The Nutella Challenge

When I saw “The Nutella Challenge” on flier for Italy week at OU, two thoughts crossed my mind. First, what does Nutella have to do with Italy, and second, what type of challenging things can you do with Nutella? Well, the first question had a very simple answer which was that Nutella is from Italy… who’d of thunk? The second question had an equally simple answer. However, it was not exactly what I was hoping for.

I expected to walk up to the table and down an entire jar of Nutella in under a minute, but it wasn’t quite that extraordinary. In fact, when I walked up they gave me their spiel about the study center in Arezzo, Italy, I asked a couple of questions, and then they simply gave me bruschetta with Nutella. There was no challenge at all! I didn’t even have to wrestle a bear. But the information was pretty good, and I might be tempted to go to Italy if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t like pasta…

So, boys and girls, the moral of the story is: don’t bring a bear to a Nutella fight or you will just get bruschetta in your eyes.

Three Down

I have been longing to have an answer to the recently frequently posed question, “Where are you wanting to study abroad?” for a loooong while now.

Before coming to OU and becoming a Fellow with responsibilities, I had grand dreams of skipping across the world snuggling kiwis in New Zealand, sampling endless varieties of bratwurst in Germany, and frolicking through fields of tulips in the Netherlands.  However, being surrounded by unbelievably intelligent people who are so incredibly driven and seem so well established in not only A) what they are doing, but also B) why they are doing it while I’m swimming in a sea of my travel hopes and dreams is slightly terrifying. Notice that sarcastic emphasis on slightly? It scares the wanderlust out of me to actually think about where I might go let alone DECIDE where in this world I’ll be spending large chunks of my college life.

The past few weeks have really grounded me in my journey of figuring out what I will be doing with this blessing of a scholarship. With hopes of double majoring in the most opposite of fields and minoring in Spanish on top of traveling extensively within four (or admittedly five years), I realized I don’t have time, now or in the future, to dilly dally.

The daydreams of a sweet, simple foreign life filled with glutenous eating, prancing through flowers, and cute exotic critters flew out the window fast.

The study abroad fair did help a little, though. After walking around the huge horseshoe and plowing my way through the snaking snow cone line, I found out that I really do crave adventure. I know how cliche that sounds, but after talking to a particular woman about how much she loved how South Korea is pretty Americanized, busses are abundant, everything is open 24 hours, and how it wasn’t a huge leap out of her comfort zone, a few red flags started going off in my head. I’m not in GEF to spend my scholarship, or even my time for that matter, playing it safe. I need to test my boundaries and grow from experiences that I wouldn’t normally get–that’s why people go abroad in the first place!

I really felt especially pumped-up for globetrotting after talking to a guy at the second booth of the horseshoe from the east (Cado, Cada, Cadda? I really can’t remember what program he was with and he didn’t have flyers for us. If you know, comment!). We started with basic conversation, but things got deep fast after he asked if I had traveled abroad before. We figured out we have a mutual passion to explore what we haven’t yet encountered! We were literally giddy about how incredible it is to go though experiences that push us to develop ourselves, especially ones that we couldn’t have but in places outside our safety bubble. Since I have already spent some time in England, France, and Mexico, I have officially crossed those places off my list (unless they offer something I can’t pass up–I’ll revoke that declaration in a heartbeat). He also helped really point out to me to keep my mind open about where I’ll end up traveling–he originally dreamed of Australia and ended up in South Africa!

I guess I didn’t get too much farther on determining exactly where I am going, but at least I know where I would prefer not to go!

Three countries down, 200+ more to go.

Let’s Talk About Drinking

Drinking can be a great way to hang out with friends, see the city, and even meet some new people. However, it’s not without problems. Questions of health and safety should be addressed before a student considers going out. Drinking as it relates to study abroad is an incredibly important and unjustly taboo subject. Here are my tips based on my personal experience from my year abroad in Europe.

  1. Don’t go home alone

I’m not saying you shouldn’t leave the club without a hookup; I’m saying go out with a pal and a plan. I don’t go out unless I have a “buddy”. We both agree not to leave without the other person and to NEVER  let each other walk home alone. I’m studying in Clermont-Ferrand, France. I can honestly say that this city feels very safe (though I’m usually a safety-nut) and scary situations are not the norm here. It’s a college town, much like Norman and there are plenty of bars and nightclubs that cater to students. Despite all of this, it only takes one bad experience to realize that being drunk and alone in the early hours of the morning on a dark street is a terrible idea. Having a designated going-out buddy helps to keep you safe and you always have someone to grab a kebab with before heading home.

 

  1. Know Yourself (Drake reference)

Coming from a country where the legal drinking age is 21 and my university campus is officially “dry” means that my experience with alcohol consumption as a 19 year-old was relatively limited. I would recommend that students test the waters first. Starting out with beer or cider (which is basically adult apple juice) can help you to realize your limits. Besides, you can slowly increase your consumption until you find your limit but you can’t take back those tequila shots that seemed like a great idea at the beginning of the night. Most evenings out in my experience go like this: pre-gaming (whether at home or at a friend’s place) followed by a trip to a bar or club. Being too drunk before you even head out to the club is absolutely awful and your night will probably end early.

 

  1. Money matters

A lot of places here in France have a minimum amount you have to spend if paying by card. Paying with cash is usually much easier and you can physically see how much you’ve spent that night. I usually take a limited amount of cash with me for safety and to ensure that I don’t regret spending too much on alcohol. (Sidenote: alcohol is expensive, especially at a bar.) I usually prefer to buy less expensive alcohol (like Sangria, wine, or Desperados) so that I don’t buy as much when I’m out and about.

 

  1. Bread is your BFF

A baguette of considerable size costs .35 cents at the grocery store. If alcohol is a car, bread is the breaks and the suspension. Having a full stomach can help control the rate of inebriation and makes for an all-around smoother experience. Seriously, please eat.

 

  1. Be able to say no

Everyone handles alcohol differently and what’s right for some isn’t right for others. If you’re going out several times a week and find that you’re not sleeping well, you’re consistently hungover, you’re missing classes or neglecting homework then you need to start reevaluating the place that partying has in your life. It can be super tempting to go out on Tuesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday but the party will still be there. Staying home because you need the sleep or you have an upcoming presentation is absolutely acceptable and you’re not missing out. Your friends will understand. Not everyone can stay out until 5 am and be ready for an 8:15 class, much less do this multiple times a week.

 

Drinking and going out is an awesome part of the study abroad experience, and some of my favorite memories are from nights out with my friends. However at the end of the day, you are there to study and to learn. If you’re going abroad, it’s probable that you’ll drink. The key is to be informed, self-aware, and safe.

Travel: Italian Adventure!

When studying abroad in Europe travelling can feel like an obligation- you’re so close to everything! I’ve decided to write a series of posts which will be personal reflections about the trips I’ve taken so far.

Paris/ITALY

I was fortunate enough to have my mom, aunt, and grandmother (hey me-me) come to France for a visit on December 31st. They came to Clermont-Ferrand (my mom’s first time off of the continent!) where I met them at the train station.

We had a few hours in Clermont so I showed them my residence, the city center, and my favorite kebab shop.

PARIS

We then took a train to Paris where we were to spend the next couple of days. We went to an amazing restaurant for New Year’s Eve dinner. We ate foie gras, had champagne, and counted down to midnight in French.

 

Yum! A NYE treat

Yum! A NYE treat

2016 here we come!

2016 here we come!

I showed them around Paris and we saw most of the “must-see” tourist attractions. The following day we went shopping at an outlet mall (my mom’s pick) and we had a lot of fun popping in and out of shops like Diane Von Furstenberg, Burberry, and Longchamp. We ate waffles and European hot chocolate (the kind that is literally just melted chocolate) before having lunch at a cute little café.

Shakespeare & Co. Notre Dame le Tour Eiffel

We took an overnight train to Milan which was absolutely hilarious.

the train to Milan was a tight fit!

the train to Milan was a tight fit!

the cutest person alive

the cutest person alive

The “room” was TINY with enough room for a bunk bed, a sink, two suitcases, and nothing else. We had about six hours in the Milan train station which we spent sitting like zombies in the McDonalds. (my aunt had about 4 cappuccinos) This was the point in the trip where I became unable to communicate in the local language which was bizarre. I’d never been to a country where I wasn’t at least conversationally proficient in the local language and it was messing with my head!

 

BOLOGNA
We hopped a train to Bologna where we spent 2 nights. Bologna was BEAUTIFUL. The city was the least “touristy” city we visited on the trip. I pretty much ate my weight in pizza there. Our guide for the walking tour never showed up (bummer) but, armed with a map and giant coats and scarves, we did get to see some of the major sights.

ascending into Bologna we have arrived it's cold! "take a picture with the menu so we remember the name of the restaurant" arguably the best pizza ever this place had really good snacks

VENICE
We took a day trip via train from Bologna to Venice.

Venice was amazing. Every street looked like a postcard. Lunch in Venice was delicious. I ate seafood pasta and they had lemon Schweppes which became my beverage of choice in Italy.

delicious pasta with fresh seafood

delicious pasta with fresh seafood

We walked across the city (I used google maps and my grandma asked every few minutes “are you sure we’re going the right way?”) and made it to St. Mark’s Square. We toured the waterways of Venice in a speed boat and saw Elton John’s house!

a little bit of rain can't stop us gondolas everywhere this is real life homes of the old merchants of venice

 

FLORENCE

After Bologna we ventured on to Florence. We were all excited to shop for leather in Florence as we’d heard they have some good stuff! Unfortunately my aunt was sick for most of the Florence leg of the trip. (One morning I ran to the pharmacy to get her some medicine only to discover that it was a national holiday and I’d stumbled across the only open pharmacy in the city.) Our hotel was an old monastery and since it was the end of the Christmas season we got to see their nativity collection. We saw il Duomo  and walked around the city for a while.

"okay so just lean a little bit, i'm going to take a picture"

“okay so just lean a little bit, i’m going to take a picture”

We had a morning tour of the Academia di Belle Arti di Firenze where we saw the statue of David! (It was enormous.)

Stradivarius viola owned by the Medici family the David

It was raining for most of our trip but that didn’t stop us! That afternoon my grandmother was tired and stayed at the hotel to take care of my aunt. My mom and I braved the rain and ran (literally ran) across Florence to make it to our next tour. The Uffizi Gallery where we had a 4 hour tour!

this painting is all original except for the bottom right panel which is in the Louvre selfie with the Birth of Venus The Birth of Venus only finished painting done by Michelangelo to survive-- The Holy Family this place is huge! Portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Francesca this room was really fancy

That night we shopped until we dropped at H&M and finished the evening with a spaghetti dinner where the Russian tourists next to us stared at us the entire time.

Our last day in Florence was spent shopping for leather purses and wallets!

 

ROME

Next stop: ROMA!
Thankfully, my aunt was much better and well rested for Rome. We took a bus to Vatican City for a day-long tour. We saw St.Peter’s Basilica, were blessed in the Sistine, and saw lots of nuns.

 

rome at night ready to take on the city! busts inside of the Vatican what a view 20160108_093008 20160108_093023 20160108_093258 intricate tiles on the floor 20160108_093958 20160108_102932 St. Peter's Basilica St. Peter's Basilica St. Peter's Basilica Pope John XXIII

Our Colosseum tour didn’t pan out (another bummer) but we got to see lots of ruins and the Trevi Fountain!

the Colosseum a gate near the Colosseum the Colosseum detail ancient forum ruins the Trevi Fountain the Trevi Fountain selfie time make a wish! me-me contemplating the fountain Saluti!

POMPEII
We got up super early the next day and took a guided tour of Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. Our guide, Davide (pronounced Dah-vie-day), shuttled us, an Irish couple, and two Filipino girls across Italy to the site of the ruins at Pompeii. The guide at Pompeii was excellent and we learned a lot about the lives of the ancient people who lived there. (This part wasn’t really my mom’s thing, but it’s a must-see for history buffs!)

i found a cat inside the town square it was hot but we were learning a lot! primitive refrigerators for vats of wine at the site of an ancient wine bar cool steps ancient spa/bath house preserved artifacts columns preserved artifacts town square town square

 

POSITANO

Then we all squeezed back into the van (I was sitting on the six-inch space between Davide and the passenger seat…) and headed to Positano! If you haven’t heard of Positano, you’re missing out on a truly beautiful place. The homes, beached, and storefronts are unlike any other place in the world. We had a lunch mishap (the restaurant was closed, another restaurant made us wait 45 minutes and didn’t even take our order) but we ended up having a slice of pan pizza (and schweppes of course) at a cute little restaurant with a view. I bought an orange and a lemon (specialties of the region) which were both delicious.

citrus fruits! wow selfie stop taking in the views citrus growers found an Italian flag! walking through town beach views at the beach cool tiles i found another cat My mom loved the beach in Positano! Limoncello

AMALFI

The next stop was Amalfi. Amalfi was incredible. It’s such a unique place with a really relaxed vibe. We tasted limoncello from a local producer, had some delicious lemon gelato, and took in the seaside views before heading back to Rome.

Limoncello producer in Amalfi "let's take a selfie with the gelato" -my mom Amalfi nice view our tour guide Davide and the Irish couple that was with us

The next morning I said goodbye to my family at the Rome airport and boarded a plane to Lyon.

boarding the plane "window seat"
Overall, I had an awesome trip and i’m so glad i got to see Italy with some of my family!

 

The next travel post should be about my trip to Barcelona and Sitges. Until then!

Studying Abroad- The Studying Part

It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of studying abroad with all of the parties, new friendships, new freedoms, and the amazing travel opportunities; however, it’s important to remember the reason for it all. Here are some tips to help you keep your grades high and your stress low.

GET ORGANIZED
I really can’t stress this one enough. I’ve never been an organized person. My preferred organizational method could be described as “controlled chaos”. The reason it’s so important to get your stuff together while abroad is that you’ll need every scrap of paper given to you if you want your courses equated later on. Keeping papers separated by class, labeling each paper with the course name, and taking effective notes is essential. I found a “binder” at the local grocery store that has divider tabs but no pockets so that I can shove handouts in it quickly while maintaining the division of papers. I bought one for the first semester and I’ve just bought one for the second semester. I plan to hand in both binders so that the people equating my courses will have every paper for every class.

TAKE NOTES
I mean it. Do it. I get distracted really easily so taking notes can occasionally become a challenge. I combat this by doodling. Yeah, I know that doodling sounds like a terrible idea but it’s seriously effective for me. When I feel my mind start to wander I draw content related to the lecture and then i have cool notes to look over when revising. I also keep all of my notes in one notebook. This can be a hit or miss for some as some people prefer to take notes on a computer while others are afraid of keeping everything in one place for fear of losing it. Keeping all of my notes together has been really effective for me because I can grab my binder, agenda, and notebook in the morning and walk out the door; I don’t need to bother with separate notebooks.


BECOME AN AGENDA PERSON

I’ve tried to keep agendas in the past, I really have. My problem is that I always forget to use it and then it becomes outdated, leading up to its eventual home in the garbage with months of unused pages. I’ve really benefited from my agenda this semester though for one reason- I’ve had to handcraft a working schedule with classes that will transfer and that don’t conflict with each other. This has been an absolute nightmare because it’s like pulling teeth trying to get a course schedule from anyone. Basically, you’re on your own. If you don’t know when and where to be somewhere then courses go on without you and you’ll probably get nasty emails and/or dirty looks. Don’t be late and PLAN YOUR TIME.

ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE
Before coming to France, I was told to keep the syllabus from each course I take while abroad. That sounded logical- the funny thing is that French classes don’t function like American ones. French professors don’t teach, speak, or behave exactly like American ones. When I noticed that no one was giving me a syllabus I kind of panicked. What if none of this counted? What if I’m wasting a year? What if they’re just teaching all willy-nilly with no plan?! So I pulled myself together and asked for a syllabus. I was nice about it, explained that I needed one for my home university, gave them plenty of time to get it together, and boy did I get syllabi. I had one professor who gave me detailed descriptions of each class, photocopies from our textbook, as well as grading criteria. I think the idea of asking for help is key to success abroad because no one can read your mind. Your professors don’t know how things work at your home university and they don’t know what you might need. If you ask politely for course materials or power points you’ll be better prepared to return home and get the most out of your classes abroad.

That’s all for this post! I plan on making a post on travelling really soon so look for it in the coming week.