A Bohemian Vacation

Author: Ian Olive

Program: Reutlingen, Germany


The Czech Republic is a country with many faces and a rich history dating over a thousand years. It was first known as the Kingdom of Bohemia, which flourished in the area of central Europe with its music and arts. It was later incorporated into the Soviet Union under the Warsaw Pact where it was known as Czechoslovakia. In the late 1980s, the country went through another political change and quickly evolved into the Czech Republic we know today. Very few cities can accurately show the amount of change and evolution that has happened in Europe quite like Prague can. From Soviet era architecture that is painted in vivid colors to classic Gothic cathedrals to traditional Bohemian capital buildings, Prague has it all.

ian-olive-fall-2016-prague-prague-castle Prague Castle, Ian Olive

I spent four days in Prague, which is just enough time to get to know the layout of the city and see some of its famous attractions. Old Town Plaza, Charles Bridge, and the Prague Castle are all must see landmarks. The Botanical Gardens as well as the Pub Crawl are all things that one must do while there. The city is a glorious melting pot of architecture and culture with endless things to see. Taking the bus or train from Leipzig is super easy and lodging is very affordable. Don’t hesitate to check out Prague and the rest of the beautiful Czech Republic.


My airbnb was in this 500-year-old building.

The Paparazzi Found Me

Author: Tiffany Luers

Program: Hangzhou, China – Study Center 


Hangzhou, Tiffany Luers

Upon our arrival in China, G20 was just around the corner.  G20 is a meeting of 20 leaders from the world’s largest economies to discuss international finance and monetary policies, and this year it is being hosted in the very city that my study abroad semester is taking place – Hangzhou!  While it is very exciting that G20 is happening in my new home, we needed to get away.  Why?  Because everything shut down for G20.  Okay, maybe not everything but some of my favorite street food places, coffee shops with free VPN’s (virtual private network), and the pancake place by the international dorm were all boarded up and deserted as if they had never been there.  Buses stopped running earlier. Stores and restaurants had shorter hours.  The city was cleaner and the streets quieter than I remembered, and the security around the university and West Lake was tighter than ever.  This was not the restless and ever-bustling city of Hangzhou that I had experienced last summer when I was on the Valpo Study Abroad 5-week summer program.  Yet, G20 gave us the perfect excuse to explore other parts of China for the next ten days while Hangzhou was on lock down.  The first stop was Beijing!


Hangzhou, Tiffany Luers

During the three days we spent in Beijing we visited the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and of course, the Great Wall.  Walking around the tourist sites, our group received a lot of attention.  As Chinese people walked passed us, their eyes widened and they would say “外国人” (wai guo ren) meaning “foreigner”, and many of them took photos of us.  Some were very friendly and asked us for photos, while others tried to be sneaky and take photos without us noticing even though their “selfie” was most definitely not fooling anyone.  Having grown up abroad and mostly in Asia, I am accustomed to having people take photos of me, or


Hangzhou, Tiffany Luers

touch my skin, or even ask if they can cut off some of my blond hair.  It really doesn’t bother me too much and I understand their intrigue.  While yes, it can be uncomfortable at times, laughing it off can be the best thing to do in those situations and I know that this is just the beginning of the photos and curious looks for the 10-day trip let alone a semester here! Now whenever I encounter one of my photographers I use it as an opportunity to practice my Chinese and strike up a conversation with them.

With my newfound paparazzi, I’ll have to start working on my poses!




Not Quite a Yellow School Bus

Author: Caylyn Moglia

Program: Costa Rica Study Center

Here I am, safe and sound in Costa Rica, all set to write about my week long trip to Nicaragua when it hits me. I have only written about excursions. So, if you happen to be interested in reading about yet another trip, I will direct you to my personal blog because today I’m going to write about the thing that scared me the most about studying abroad: public transportation.caylyn-moglia-bus-2-fall-2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016, marked my first time making it to class all by myself. Each Tuesday and Wednesday, I leave home between 2:40 and 2:45 to take the 3 o’clock bus into San José. My bus is the one that is pink and says either “Santa Rosa/San José” or Santo Domingo/San José,” Ruta 20. I get off at the last stop,  right next to the Panadería Colombiana (bread and baked goods shop) at 3:46, and I walk 2 blocks past the Panadería Colombiana, turn onto the street with the surf shop that has a big blue wave, and walk another 3 or 4 blocks before I reach the bus to Cedros, which leaves around 3:55. I get off at the 5th stop after the stop at the Universidad Latina and walk a bit to the front gate of the UBL, arriving around 4:30 for my 5:30 class. Sounds simple, right?


Wrong! For those who don’t know me, I am severely directionally challenged, and I often feel unsure of my surroundings. I worried that I would need help getting to class for a month (or 2), but as it turns out, I figured it out in 2 weeks. I arrived late to my first two days of class because I took the 4:00 train from Santa Rosa (where I live) to San José, and then a bus to the UBL. I am so glad that I no longer use the train because it is much more complicated to get from the train station to the bus stop (and I’m early when I take the bus). Being able to confidently navigate 2 buses in a big city has given me an amazing sense of accomplishment, and I am so glad that I challenged myself to learn the routes as quickly as possible.

So how did this directionally challenged individual manage to learn her way around 2 bus stops? LANDMARKS. Landmarks have been a lifesaver for me as I navigate the city. I know that I have to turn left in front of a green store front, and that once I turn, I’ll see the surf shop and a painted cow. I know that I have arrived at my bus stop because there is a red Claro (phone company) store kitty corner to my stop.

My next project is learning how to get to and around Heredia.


Student Spotlight: Jacquelyn Delorto

Author: Jacquelyn Delorto

Program: Semester in Granada, Spain

Hola from Granada, Spain! I’ve finally arrived, and I am so excited to be living in Granada. The city is beautiful, and there’s so much to do. Every day I discover something new in the city, and I’m learning so much about the people and culture of Spain.

I wanted to share one of my favorite parts of my trip so far: my first night in Granada. Upon arriving, I decided to dive in head first and participate in the activities that people here love. What better way to begin a trip to Spain than ordering Tapas and Sangria?

We ate at a restaurant called Taberna La Garrocha, and the food was great! But it didn’t end there. Turns out, the nightlife in Spain is much different than in the United States. To give you a tasted of it, check out the video above. This was recorded from the same location, on the same street, just three hours later!

Welcome to the nightlife in Granada (virtually)! Stay tuned for more!

-Jacquelyn Delorto


Check out Jacquelyn’s blogs to keep up with her adventures abroad:





With a Little Help from My Friends

Author: Caroline Dienes

Program:  Cambridge, England – Study Center

My Name is Caroline. I Like The Beatles.


Cambridge, Caroline Dienes

It’s obvious to say that a big reason I chose to study abroad in England was because of The Beatles. If you know me, or have just looked at me, you may have come to the conclusion that The Beatles are a big part of my life. My parents met because of them so, if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t exist. Literally. I have a lot to thank them for. Suffice it to say, I felt like it was my responsibility in the Cambridge cohort to become the unofficial Beatles tour guide while in London. And, of course, the number one destination on the list was Abbey Road. If you have never heard The Beatles’ music in your life, I’ll fill you in on what Abbey Road is. Abbey Road is the street that’s home to a very famous music studio that The Beatles and many other bands have worked in and created unforgettable music, Abbey Road Studios. Now, the thing you must do while at Abbey Road is recreate the worldwide known Beatles album cover.

Here are a few tips for your very own recreation:

  1. Walk like a normal human being. Don’t freeze in mid-walk and fling your arms in the air. Nobody anywhere walks like that.
  2.  Be assertive when it comes to traffic. Surprisingly, nobody is going to stop traffic while you’re waiting for someone to take your picture. Who do you think you are? The Beatles? The people in cars know what you’re trying to do, so wait for an opening in traffic, make your move, and don’t speed up if a car is coming. Don’t let a stranger ruin one of your only chances to be like The Beatles for the day!
  3. Make a new friend and offer to take their picture, but only if they take your picture in return. They’re all Beatles fans like you. They’re fab.

After Abbey Road, Liverpool was the next stop – the birthplace of The Beatles. Clearly there are hundreds of Beatles sites to hit in Liverpool, but I believe that what a few members of the group and I did was more personal and meaningful. We saw the new Beatles documentary, “Eight Days A Week.” In Liverpool…where it all started. It was unreal.


Cambridge, Caroline Dienes

Before the film even started, a video of Ron Howard (the director), Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr played in which they personally thanked everyone viewing the picture in Liverpool. Even while sitting in the theatre listening to them, I couldn’t believe it. I was in that large pool of audience members that they were thanking. After the film, we kept the Beatles theme going and went to the Cavern Club, where The Beatles first played as a group. I kept thinking to myself, “How is any of this real?”. But, in the words of The Beatles, “Nothing is real.” So, I just have to accept the fact that I’m going to be experiencing many more unreal situations with my time here. My other cohort friends continually asked me, “Why would you just go see a movie with your time in a brand new place?” Seeing that movie was the only thing I wanted to do in Liverpool. I don’t think I have ever smiled that much or had never-ending goosebumps in any other movie.


Cambridge, Caroline Dienes

Hello. My name is Caroline Dienes and, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I like The Beatles. A few Beatles wishes have come true in this first month of being abroad. These wishes also came true in the presence of friends, which is all that I could ask for! Being a lone Beatles fan can make you feel like a nowhere man sometimes. But with a little help from my friends, The Beatles have gotten an even stronger hold on me since I’ve began my journey abroad.

All You Need Is Love,

-Caroline Dienes

Weekend Away in La Cabaña

Author: Caylyn Moglia

Program:  San José, Costa Rica – Study Center

¡Hola todos!

This past weekend was my first free weekend, so my family took me up to la cabaña (the cabin), and it was amazing. Mamá inherited the cabin from her mom, and it is one of her favorite places to be. I really can’t blame her.  The cabin is made of wood and corrugated tin. It is a wonderful place to relax and listen to nature.


Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the outside, but I did remember to at least take a picture from the doorway before we left.


The cabin was amazing and very simple. All of the water was stored in a big tank, and the “spouts” were pipes. The coolest part was that everything was cooked on a wood stove.


In order to reach the cabin, we had to do a lot of off road driving through a cow pasture. The property was fenced off in the middle of the pasture, so there were cows practically in the front yard. According to Tío, one of the cows is pregnant.


Soon after we arrived, it started to rain, but once it stopped, I went on a hike with Mamá, Papá, Abuelo, and Santiago. We were able to stop at a waterfall! Papá used a machete to clear the path of overgrown weeds as well as a fallen tree. Santiago carried a thin stick that he used like a machete.


After our hike, Santi and I searched for worms and found a ton of them! Look at that leaf!


During dinner Saturday night, we were visited by Lobo (wolf), a local dog who knows that Mamá will feed him. Lobo got a couple of the soup bones as well as the meat from our bowls.

Saturday night, I learned that it gets really dark really fast in the mountains. It was pitch black by 6:30 pm, and we ate dinner with the small amount of light provided by the flashlight to see by. After dinner, we had a campfire and roasted marshmallows. However, we didn’t make s’mores. I just might have to buy some graham crackers and chocolate next time we go to the cabin.


When I woke up Sunday morning, I quickly realized that I had forgotten to put bug spray on my hands before going to bed.  My right hand wasn’t as bad since I used it to rub the bug spray in, but it still got eaten up.  At least I put bug spray on my legs, arms, and neck!


Sunday was very rainy, but we were visited by a rooster named Gallina (chicken) who ended up coming home with us.



We also had a blue morpho butterfly visit us! This was the first time I’ve seen one outside of a butterfly garden!


Shortly before we left, Ashley returned from a walk with a friend.

Sunday afternoon, I had a very new experience, I caught a chicken. This was really big for me because I don’t particularly like live chickens. Originally, I was just going to watch Ashley and her friend Allison catch Gallina, but they were having a hard time, and neither particularly wanted to touch it. So I grabbed the bag he would eventually be put in and used it like a giant glove to catch him. I managed to grab him and then carried him inside, where Abuelo picked him up while I opened the bag. We brought Gallina home with us, and Mamá gave him to her sister. Having a chicken in the car was interesting, especially when he tried to escape. It was an amazing weekend, and I can’t wait to go back on my next free weekend!

-Caylyn Anne

Solo Rosas

Author: Caylyn Moglia

Program:  San José, Costa Rica – Study Center

¡Hola todos!

I have now been in Costa Rica for a week, and I am loving it! I am living with a host family in Santa Rosa, which is in between San José and Heredia. My family consists of my mother and father, my brothers, Kendall (18) and Santiago (5), and my sister, Ashley (15). Every Tuesday and Wednesday, I go to the Universidad Bíblica Latinoamericano to take theology classes in the evening.

After the first few days, our program director, Heidi, took a group of us to Solo Rosas. The journey there turned into an adventure in itself, since we accidentally missed a turn and went way too far up the mountain. I have learned two very useful things from this experience: first, it is totally acceptable to ask a stranger for directions, because everybody is so helpful. Second, you should probably ask multiple people to make sure you have the right directions, because ticans, known as locals, will try to help even if they aren’t completely sure how to get to where you need to go.

One of our stops to ask for directions resulted in a delicious lunch. I had arroz con carne (rice with meat), which turned out to be pork. My meal was so huge that I couldn’t even finish all of it, so I got a box to go. While we were eating, the manager asked to take our picture for Facebook, and we agreed, so at some point, my picture will show up on Flores & Café’s Facebook page.


San José, Caylyn Moglia

Once we finished lunch, we made our way to Solo Rosas to see the rose garden, and it was AMAZING! The sign at the beginning told us that the garden boasts 50,000 plants with over 300 varieties of roses, some of which were created in Costa Rica.

I really wish I was able to capture a picture of the cows and a couple goats tied to trees to graze by the side of the road. Seeing these animals so close to a busy road surprised me, but it seemed to be completely normal for them, not a single animal looked at us as we passed.


-Caylyn Moglia

Life is Knackig


Reutlingen, Ian Olive

Author: Ian Olive

Program: Reutlingen, Germany – Study Center

I stepped out the door and immediately my body was immersed in the early morning magic.  The air was cool and slightly damp; a slight westward breeze blew the faint smell of fresh bread past my nostrils. The sun had just begun to peek its head over the low rolling hills of the university campus, casting a warm glow on the surrounding buildings. As I walked toward the bus all I could think of was the word crisp, which is knackig in Deutsch. It was a morning feeling that can’t be replicated by any other country on earth.

As my friends and family might point out, I’m not exactly what you’d call a morning person. Just last semester, I scheduled my earliest class to be at 1:30 p.m. so I could sleep in as long as I pleased. I’m not exactly sure what led me to being wide awake at 5 a.m., but here I was wide awake. After enjoying the crisp German morning, I hopped on the bus and made my way to downtown Reutlingen.


Reutlingen, Ian Olive

I ended up spending most of my day downtown. It was refreshing to be able to explore a new city without any of the burdens of responsibilities or schedules. I meandered my way up and down the narrow side streets and ordered a trio of fruity pastries from a street vendor while continuing to marvel at the architecture and colors of the streets. I kept my eye open for old-timer classic cars while smiling and attempting to converse with all the elderly German people doing their morning shopping.

The day continued with a trip to an open air market in the town’s central plaza. Swabia farmers sold a variety of goods from sausages and fresh bread to fruits and vegetables I had never seen before. The Germans tend to do most of their shopping on a daily basis and choose not to go to a large supermarket and stock up for a few weeks. This custom keeps the food fresh and helps out the local vendors.


Reutlingen, Ian Olive

After the market, I met up with the tidy group of eight students from the Valpo cohort and took a quick tour of the neighboring town, Tübingen, with one of our German professors, Herr Springer. The man is a legend among the Reutlingen Study Center and he knows every bit of interesting info about beautiful Tübingen. He invited us all to dinner at the charming Neckarmüller restaurant on the river. I ordered Braumeisterpfännle with Spätz and Zwiebel which was a delicious blend of three different steaks and creamy pasta with mushrooms.

As the temperature began to drop, and the sun began to fade behind the clouds, a band across the river was playing a Johnny Cash song. I took the last sip of my drink and all I could think was life is good, life is knackig.



Off to a Great Start (Sarcastic or Literal Tone)

Author: Caroline Dienes

Program: Cambridge, England

Let’s face it, layovers can be a drag for many reasons. First off, they can be nine hours long. Second, you have to trudge around the airport with your multiple carry on bags. Third, the thought of boarding another plane is simply annoying and stressful. Fourth, you can misplace some very important documents you need for that next flight. And lastly, the layover can be in a strange place that you’ve never been before, like Iceland.

Layovers can be a drag, but in my case, it was a tiny trip before I actually arrived at my study abroad location. Three other students in the Cambridge program and I landed in Keflavik, Iceland at 6:30 in the morning and, almost immediately, things decided to go off the rails. My passport and boarding pass somehow vanished from my purse, and I instantly went into panic mode. I frantically ran to the service desk, told an employee my predicament, and they made a phone call to see if I could get back on the plane to search for my vital pieces of paper. While they were on the phone, I began rummaging through my backpack to see if I accidentally placed them in there. And guess what…they were both there. Crisis averted.

Viking World

Pictured: Shannon O’Keefe, Becky Valek, Alec Chase.

After we finally got out of the airport, the four of us started our nine hour adventure in Iceland. We decided to go to Viking World in Keflavik, because, you know, why not. It was a petite museum that told the history of the Vikings and included a complimentary breakfast of croissants, oatmeal, and fruit. There were also plenty of rocks outside for us to climb and walk on, thus confusing the other museum goers inside because apparently no one else found the rocks interesting. Granted, we got there the moment the museum opened, it was a perfect place to spend four hours. I highly recommend it to be a layover/stopover/actual destination in someone’s near future.

After the Icelandic journey came to an end, I eventually got to my final destination – Cambridge, England. Now, I am here until December, but I can’t help but think that I am going to miss Iceland. So many rocks. So much Viking trivia. So little ice, yet so much land. Good thing the four of us have another layover in Iceland when we fly back to the States, but this time…it will be 17 hours.

Stay Fresh,


Creating Your Own Story: Predeparture

Author: Maia Moore

Program: Hangzhou, China

Old World Architecture - China

Old World Architecture, Matt Smok

August 25th.

237th day of the year.

A date 117 days away.

The day I arrive in China.

My 20th birthday.

To say that I’m experiencing a feeling somewhere between excitement and nervousness would be an understatement. Honestly, I’m not even sure what I’m feeling right now. I don’t think the realization that I will be spending a semester on the other side of the world has hit me just yet. I’m still in the “calm before the storm” phase. The storm probably won’t hit until August 24th, when I’m in O’Hare airport trying to convince my mom not to board the plane with me.

Oddly enough, we’re arriving in Hangzhou on my 20th birthday. While I don’t relish the idea of spending the day on a 13 hour flight, at least I can look back and say that I was doing something completely different for my birthday, Last year, all I did was attend class and eat pizza from the cafe. However, this will be the first birthday I spend without my family and friends. This is also the birthday that I officially leave my “teenage” years behind. Although this birthday will be an emotional and significant one, I’ve been planning to study abroad for a long time and won’t turn back now.

I suppose my path for study abroad began long ago. I’ve always loved traveling and so has my family. My dad has been to over 30 different countries. Whenever he returned home from his travels, with him, he would bring a gift and a story. Dining in India, exploring the Outback of Australia, joining an impromptu street band in Spain, these are just some of the enchanting stories he would tell.  I would listen vehemently, imagining myself in his place. At the end of his tales, he would always say to me, “One day, you will have your own stories to tell.” So it seems that the time has come for me to create my own stories. I don’t know how this particular story will end, but  I look forward to writing it.



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