Europe tour part 2

Prague 4/19 – 4/20

I spent less than 24 hours in Prague and it wasn’t all fun and games, but overall I had an amazing time and definitely recommend visiting!

Amanda and I left Berlin really early (like 6am early) to catch our train to Prague. We arrived around noon and it was a lot hotter than anticipated. I was already tired and dehydrated from the train ride and the previous almost full week of traveling so I spent most of the afternoon napping. Thankfully we had a break in hostels and found a really good deal on a room at a Holiday Inn through the app Hotel Tonight so I slept like a baby for a few hours.

One cool thing about this part of our trip is that we were able to meet up with some of our friends from the University of Hertfordshire who were also traveling around. We walked around for a bit together before grabbing dinner. Amanda and I then went and explored a bit before heading back to the hotel. While we didn’t see everything Prague had to offer, this stop taught be that I’m not invincible and as much as I want to push myself and keep going, sometimes I need to listen to my body and take a break.

Austria: Vienna and Salzburg

Vienna 4/20- 4/21

We had a little more time in Vienna because we were able to leave for Salzburg later in the day. We met up with our friends again for dinner on the 20th and explored the area around Heldenplatz which was gorgeous.

The next day was Easter, and while it was hard to spend it away from family, my friends made it easy to still have fun and make the most of the day. We went to Schoenbrunn Palace and wandered the market (where we bought delicious pretzels) before going to the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien.

Salzburg 4/22

Salzburg was beautiful and incredible. We were close to the Alps and the views were astounding. We spent a couple hours just drinking wine at a cafe and looking at the view. It was so refreshing to have that moment to take everything in and reflect on my travels up until that point. It made me so thankful for the opportunity.

Next up in part 3: Belgium and the Resting Period

Europe tour part 1

My friend Amanda and I were fortunate enough to have our classes end before the University of Hertfordshire’s scheduled Easter Break and decided to use the free time to our advantage and explore as much of Europe as possible on our college-student budgets. For this first part of our journey we primarily utilized the Eurail pass. While the upfront cost was pretty significant (close to $500 for the any country 15 days in 2 months option), it gave us the freedom to hop on almost any train we wanted to. There were a few that we had to pay to reserve our seats on ahead of time, but with the pass we were still able to save money.

Amsterdam 4/15 – 4/17

We left England around 5pm on the Eurostar train. It took us directly to Amsterdam from London which was nice. When we arrived, we bought a pass for the tram system and headed straight for our hostel -Hostel Van Gogh- so we could rest up for the next day.

We woke up and ate breakfast at the hostel before going for a walk at a park nearby. The park had beautiful tulips and this interesting tree carving.

After the park we went to the Moco museum that featured a lot of Banksy’s artwork and had these floating tulips in the square outside.

Then we went shopping at local markets until it was time to meet Amanda’s friends that live in and near Amsterdam for dinner.

Berlin 4/17-4/19

After our day in Amsterdam, we left on a train for Berlin. This train was several hours, which let me finish one of my last papers. We arrived in Berlin and again headed straight for our hostel- Grand hostel Berlin- which is one of my favorites from our travels. The staff was really friendly and the overall atmosphere was so welcoming.

Our full day in Berlin was pretty packed. I went to a really cool film museum which was in the spacious Sony Center. It focused primarily on German film history, but a lot of the early German pioneers had a huge influence on American cinema and it was really cool to learn more about people I had only briefly heard about in classes back home.

Next up was the German Spy Museum. I have always been obsessed with spy movies and books and after taking a class on James Bond films last spring I was a little too excited for the interactive exhibits.

After the museums we went to Checkpoint Charlie and ended the day walking along the remaining section of the Berlin Wall which now functions as a gallery for street art. We ate dinner at scheers schnitzel which had amazing fresh food and a really chill atmosphere. There were signatures all over the wall from people who had eaten there before. Berlin was one of my favorite places but I wish I could have experienced it with my family. My dad has always wanted to visit Germany and it made me kind of sad that I was experiencing it without him and the rest of my family.

Next up: Prague and Austria in part 2

You Don’t Have to be ‘Living Your Best Life’ 24/7

Before I get into this post I want to say that I have loved my study abroad experience and hope that this post doesn’t discourage anyone from going abroad too. I just want to be transparent about something that I feel like isn’t talked about enough: every day of your study abroad experience isn’t going to be profound or life changing. You will have normal days just like you would back home and you will also have bad days that will be worse than back home because you don’t have your usual support system to calm you down and help you to the other side.

My first day in England was honestly awful. I arrived at 6am after an 8 hour flight with no sleep. Then when I finally arrived on campus (and so grateful that I had signed up for the uni-arranged transport) I found out that my accommodation wasn’t going to be ready for another couple of hours. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity I finally arrived in my room and tried to take a nap before venturing to the mall to buy sheets and other things I really needed but didn’t want to take up space in my luggage. It was around 4pm when I made it to the mall and already dark outside, which of course did not help my jet lag and disorientation. I bought my sheets without issue, but when I finally realized I was hungry and went to buy food, my card was declined. So I had to walk back to my room on campus to connect to wifi (I didn’t have a local number yet) to facetime my parents and set up an online virtual chat with my bank even though I had made sure to tell them before I left that I was going to be abroad. By that point I was too tired to walk back to the mall to get food and everything on campus was already closed so I decided to order a pizza. However, what I did not know was that the pizza delivery to the campus did not come directly to the flat, but instead to the nearby taxi circle. I waited by my flat door since I didn’t have a phone number that the delivery driver could call thinking I would be fine and be able to let them in the flat and get my pizza no problem. It wasn’t until a random person in my building came downstairs and told me about the delivery process on campus that I realized that my pizza was probably lost forever and I would likely go to bed hungry that night. I cried so much that day and I was so tempted to turn around and come back home. What I didn’t know was how quickly my situation would turn around. The next day, I was invited to go into London with a group by another exchange student from Oklahoma that I met at the airport. I was so tired that I almost didn’t go, but I’m so glad that I did. That day I met people that I became really close with over the course of the semester and that day is one of my favorites simply because it turned my outlook around. Since then I’ve still had days where I’ve been really homesick and questioned my decision to study abroad, but with any big life step that’s normal.

Don’t let someone’s social media influence how you think your experiences should be. You may not love every part of the experience, but trust me, in the end it will be worth it.

Pre-Departure Orientation

I have been preparing all semester to study abroad at the University of Hertfordshire in England this Spring but it didn’t feel real to me until my Pre-Departure Orientation in October. What is pre-departure orientation you ask? Well it is a ton of information preparing students to study abroad crammed into 2.5 straight hours. Sounds a little intense right?

I, however, found this meeting to be so interesting and informational and I loved every second of it. I have been doing so much research on my own this semester to prepare myself that some of the information wasn’t new to me, but it was nice to hear the things I found repeated by someone with first-hand knowledge of the area I’m traveling to.

Some things were new to me, and I thought I’d share them here for any other students looking to study abroad.

  1. studentuniverse.com is the best site to find affordable international flights
  2. You can find an affordable converter/adapter combo for your electronics on amazon. This is really important for charging laptops or other things that use a lot of electricity- you don’t want to ruin it or take out the electricity in your building.
  3. maps.me lets you download maps for when you’re away from wifi and get lost- which is more likely to happen than you may think
  4. If you can, talk to students from the university you are going to or other students on your home campus that have been there. There were a couple University of Hertfordshire exchange students at the orientation that I was able to talk to and it was so nice to hear first hand what I could expect from the University. I have also been in contact with OU students since the orientation that have been to UH and they have given me tips that you can’t necessarily find on pinterest blogs or google.

I’ll try to update this if I remember more tips, but these were the most useful to me and I hope they will be for any other students wanting to study abroad!

Wondering About Next Year

I was wondering what to write about in these next few posts, but I figured writing about my possibles decisions could help me make a decision. So I will be the first person in my family to ever study abroad and I honestly know nothing about it. I do not know the process, I do not know what papers I need to get or how I am going to pay for any extra fees because I am paying my way through college. I am looking into either the University of Reading or Hertfordshire for my semester abroad. Both are super close to London — about a twenty minute train ride away — and I have always wanted to visit London so both are great choices. I know a few people that have studied in Hertfordshire, but there are more pre-equated classes in Reading. Both are wonderful choices — it honestly just depends on what the adviser tells me when I get back to university. At least I am beginning to narrow down my choices — this way I can start to focus on the smaller, more important things, like visas and accommodation fees. :/