only be described as a glimpse of heaven. I’m pretty sure I heard the hallelujah chorus to Handel’s “Messiah” as I took a bite out of my prosciutto sandwich.

swiss

My final note on Switzerland is the inspiration for this blogs title “Trains, Planes, and Buses that Depart at 2 AM.” I’ve decided that when I’m old and rich and much less spry I am always going to get the most direct mode of transportation everywhere I go. And I say this because Katie and I left our flats at 2 AM to catch our first bus, which took us to London. After, we took a second bus to get us to the airport. We flew. We landed in Zurich, late, and had to find our way through a Swiss train station and figure out how on earth to get to Lucerne. Our trip took 15 hours. That’s all that needs to be said on that.

Another trip that took half a day (literally 12 hours on a bus) was my journey to Scotland. Riley and I left our flat at 6:30 AM and were on a bus for pretty much the rest of the day. We ate dinner that night at a place called “The Boozy Cow” and were so hungry I think we both finished our burgers in under four minutes. On Saturday we went on an all day tour through the highlands, saw loch ness (the lake not the monster), and met a few other girls who were also travelling. We went out with them that night and on a walking tour through Edinburgh with them the following day. Then it was back on a bus for 12 hours, but Scotland was beautiful and the trip was so worth it.

scot

In between Scotland and Switzerland was a weekend trip to Lake District, England planned by IFSA-Butler. The food was delicious, there were mountains abound, we went Ghyll Scrambling, and most of all: it was a trip that I didn’t have to plan a single thing for. I was told when and where to be places and all I had to do was show up and enjoy the weekend, which feels like paradise after a weekend of navigating a 15-hour long puzzle of transportation.

ghyll ld

So I’m at this point in the semester where I’m halfway through and I’m wondering what I want out of my time here, and if I’m getting it. And here’s the answer: I don’t know what I want out of it anymore, but I’m getting something. When I first signed up to come abroad I thought it was going to be all adventures and wild stories but I’m finding it to be more of an educational experience than anything. I’m learning how to travel, how to interact with people who have had completely different upbringings than myself, and I’m learning what I like and what I don’t like. I’ve learned how to travel independently, how to cook a meal, and, thanks to my flat mate Katie, how to say the longest Welsh city, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

So you stuck with me through this odyssey of a post and another small glimpse of my time abroad. Enough realizations about life and such for now—I’m off to go eat more Welsh cakes.
Cheers,

Alex

Share

Losing signal and finding connections

Time March 22nd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

img_0841

Picture 1 of 3

The rest of our travels passed in a blur of long bus rides, new experiences and adrenaline. We often went without wifi or service for days at a time and when we did have internet connection, it was not strong enough to work on my computer. Although this made it difficult to blog, it allowed me to take a step back from the comfort and personal value that I had been conditioned to place in my phone as a means to connect with the people around me. Not having access to internet reminded me that the way to truly connect with the world and with others expands far beyond a two by five-inch screen. This, it seems to me, is perhaps the most widely acknowledged yet rarely practiced idea relating to our relationship with technology today. We all make jokes about walking around like zombies with our heads bent into our phones and as soon as the laughter stops we go right back to refreshing our Instagram pages every ten minutes looking for posts and connections to people that we barely even know beyond the realm of social media. And why? Because it has become a social construct that is engrained so deeply within us that it’s difficult to truly understand it as a type of addiction until we are forced from it by one thing or the other. For me, I was amazed by how many times I would be traveling through rural Paraguay or Bolivia and I would unlock my iPhone and stare at the screen or start to open Facebook, knowing full well that I didn’t have service or internet connection. My hands moved automatically out of habit and it took a frustratingly long time to decondition myself but, once I was able to, I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom and simplicity in being able to enjoy each moment without distractions. Read More »

Share

Scheduling, Train fun, and York

Time March 20th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

This isn’t a process unique to traveling abroad, but it’s rather more applicable now than it is when I’m at home. University is going well; I’m enjoying two of my classes, and surviving my third, which in a pass/fail environment is just fine. I’m enjoying my free time on campus immensely, but a lot of the time I want to travel. Sometimes to London, and sometimes somewhere else. The challenge is finding the time, when weekends are often booked with closer-to-home activities. Thankfully, the trains here run like clockwork, and my schedule has an open Wednesday. Enter York: a one night, one-day trip with a loooooot of train time at both ends. When your weekends are for travel and manuscript editing, creativity, booking in advance, and bringing a good book for the train are your best friends.

York is only about four hour’s travel from Norwich by train. Not awful, but not great either. I picked it because I wanted to meet my friend Conor, who’s currently studying at St. Andrews up in Scotland, somewhere roughly halfway between us. York was the answer we came up, more than slightly influenced by the absolutely gorgeous architecture and historic sites the city is known for. I booked the train tickets and the student hostel we spent the night at a couple weeks in advance to save money, and so the journey was set. We both left Tuesday afternoon, and arrived just in time for a late dinner in the city. We were tempted to stop at the Pizza Express that had taken residence in the fanciest building I’d seen thus far, complete with marble pillars outside and everything. Seriously. I guess that’s what happens when all the buildings in the city center are centuries old: you get to have fun with the space you rent. We spent the following day hitting all the sites York is famous for: York Minster, the cathedral with some of the most stunning stained glass I’ve ever seen and a climb to the top of the tower that almost killed me, Clifford’s Tower (famous for less pleasant reasons, but still a very pretty standing ruin on a hill covered in daffodils), the York Castle Museum, the old Roman bathhouse ruins preserved under a local pub, and of course the walls that still surround the city center. Walking around the city from atop centuries-old walls was probably the best way to start the day that I could have imagined.

And then it was over. We had a great time, and got on our respective trains and back to our respective universities a little after ten o’clock. I don’t know how eager I would’ve been for the trip if I hadn’t spent so much time planning it out in advance, so let me just make that very clear: planning ahead is your friend, especially when you need to get creative about not missing class. Studying abroad has it in two words, and you can’t forsake one entirely for the other. So spend that extra hour making sure everything is good to go a week before it happens, and see if you can’t squeeze in that visit to a centuries-old cathedral between classes.

Share

Adventure in the Argyll Forest with IFSA Scotland

Time March 16th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

Our first big excursion organized by IFSA was to the Argyll Forest, one of the oldest national parks in Scotland. We left on a Friday afternoon by taking a private bus into the highlands, including a ferry ride over the Holy Loch from the town of Gourock to Dunoon, our destination. According to our driver, we were accompanied by dolphins on the ferry ride back, but none of us could spot them.

Once arriving at our home for the weekend, the Benmore Nature Education Center, we met IFSA students from the other Scottish universities (Edinburgh, St. Andrews, and Stirling) for the first time. We spent Friday night exploring the impressive nature surrounding us through an exhilarating night hike through the gardens in the pitch dark with no “torches” (flashlights) to guide us. Read More »

Share

Argyll Forest Weekend

Time March 16th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

For the first ifsa-butler trip we visited the Argyll Forest! We left University of Stirling at 2:00pm and then headed out to pick up Glasgow students! After we picked them up we drove to the coast and then took a ferry across the water! It was crazy that the coach bus fit on the ferry! I had never been on a ferry that was able to hold an entire bus so it was an interesting experience for me! Once we made it to dry land again we had to drive to the hostel that we were staying at. It looked more like a castle than a hostel! Finally, we were able to unpack our things and get settled in our bunk beds. We proceeded to have dinner and then went on a night hike! The night hike was interesting because it was so dark so you didn’t even really know who was next to you! It was nice to be outside in pitch black and have to experience through senses other than sight! I was very happy that I brought my rain boots on this journey because most paths were pretty muddy. After a long day of travel I laid down to sleep! The next day would be action packed! Read More »

Share

La Campana

Time March 14th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

dsc_7955

Picture 1 of 12

 

Waking up at 6:00 AM is never something I enjoy doing but it was well worth it for this trip. La Campana is a beautiful national park about 90 minutes from the city of Valparaiso. Myself and nine others arrived at the park around 9:30 AM–after taking two buses to get there–and began the steep and challenging 5K hike to La Mina (the mine). It took about three hours to reach it but the time was well spent with stories, laughter, and great views shared among all.  Upon reaching La Mina, we were greeted by a spectacular view of rolling mountains and open blue sky. In addition to the beautiful scenery, La Mina also housed an old mine open for exploration. It was a little creepy and most of us decided not to venture very far in but, what is study abroad if not embracing your discomfort, so me and another girl Kelli explored the caverns and tunnels for a while pondering about the people that would have once worked there and how their lives must have been. After relishing in the beauty of our surroundings and enjoying a nice picnic lunch, we began the journey down the mountain. The trek back  was filled with more bonding discussion and we didn’t even realize we had finished until we were back at the welcome hut. We returned back to Valpo that evening thoroughly exhausted but incredibly happy with the day and the memories made.

Share

Adjustments and Explorations in Buenos Aires

Time March 13th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

Going to a new place always requires an adjustment, but I was surprised by what felt completely normal and what I’m still getting used to here in Argentina. When I first arrived, Buenos Aires was in the middle of a heat wave. From my first step out of the airport until the miraculous day a week later when a storm hit and the heat broke, I could’ve sworn the climate would kill me. (Side Note: I should’ve packed more dresses. All the pants I have caused me to overheat.) After a week of normal temperatures, while my home in Minnesota goes from a tornado, to snow, to sun, I know I will enjoy Argentinian weather. Read More »

Share

Normal, Mundane, and Other Synonyms for School

Time February 21st, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

Sometimes you do pretty normal things even on a different continent.

As I said in my very first, pre-departure post, you get a lot of advice before you leave the country. You hear a lot of stories from those who have studied abroad before you and you see pictures and blogs from peers who spent semesters in Spain, Rome, or wherever the wind took them. But here’s the problem: they only tell you about the adventures. The beautiful sunrises they saw over mount-whatever; the fun nightlife in a certain city; the amazing and inspiring people they met. Yet there is a fundamental detail that is left out of all of these tales—studying abroad involves a lot of completely normal moments. No one tells you that you will still binge-watch Gilmore Girls in bed, or that you’ll have quiet nights where you do nothing, or that you actually have to study for the classes you’re taking.

While this seems like a pretty obvious part of being away for an entire semester, it took me two weeks into classes to actually be okay with it. For the first part of my time abroad, I hated any gaps of free time I had in my schedule. I felt like I always needed to be doing something to make my time here valid and worthwhile. If I didn’t do something fun every night, I wasn’t getting the full “abroad” experience. It wasn’t until I was sitting in my Wednesday morning seminar the other week that I had a huge breakthrough—we were discussing the reading we were supposed to have done for class and I sat there not knowing a thing. I didn’t do the reading because I’m a student abroad, and students abroad most certainly don’t need to do the readings. But as I sat in class in a bubble of confusion wondering why pre-Raphaelite art was considered scandalous to upper class Victorian-era citizens I realized a fundamental fact: I came here to take classes because I’m in college. Read More »

Share

Three Cliffs Bay, Bath, Stonehenge, and Snowdonia National Park

Time February 7th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

The other night, I couldn’t sleep. I spent the day doing pretty average stuff; I went for a run, made myself breakfast, walked around the city with some friends, and worked on homework. You couldn’t pick this Monday out of a lineup, but that night I couldn’t sleep. And here’s why: I started to get an itch. A hum in the back of my head. A small little devil-version of me sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear, “Hey Alex, let’s go somewhere.”

It all started with Three Cliffs Bay. It was a day trip my friends and I signed up for that looked like a promising way to spend a Saturday. After a two-hour bus ride we arrived to what I can only describe as a photo out of a National Geographic magazine. The ocean was bright blue and framed by beautiful, magnificent cliffs. We hiked along side the cliffs for a bit, then climbed down a steep slope to the beach. After a few miles up and down the beach, we hiked back up the cliffs and to an old, rustic castle that overlooked the ocean. It ended up being somewhere between eleven and twelve miles of hiking—we were all so tired by the end of it. But every second of the hike was insanely beautiful.

16387184_10207916342097775_3991708008571813486_n 16174905_10207916346377882_1566753570149248555_n Read More »

Share

Voice From Beyond (or perhaps not quite that yet)

Time January 30th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

Hi again! It’s been a little while since my last post, but this is just to say that I’m alive and, um, doing. I’d say doing well, but at the moment I’m currently struggling with what is probably the flu. I’d like to say this has lent me a lot of time for introspection, but really, it’s just been kinda gross all around. Still, I have some awesome stories from before I landed myself with a cold, so I’ll share them now to valiantly ignore my current well-being.

Last weekend I got the chance to head back into London for couple days, to visit my friends Rebecca and Miranda! They’re also on the IFSA program, just at Kings College in London instead of out here in Norwich with me. We had promised each other many adventures together, and we did our best to start that. Rebecca spearheaded this weekend’s charge. Our target? The Magical Lantern Festival, out in some middle-of-nowhere park in London. As a newbie to the tube, I was wholly reliant on the solid one week of experience my friends had to guide me around. I’m honestly surprised we didn’t get lost. I was half-expecting to be like, one of those ghosts just doomed to eternally wander the London underground without ever reaching my destination. I have it on good authority that that’s a thing. That, and apparently the story behind the “mind the gap” voice guy will make you cry every time you hear it.

So we made it out to Chittiwick Gardens (the spelling of that may or may not be atrocious), and after some fruitless wandering and then defeatedly asking a friendly passerby for directions. Once we were finally there, though, it was worth it. The Magical Lantern Festival definitely lived up to its name, with displays of cultures from all across the world rendered in brightly-lit cables and sculptures that stretched across the lawns. I got myself a mulled wine to keep my hands warm, and wandered among designs that showcased the entire Aladdin cast to a rendition of a giant masted galley ship in bright blue and white lights. For lack of a better word, it was a magical night.

The following morning, I had to go back to Norwich, but I wasn’t in too much of a rush. Plus, morning by college standards more or less means any time before dark. We spent a little time wandering Hyde Park, and then went off and had afternoon tea at a tiny little french cafe that made me feel horribly underdressed on principle. It was a wonderfully British experience.

Anyway, all good things must come to an end, and it’s not like Norwich doesn’t have its own appeal as well. I came back to campus, went to class, got the chance to do a little pub exploring (the Adam and Eve pub is apparently over a thousand years old, which amazes me), and visited the beautiful Norwich Cathedral as well. I’ll tell you more stories later; right now, I’ve got a cold to beat.

Share

Sunrise Leaving Boston

Time January 30th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Costa Rica | No Comments by

pic-1-airplane-window-sunset

 

Today has been a mix of every emotion from aching sadness to nervous excitement to an eerie calm. With my bags packed, goodbyes said, and tears fallen, I feel prepared. There’s nothing left to do now but get a good night’s sleep and take a leap of faith into the unknown. My excitement has faded as reality has hit that tomorrow is the day I’ve been waiting for for the past 5 months. Now I’ll be spending that amount of time in another country at another university in another language. And I’ve never felt more ready for it than I do right now.

Share

Colombian charm: an introduction to my travel blog

Time January 25th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 1 Comment by

It is difficult to believe that it has already been over two weeks since I left the United States behind for six months of traveling through South America and studying in Valparaiso, Chile. Although there has been plenty to write about, I have been hesitant to start this blog documenting my study abroad experience until now. Admittedly, part of that decision was motivated by how often Colombian whiskey has impaired my ability to put pen to paper over the few weeks. But, more importantly, I am unsure how to document my travels in a way that is compelling, not only to my friends and family but to people who do not have a personal interest in my journey abroad.

In a world so deeply divided by greed and hatred, my hope for this blog is that I am able to write about my travels in a way that encourages people to understand and celebrate our differences as people with the recognition that they are greatly outnumbered by our similarities. I believe that the primary responsibility of the modern writer should be to restore faith in the power of our human solidarity to reach across divisions of race, religion, gender or ideology to bring peace and prosperity. Read More »

Share

From London to Wales

Time January 20th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | 1 Comment by

Wow, has everything changed! After a long journey from the Minneapolis airport to the Newark airport and finally to the Heathrow airport in London, I can now say that I have hopped over the pond. We arrived in London around 7:30 AM, went through a long customs line, and met with our IFSA-Butler guide. At this point I was feeling so many emotions, but most of all, I was exhausted. I had woken up at 4 AM on Thursday and we landed in the morning on Friday. I managed a 2-hour nap on the flight but surprisingly, plane seats are not to best accommodation for a good night’s sleep. But I didn’t have time to feel tired, because we had landed in London and had a full day ahead of us. I was excited enough to be able to push my tiredness to the side. Read More »

Share

Home

Time January 9th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Ireland, Scotland | No Comments by

After officially being home for two weeks, I decided that it was time to write my final blog about coming home. There were many things I missed while I was abroad. The number one thing, of course, was my family. Christmas was even sweeter, especially after missing Thanksgiving. Funnily enough, the second was Dunkin Donuts iced coffee! During customs and baggage claim, I was lucky (and spoiled) enough to have my parents get me my normal Medium Iced Coffee with Caramel Swirl and Cream from the Dunkin at JFK. Thirdly, I’ve missed my friends. Many of them I kept in constant contact with during my semester away but others it had been awhile since we had talked. Either way, we fell back together like we always do and it was comforting. Read More »

Share

Traveling Tips: Things I Wish I Knew

Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

Hello all,

I’m currently writing from Chicago, Illinois as I have returned home after my absolutely wonderful semester abroad. After my Michaelmas term at Oxford ended, I spent two weeks traveling around Europe with my friends. Prior to studying abroad, most of my traveling was with my family. It is an entirely different experience to travel with peers. There are many important decisions to make and rather than simply following my parents, it was on me to determine the best course of action. Prior to my semester abroad through IFSA-Butler, I would have considered myself a novice traveler. However during my study abroad experience, I saw eight different countries, navigated the public transportation system of foreign nations, and learned to communicate despite language barriers. I honestly learned just as much while traveling as I did during the academic term. The following are some tips that I noted during my adventures:

  1. Know the measurements of your suitcase. Even if your suitcase is always allowed as a carry-on for various American airlines, it may be too large for certain European airlines. Either take a picture of the original tag of the bag or look up the exact suitcase online and write down its exact measurements. Additionally, while traveling it is really important to fully understand the luggage requirements of the specific airline. Sometimes the flight may be cheaper but they may charge for carry-on luggage and with the extra charger, that flight may become more expensive than the second cheapest option. Another important thing to consider is that it is often cheaper to purchase baggage online rather than at the airport, so if you expect to pay for your bag try and pay for it earlier rather than later.
  2. Bring locks. Locks are really useful if you plan on staying in hostels because many of them have lockers available. I brought a lock for my suitcase (that is TSA approved of course) and one for my backpack. One of the biggest tips I received was to be wary of pickpockets so whenever I traveled I kept everything locked. Then when I arrived at our hostel, I would take the lock off the suitcase, put the suitcase inside, and then use the lock for the locker.
  3. Carry a filtered water bottle. First, look up whether your country’s tap water is safe for drinking. If I determined that tap water was safe, I would fill up my Brita-filtered waterbottle. This was not only convenient for having water on hand, it ended up being a cost-saving measure. I found that many restaurants would only provide bottled water and they will subsequently charge to your bill.
  4. Don’t overuse the currency exchange. It is important to remember that every time you exchange currency, you are losing money. I found that in the beginning I was overestimating how much cash I would need at each location. It is really helpful to get a credit card that does not have international transaction fees. I figured this out prior to leaving the U.S. and found it incredibly valuable. With this kind of credit card, I learned that I really did not need too much cash. By the end of my trip I was only taking out a little bit of cash and reserved it for things I knew I couldn’t pay for with card such as cabs and small food stands.
  5. Protect your passport. While I advise against carrying your passport everywhere, I also advise against leaving it in anywhere that might not be secure. If the hostel I was staying at had a locked locker, I felt comfortable leaving my passport. Otherwise I kept it within an zipped inside pocket in my jacket. It is definitely the most important thing you have and by far the most difficult thing to replace. A good rule of thumb is that at any point in the day, any day of the week you should be able to say where your passport is currently located.
  6. Google Maps is great for public transportation. Using public transportation is such a great way to save money. Furthermore, it is much easier than I ever anticipated. Google Maps worked in every city I was in and I found it to be incredibly accurate. Additionally, I found that in places such as train stations and bus stations it is relatively easy to find someone who speaks English and they can tell you exactly what kinds of tickets to purchase. Google Maps not only tells you which bus or train to take, it also tells you the time it will arrive and when the next one is coming. Furthermore, you can download a city to your saved “offline” locations and then you can use Google Maps without any wifi or data.

Read More »

Share

Final Thoughts

Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | No Comments by

I’m finally home!! After my program ended, I was fortunate enough to travel around Argentina with my parents for ten days before catching a flight back to the States (I’ll insert some pictures of our adventures below) and since then have been having a relaxing holiday week with family and friends.

To wrap up this blog series, I wanted to share three takeaways on my study abroad experience now that I have been home.

Read More »

Share

Christmas Markets!

Time January 4th, 2017 in Ireland | No Comments by

A couple friends and I set off to see some European Christmas markets (while studying for finals of course) stopping in both Budapest and Copenhagen.

A beautiful Christmas market located in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest, Hungary. It was an incredible sight with the lights and decorations everywhere.

img_1032

This is a famous “Kürtőskalács”(try saying that 10 times fast)  translated as chimney cake. It is basically sweet dough that was wrapped around a wooden cylinder and baked. Then inside of the cake there is a type of mousse. This is all topped with whipped cream (because everyone needs more sugar) and decorations on top. If you are ever in Budapest around Christmastime you have to try one.

img_1025

This means Merry Christmas in Hungarian. I thought the little Santa decorated wooden stumps were cute.

img_1040

Next stop was Copenhagen. This is the famous Tivoli Gardens which is an amusement park located in Copenhagen that has a small Christmas market as well. We were standing outside trying to decide if we wanted to go in and this woman came up to us and offered us free tickets! We were in shock. Apparently, her family could not go in and she didn’t want the tickets to go to waste (these tickets were about $15 a person). It was truly one of the nicest things someone has done for me in a long time and we will definitely have to pay it forward.

img_0738

There were little Christmas markets sprinkled throughout Copenhagen, like this one, each with their own special flair.

img_0640
Share

Basically Antartica

Time December 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

The last week before going home, a few friends and I made a trip to the wondrous Patagonia and flew into Punta Arenas, Chile. Despite Santiago having temperatures an upwards of 25 degrees Celsius, the weather in the south of the world seemed like a breezy North Eastern fall. Days were long, like really long. And the nights were very cold.

 

We stayed at a cute hostel, Domos Hostel, and were so impressed by the cute little town and all it had to offer. Unlike other parts of rural Chile, it was evident that this town had been marked and shaped for tourism. In the center, there was a concentration of vegan and vegetarian restaurants with posh layouts. Our hostel had three types of Wifi, one for the office, one for breakfast and one for just the regular dome rooms. Taxis ran frequently and there were tour guide businesses on basically every corner.

Read More »

Share

Reflecting from Home

Time December 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | No Comments by

After almost 5 months I’m finally home. When I’m asked how my experience in Argentina was, I immediately respond “AMAZING!!” and start telling stories. However, when I’m asked how it feels to be home, my response is “it’s kinda weird actually”. It was weird walking through the Denver airport and seeing all the signs written in English, and being able to understand every conversation that’s going on around me. It was weird walking into my house and sleeping in my old bed. The normality of home makes it seem as if the whole thing was just a dream. Read More »

Share

Backpacking in the Andes

Time December 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | No Comments by

My last week in Argentina was spent backpacking in Bariloche and San Martín de los Andes, in the southern part of Argentina. My travel buddy on this trip was an amazing friend and Argentine native who has been traveling here almost every summer since he was a child, so he knew the ropes. Read More »

Share