Vienna by the Numbers

Between the end of the intensive language course and the orientation for the beginning of the semester, we had a 10 day gap to travel. Patricia, another student from OU, and I decided to visit Vienna for the first weekend. We left Friday and arrived back Tuesday and had an absolutely wonderful time. Vienna has such a rich musical and political history and was a hub of the western world for centuries prior to World War I. After our trip, we totaled up our experiences as follows:

12 Castles

13 Churches

3 Art venues

1 concert (free!)

1 opera (only 3€)

1 walking tour (free!)

2 hostels

3 buses (one overnight)

1 flight

6 trains

3 bike rides

0 missed transits!

5 neat food places

6 parks

2 rivers

3 nights

4 days

70 kilometers (and sore feet!)

somewhere between 8-10 cups of coffee

4 very stinky feet

6 cough drops

Living in Heidelberg

I’ve realized that its been almost 2 months since I left for Europe, and much of that time has been spent living in Germany. Still, I have not really posted on daily life here or the experiences I have had. In a nutshell, I have loved being in Heidelberg, though adjusting to a new culture and different way of life has its ups and downs.

For the month of May, I attended a pre-semester German course at the University language institute. I tested into A2 level and attended class from the morning into early afternoon every day. The course increased my vocabulary, listening skills, and vocabulary significantly. My German isn’t great, but I can now generally understand what is going on and have the vocabulary to find my way around and make a bit of small talk. Another activity that has helped with this is SMD’s Life Cafe language course/Bible study, a Sunday evening event organized by local students to help teach German to international students through Bible stories. Getting to know and speak German to (very patient) native speakers has been so helpful. I’ve also been attending a German/English church that translates everything spoken in both languages, which has been helpful for learning new vocabulary and meeting local citizens.

The semester officially starts on April 15, so I have spent most of my time with other international students who where also taking the pre-semester course. There are several student excursions set up by the Erasmus student network that have been a fun way to get to know people from all over the world. That may be one of the best parts about the exchange so far – getting to experience such an international community.

Outside of class, I have done so many interesting things! I have done a lot of Hiking around Heidelberg, taken trips to Kaiserslautern and Waldorf, picnicked on the Nekar river, attended the Karneval parade, and explored the Altstadt of Heidelberg. Now that the weather is getting better, I am looking forward to more excursions near Heidelberg to local gardens, castles, and rivers. Below are some of the pictures of my little adventures as I have settled into everyday life here.

Weekend in Paris

After being in Heidelberg for one week, I took a weekend trip to Paris to celebrate my birthday with my friend Emma. Most of the time spent there comprised of walking around the beautiful city, eating delicious food, and attending an Hillsong Paris youth conference.

This post is mostly a photo dump, but here were some of my biggest takeaways. Firstly, it was amazing to me to see students from a completely different country, history, and language coming together to worship the same God. Additionally, I can say with certainty that eating baguette and/or croissant in Paris is 95% better than eating it anywhere else. When I was in Barcelona, I was introduced to the idea of observing the people and setting of a city as a kind of art gallery – Paris and it’s people as God’s masterpiece. I couldn’t agree more when it came to Paris. Some of my most memorable moments were the kind waiters, the random people who took our picture, and the street artists we encountered. I most enjoyed walking around and taking in the beautiful sights and cultural encounters along the way.

It was such a gift to be able to visit Paris and be hosted by such a sweet friend. This trip was entirely too short, and I can’t wait to return sometime later this summer!

Europe: Week 1b – Norway

Week 1 (continued) – Norway

After Spain, I spent Monday evening through Friday morning in Tromsø, Norway with my friend Dina and her family. It was such a beautiful trip and made all the better by living with a host culture and experiencing every day life with them.

Tromsø is in the north of Norway, very close to the arctic circle. This means that the amount of sunlight is much more varied – while I was there, the sun set around 4pm. In the summer, the sun never sets, hence Tromsø’s famous Midnight Sun marathon. The city has a history of arctic

Just one of the many many landscape pictures I took.

exploration and feels like a gateway to islands, glaciers, and arctic tundra that have yet to be touched by man. While I was there, I visited a handful of Norwegian museums with Dina’s sweet mother, visited an arctic aquarium with Dina, drove around the island, and tasted lots of Norwegian cultural dishes. Most memorable were the Moose, dried fish, Pops(!), and toast (kind of like a panini in the states).

This was at the summit of our night hike. So many layers!

Because of the size of the island and the variation of sunlight, Norwegians don’t seem to let the weather or light stop them from being outdoors. I walked a lot in sub-freezing temperatures, which was actually quite fun.

And in the evenings, we went hiking to an overlook of Tromsø one night and cross-country skiing another. I really really loved cross country skiing and can’t wait to do it again. Another night, I went with Dina’s mom to a church where we listened to a Finnish opera singer – what a once in a lifetime experience!

And finally…. YES! I did get to see the northern lights! And I didn’t even try to take a picture. They were beautiful and faintly “danced” across the sky. I immediately thought of Psalm 19:1,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1

All in all, I am so thankful for the beauty I got to experience in Norway and the generosity of my host family. Norway is different from America in a lot of ways that are a little bit hard to pinpoint, but I loved the Norwegian style, the views, the simplicity, outdoor adventures, and their unique cultural perspective.

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