Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Category: Europe (page 1 of 9)

Moving In and Hardly Moving

Author: Ella Speckhard

Location: Paris, France

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Before arriving in France, I had created this image in my head of how things were going to go the first few days. I was going to arrive early in the morning, take a taxi past the Eiffel Tower and watch the sun rise before meeting my host, who would click with me immediately. Reality was a lot less glamorous. My flight arrived at Charles de Gaulle around 6:45am and as I lugged my carry-on and my backpack through the airport to the baggage claim, I was in a terrible mood. I couldn’t sleep on my flight, my knee was killing me, I was sweating, and then to make matters worse my suitcase was broken, and the wheels were barely working. Then, I got into a taxi hoping to relax a little bit and enjoy my first ever sights of Paris. That idea proved a bit difficult for two reasons; one, it was still pitch black outside so all I could really see were advertisements along the highway, and two, I was a bit busy clutching the door as my taxi driver weaved in and out of traffic with no apparent regard for lane lines or traffic signals. Once I arrived at my host’s apartment building, I tried using the door code she gave me only to find myself locked out. Eventually, I gave up and called her (using expensive cellphone minutes since I didn’t have an international SIM card yet) and she let me in. I crammed myself and my bags into the tiniest little elevator I’ve ever seen and then arrived at my new residence. Life lesson learned? Lower your expectations. Things have a tendency to go wrong when you most desperately want them to go right.

Another life lesson I learned early-on in this endeavor is that there are few things in the world as awkward as showing up at a complete stranger’s house and moving in for four months. Christine, my host, is absolutely wonderful and she was so warm and welcoming, but I was exhausted beyond belief, I could barely understand her French because my brain was fried, and I had so many questions swirling around in my head that I couldn’t even ask a single one. She quickly caught on that I just needed to sleep for a couple hours, so that’s what I did. Now, three days in, we have somewhat adjusted to each other’s habits. There are still plenty of things I feel uncomfortable about (Which dishes am I allowed to use? Should I be regularly checking in with her when I’m not home? Should I tell her if I spill in the kitchen or just clean it up myself?) but we seem to have developed a rhythm and I bet it will only improve from here on out. Life lesson learned? Homestays are an amazing opportunity to fully immerse yourself in another culture, but it will be awkward, and you will forget all of the questions you want to ask as soon as they say, “Do you have any questions for me?”

So far most of this has seemed negative, but things really have improved since that first day. I know myself, and for me the first day doing something brand new is always terrifying and full of anxiety. I was a mess as I was unpacking, crying because of my homesickness and wanting to go home all the while knowing that this was the thing I had been looking forward to for months. A few good nights’ sleep and some amazing French food from my host Christine have helped improve my mindsight so much. I also know some of the other people in the program now and have started to develop some friendships, which is so essential in helping combat the homesickness. As much as I love my alone time, being around others who are in the same situation as I am is a huge comfort. Life lesson learned? Your physical well-being has an enormous impact on your feelings and mental health. When I was jetlagged and nauseous, my first reaction to everything was tears and my anxiety was through the roof. Once I slept and got some food in me, my outlook became much more optimistic.

Finally, I want to say that the current transportation strike in Paris has affected the day-to-day life of the city tremendously. Without the metro lines running consistently, traffic is a nightmare, buses and trains are packed to the gills, and walking often becomes the main mode of transportation. This can make for some extremely long walks through the city, but what better way to get acquainted with the lesser-known parts of Paris? It’s been irritating not being able to fall into a regular routine with the metro since there are different lines and stations open every day, but it has been interesting getting to see all of the little side streets and shops that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. The culture of public protest and striking is much different in France than it is in the USA. I’ve discussed this idea in my classes before, but it’s fascinating to see up close and personal how people react to these kinds of situations between the government and the people. If you can, read up on “la grève” (the strike) in France right now—it’s a fascinating look at how French and American people view work differently. Life lesson learned? When in doubt, walk it out. 2 hours is long, but it’s better than getting lost in a metro system you don’t know very well and missing mandatory orientation sessions.

A good representation of my mood on the first day

Finally smiling on my third day in Paris!

Interning at a French Law Firm

Author: Bianca Gamez

Location: Paris, France

Pronouns: He/His/Him

For the second half of the semester, my study abroad program had the students do an internship in either English or French. Before being placed somewhere, the program teams up with EUSA that deals with the placement of each student. This process was tedious for me and pretty much every other student because over the summer we had to turn our resumés into a CVs which is a different format and it also needed to be in French. Apart from this, we also had to have a Skype interview with one of the EUSA representatives in order for them to see our French speaking skills and be able to get to know us. Not only did we have to do this, but we also had to fill out a couple documents and surveys online through their platform. After all of this, we just had to wait until we came abroad and see where we would be placed and who we will be interviewing with.

Since each student could specify which sector they would like to be placed for their internship, I decided to be placed in either political science or law sector. Since, I have already had experience working at a law firm in the U.S. it was not hard to convince them to place me in one. Fortunately, I conducted my interview at Cabinet Castellane Avocats which is a French law firm. The founder, Béatrice Castellane, of the enterprise let me intern with her firm for the rest of the program, and so far, I have been pleased with this internship.

Cabinet Castellane Avocats is located in the northwest part of Paris, Trocadero. In order to get into the building, you need three different types of codes in order to enter the private neighborhood, the apartment, and to access the stairs and elevator. The office is small and only consists of the attorney Castellane, another intern who is about to graduate from law school, and me. The other intern and me both have our own desks, computers, and work folders. I only work Mondays through Thursdays from 10a.m. to about 7p.m, and my tasks mainly consist of reading and responding to e-mails, reading cases, contributing my thoughts and opinions on the cases, helping draft documents, and preparing the documents for the hearings. Most of tasks and communication is in French except for the cases that are conducted in English.

(This is the outside of the law firm.)

(This is our kitchen. We are given an hour for lunch and just to relax after our busy morning.)

(This is my desk where I work on the cases that are given to me and translate words from French to English for my own comprehension)

Throughout my internship, I have been taken out of my comfort zone and have had my own morals and thoughts challenged. I learned that this was normal since my culture and the French culture is different especially when talking about politics. I will say, however, that I have learned so much from interning at a French law firm. My vocabulary and grammar have advanced so much legally and also from a day to day basis. I have become more comfortable when speaking in French because of this opportunity since I am forced to communicate effectively on what I am thinking and feeling about documents. Overall, this internship has helped develop my French speaking skills and has opened another professional career for me which is arbitrational work.

(I went to the Palais de Justice for a hearing. This is one of the main lobby areas of the courthouse.)

(This is also inside le Palais de Justice except this is one of the areas that is restricted and only those who have cases in this area are allowed to enter.)

Normandie: Bayeux

Author: Bianca Gamez

Location: Normandy, France

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Europe, especially France, has so much history within it when dealing with World War 2, and historical war sites in Europe were one of the things that I have always wanted to see in person. Since I finally had the opportunity to study abroad in Paris, I decided to take advantage of that and go up north to Normandie and visit Omaha Beach and other D-Day historical sites. Since I wasn’t the only one who wanted to see historical landmarks, some friends in the same program as me, joined along for a weekend in Bayeux. We took a 2-hour train ride, which is very typical here in Europe when traveling to places. We ended up arriving at Bayeux late at night due to some difficulties with the train, but we were still optimistic that we would still enjoy all of Saturday and half of Sunday.

The next morning, we decided to have breakfast at a cute little pink café. Since most of the group members were females, we all pretty much felt as if we were in a Barbie playhouse because of how much pink was in the place. There were also doilies and news clippings from years ago. However, overall, it was a cute little café and the owner was super sweet with us and would explain what was on the menu and what she would recommend. In the end, we ended up ordering a typical French breakfast which was tea or hot chocolate with croque-monsieur or madame. A croque-monsieur is a piece of long bread that is toasted with ham and cheese, and the croque-madame is the exact same thing except it has a sunny side up egg on top.

After breakfast, we decided to start our adventures in Bayeux. We visited one of the cathedrals, Notre Dame de Bayeux, that was in the middle of the town. This cathedral was built in 1230-1270 with medieval architecture.

(This is the front of Notre Dame de Bayeux)

(This was the stained glass inside the cathedral)

(Once you enter the cathedral this is the first thing you see)

The next historical site that we visited was the Bayeux War Cemetery. This cemetery has almost every soldier that fought in the Bayeux War. Walking through the cemetery was an unexplainable feeling because seeing all the tombstones was astonishing since many were from different countries, different ages, and had different experiences. For instance, some tombstones read “unknown soldier” and others would read “to my only son”. It was hard walking through the place and just realizing that some of the soldiers were our age when they died. It was a weird feeling because they fought fighting for what we currently have today which one appreciates a lot but it is also sad to realize that many had to lose their lives in order for that to even be possible.

(This is the sign before you enter the cemetery)

(One side of the cemetery that shows a couple of many tombstones)

(An unknown soldier’s tombstone. It was sad seeing how many of these were here.)

(This is placed right in the middle of the cemetery)

Next to the cemetery, there is a museum that houses articles of clothing and war items like knives, bombs, and invasion plans. Inside the museum, there is also a small theater that explains D-Day and how the plans for the invasion were planned out and what steps they took.

(One of the military machines used during D-Day)

(Another one of the equipment that was used on D-Day)

(These were the badges that were used by the US)

(Some of the badges that were used by the Nazis)

The last historical site that we ended up visiting was Omaha Beach, where D-Day took place. We had to take a taxi all the way to the beach since it was too far away to walk to. When we got there, it felt so surreal because the atmosphere felt so peaceful and calm, but when I reflected to what happened at that beach it was not like that at all.

Overall, the trip to Bayeux and Omaha Beach was an amazing opportunity! I had a great time with my friends and also had a moment to reflect back on life and those who fought for us and our future.

(The view of Omaha Beach)

(One of many bunkers that can be found at Omaha Beach)

Exploring Europe

Author: Bianca Gamez

Location: Italy, Greece, &  Spain

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

As my classes started to come to an end, the Boston University Program gave the students a week of vacation before we had to start our internships. A couple friends and I decided that we should use this week to explore the rest of Europe and be “tourists”. We planned out our week to leave immediately after our finals and make our way to Rome, Italy for a day, Sorrento, Italy for three days, then Athens, Greece for a day, and finish up in Barcelona, Spain for the rest of break. At first, we did not realize that we were being very ambitious about our trip until we would talk to others about our plans to explore Europe, and they would just stare at us with shock in their eyes.

Regardless, we continued with our plans and took a flight from Paris to Italy, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Italy has so much to offer and so much to eat! My friends and I ate homemade pasta, pizza, and cannoli whenever we would go out to eat. We also ended up exploring the Colosseum, Pompeii, the Trevi fountain, and swam in the Mediterranean Sea.

(This was inside the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. We only had to pay 2 euros to get in because we were considered EU students)

(This was one of the “mummies” in Pompeii. Pompeii only has this one and three more inside of the city)

When we made our way to Athens, we mainly focused on seeing the Parthenon, the Acropolis of Athens, and the Temple of Zeus. Afterwards, we went to the street markets to look around and we even had the opportunity to experience a Garra Rufa fish session, which is when fish eat the dead skin off your feet.

(This was at the Parthenon and from left to right it was Serenity, Mykie, Allie, me, Ciarra, and Emily. All of us attend the same study abroad program.)

(This was also at the Parthenon, but in the background is the town of Athens and one the mountains.)

In Barcelona, which was our final destination, my friends and I decided to take it easy since we were so exhausted from all the traveling, walking, and exploring so we didn’t do too much adventuring. We did, however, visit some of the well-known cathedrals and attended a paella (a Spanish dish) cooking class.

(We took a Paella cooking class in Barcelona, and this was the final product.)

(My friends and I passed by the Cathedral of Barcelona.)

(We also ended up passing by La Sagrada Familia. The cathedral is still going under renovations, and we were told by locals that it is expected to be done by 2026! The top picture is from the front of the Cathedral and the bottom one is from the back.)

Overall, exploring Europe has given me the opportunity to be exposed to different languages that challenge me to learn new words and be able to appreciate the culture and traditions of other countries. This experience opened my eyes to how the culture is different in the U.S. and Europe and how one has to fully immerse themselves to that culture to truly obtain the essence of that country and culture. On the other hand, I also learned that culture shock is true and can happen at any moment. For instance, I experienced culture shock when my friends and I would walk around to find a place to eat and every place would have someone outside of the restaurant that would try to persuade you to eat there by offering free dessert, free wine, or just explain how wonderful their place is compared to the others. I personally did not like this and found it to be overwhelming and annoying after a while, but I slowly grew accustom to it, and I am now capable to continue walking and just say no thank you.

Taking Courses in Paris

Author: Bianca Gamez

Location: Paris, France

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

As a Political Science and French double major, I always knew that I wanted to study abroad somewhere in France so I can be fully immersed with the culture and language. However, I never would have imagined actually having that dream of mine come true. As many students who have studied abroad know or who are currently applying to study abroad, the application process is tedious and the transition to a new country can also be a bit difficult. On the other hand, the experience received by being able to study in a different country is unforgettable. I decided to study abroad through the program provided by Boston University which includes half the semester of classes and the other half we get an internship in our concentration.

Currently, I have been taking classes that started on the 6th of September and will be ending on the 25 of October. The classes I decided to take were art history, the study of French cinema, theater, and songs, and a language course on French writing. I made the decision to take courses that would help me obtain a better knowledge on the French culture and not just on the language. My art history class has exposed me to not only the history of art but to the meaning of art in France especially in Paris. For instance, art in Paris is important in their culture and it’s a conversation started, as well, because as my professor said art is one of the first things French people were exposed to because it is everywhere. Throughout this course, we have visited the Museum of Orsay, Museum Marmottan, the Nation Art Museum of Centre Pompiduo, and Palais Tokyo. The course began from the classical art pieces to the more modern pieces of art and we talked about how each style of art was influenced.

(This was at Musée D’Orsay)

(This was one of my favorite pieces of art at Musée D’Orsay which is by Seurat called Cirque)

(This is a piece from Centre Pompiduo which is considered to be more modern)

My other course on cinema, theatre, and songs offered me the same opportunities with outings to go see French films in the movie theaters and see French plays at the theaters. This course has been teaching me about the law on French radio stations and about the culture around plays and movies. For example, I learned that French radio stations have a law where their music that they play has to be 60% French music and cannot play the songs numerous of times throughout the day. The reason they have this is to help make sure those hearing music on the radio are being expose to different types of music. In addition, this course was a bit more difficult than the others because when the class would go to the movies or the theater there were words that I could not understand and sometimes the dialect spoken would be challenge. Because of this, I always had to remind myself that it’s okay not to know everything that is being spoken because this is the reason why I am studying abroad, so I can speak more fluently the language and understand the culture and traditions here.

(This was when my class went to the theatre to watch the play Art by Yasmina Reza at the Theatre Antoine)

(My class also went to a smaller theatre to go see the play Et pendant ce temps Simone Veille)

So far, I have been very pleased with the decision to study abroad in Paris. Every day I am exposed to new challenges where I am forced to get out of my comfort zone. For instance, in the beginning of the program, I had no idea how the metro worked and how to get a metro pass so I was forced to ask multiple people for directions and assistance in a language where I did not feel that I could fully express myself. On the other hand, now the challenges for me are figuring out where I have not explored yet and making sure that I speak French almost the whole time with my friends so that I am prepared to speak it at my internship which is at a law firm. Overall, I look forward to learning new expressions and words from Parisians around me and at my internship.

(The Eiffel Tower at the stop Trocadéro)

(Me on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower)

(Me at the L’arc de Triumph before a couple of friends and I had dinner on the Champs-Elyssées)

(This is when my friend, Lidia, and I decided to go visit Le jardin de Luxemburg (the Luxemburg Garden) in Paris)

(My friends Lidia (far left), Allie, Emily, and me at Sacré-Coeur enjoying the nice day)

Setting Goals vs. the Reality of Studying Abroad

Author: Emily Neuharth

Location: Cambridge, England

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Going into my study abroad semester, I knew that Cambridge was going to entail a change of pace compared to my constantly over-packed Valpo schedule; it was even part of what drew me to this program. As I was mentally preparing for this experience, I was making an ever-growing list of new habits that I wanted to implement while abroad, envisioning myself coming back from Cambridge as a well-balanced and just in general “better” person.

A candid of me in front of Kings College Chapel (sniped by my visiting friend Hayley).

Much of what made up my “New and Improved Emily” to-do list were things that I have been wanting to implement into my life for years. I always reasoned with myself that it’s not necessarily my fault that I had yet to make these changes— I’ve never had the time or margin; my academic, extracurricular, and social commitments at Valpo have always kept me me running straight from one thing to the next. This kind of lifestyle has always created the environment for me to best succeed, even though I always ended every semester completely burnt out. I kept functioning that way partly because it’s what I’ve always known but also because I truly believed that the impressive list of accomplishments that I’d have to show for my hard work would always make it worth it.

The semester before I went abroad marked my halfway-point in college, and I had started reflecting on my time at Valpo and what I wanted for my second half. That previous summer and second semester of sophomore year I had made significant strides in the academic and professional spheres of my life, but at what cost? I had been motivated during all of those late-late-nights and too-early mornings by the fulfillment that these achievements would bring me. While they did make me happy, helped me better discern what I wanted for my future career-wise, and the affirmation it brought from others fueled my self-confidence greatly, it was hard to truly enjoy everything when my mental and physical health were so depleted. I’d also somewhat subconsciously traded in a lot of what had been socially-fulfilling for more of those material accomplishments (like choosing to pour my energy into winning contests and getting good grades instead of relaxing or catching up with my friends). But at some point along the way I had stopped asking for help and leaning on others, so I realized too late that those victories are not very special anymore if I couldn’t celebrate them with my support team.

Taken at the Glasgow Necropolis, Scotland

Because I’d been fairly successful ahead-of-the-curve, if you will, I had always been prompted to keep going by comparing myself to others and by this voice in the back of my head always telling me that “it can only go up from here, you still have so much time left at college” etc. And it was effective. At least, it was effective in piling up external affirmations, but when I finally gave myself a little bit of time to reflect, I began to understand that those kind of achievements were not truly fulfilling me in the long-run. However, I do feel very grateful that slaving away for those past two years had given me a enough wiggle-room to pause and take a breath so that I could make those kind of observations when I did.

With all of this context in mind, I confirmed my application to study abroad in Cambridge. Remember that idealized dream I mentioned earlier? …Living independently in a small European city where I would wake up early without prompting and magically resolve all of my issues? My (unrealistic) list of goals went something like this:

  • Stop procrastinating all of my assignments
  • Write creatively on my own everyday
  • Learn how to cook and eat healthily everyday
  • Do yoga or workout everyday
  • Go to church every week, maybe join a Bible study
  • Get into a regular sleep pattern (i.e. stop staying up and waking up so late)
  • “Make the most” of my time abroad

While all of those goals are good ones, most of them have this “all or nothing” mindset. One of the first topics we covered in my British Life & Culture class were some of the differences between American and British lifestyles (shocking, I know). The difference that’s been the most relevant and difficult for me to adjust to has been in realizing that America encourages extremely competitive atmospheres where we have been trained to believe that “failure is never an option.”

Taken at one of my favorite places I’ve been to yet…A beautiful Medieval town: Lavenham, England.

Now, I’ll agree that achieving all of these goals in a few months would be unrealistic for anyone (and I’ll agree that I’ve also had an issue in the past with romanticizing new situations and the magical affect that it could have on me). However, I do have one caveat: there is definitely something about the idea of “studying abroad” that promotes this kind of mindset. At least in my case, everyone I talked to who were either promoting it or who had been abroad themselves, shared different stories with similar themes of unprecedented self-growth and that was what truly made me want to go abroad.

Perhaps needless to say, I am 3⁄4 of the way done with my time abroad and I have not fully accomplished any of those goals. I have certainly been working on a lot of those goals but I have also failed, repeatedly, at a lot of them. Almost everyday I have to resist the urge to just cancel all of the goals completely and wallow in self-criticism. But, I am slowly learning how to both function and make mistakes.

This kind of reflection has directed me towards a lot of self-exploration and questioning: Why do I struggle so much to find internal motivation? Have I been using over-packed schedules as a crutch my whole life? Why is “trying my best” or even “trying at all” not enough for me to feel proud of what I have accomplished?

Taken at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge— in SPRING weather!!

3 Things I’ve Learned Over the Past 3 Months:

  1. Failure is OK, half-way-done is OK, procrastination is OK (i.e. everything does not have to always be perfect).
  1. I was blaming my unwillingness to take control of my life on having a super busy schedule.
  1. There is no universally agreed-upon standard of “making the most” of my time abroad that I should be trying to meet. Everybody’s “most” will look different.

But I don’t want to come away from this experience with self-frustration and regret being the predominant themes just because I didn’t meet all of the unrealistic goals that I had set for myself. If my original intentions for these goals and for studying abroad in general was to grow, then I should challenge myself to work towards something that does not have an obvious, external destination or end-product.

I think I am learning that if I can set goals that will help me make “being present” my new habit, then I will certainly return home as someone who has grown and will continue to do so even once I’m back at Valpo.

3 (Realistic) Goals for My Last Month:

  1. Try not to compare my experience to those around me or to others who have studied abroad.
  1. Try to do one thing everyday that grounds me (e.g. going for a walk, journaling, Facetiming a friend or family from home).
  1. Try not to get too caught up in final papers and exams or future plans. Instead, focus on making memories and spending time with my new family of friends— I am sure I’ll be missing them all so much this summer.

Eric and Nolan posing in front of a sign we stumbled upon in Glasgow, Scotland. We thought it was fitting for our Valpo family.

Culture Rocks to Culture Shocks

Author: Garrett Gilmartin

Location: Granada, Spain

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Anyone who has travelled, whether it be from one state to another or one country to another, knows that seeing new plants, people, or buildings can be breathtaking. This was my experience arriving in Spain. Of course, I had some nerves because I did not know anyone in my program. There are other students from Valpo within the program but I knew as much about them as I did everyone else I met upon arrival. Nerves aside, I was extremely excited to be able to use Spanish in a setting other than a classroom.

Culture shock was a big topic before leaving the U.S. and throughout orientation here in Spain. This trip was not the first time I had travelled outside of the United States, so I did not understand the idea of culture shock. It did not make sense to me as I love to absorb information on other cultures, religions, and people, and could not imagine feeling uncomfortable in an environment rich with information for me to absorb. I was wrong… Moreover, despite the mini courses and orientation I went through, I still feel as though culture shock is nothing like what I was told to expect.

I was told that culture shock, without the fancy dictionary definition, was essentially feeling a mixture of homesickness, loneliness, and uncomfortability. That was without a doubt spot on to how I felt when culture shock set in. What was surprising was exactly when the shock set in. My director here in Spain told me once that she had seen charts showing a vague timeline for how one should or might feel while studying abroad or spending a large duration of time in different country, however, she has observed that instead of one large dip in the chart, where student’s feelings of loneliness kick in, there are often two dips before returning home which students are not ready for.

The first is soon after arrival, when it sinks in that the student really is abroad and cannot just call up their friends to go out anymore.This dip in comfortability is often accounted for in standard charts. The second is about half way through the program (in my case a semester) when culture shock hits the hardest because the mix of excitement to go home and hearing from family and friends how things are happening and changing without the student being there can make them feel like they are missing out. This second dip in emotion is the surprising one. Personally, at this point I felt so detached from the life I knew back in the U.S. but also not a perfect fit for Spain. For me this was like losing a sense of belonging to anywhere.

How I dealt with culture shock might not be a perfect fit for others, but (logically) my solution for not feeling like I had a home was to make one. Obviously, I could not try to rebuilt that feeling with Valpo or the Chicagoland area because that is not where I am. So, I really focused on the opportunities in front of me. My host family is wonderful.

I have a host mother and father as well as a host brother who is fifteen, which is actually quite unusual. Most host “families” here consist of a host mother and possibly her grown children who visit now and again. Anyway, that’s just the immediate family that I live with in Granada. There is an older daughter and an older son who have moved out. The daughter comes back to visit often and the son owns one of two total bars in a small mountain town in the region Alpujarras. We often go to visit him on the weekends to help with the bar and get some work done on my host father’s farm. These weekend trips and being able to help with some work has made me feel like part of the family. I am even getting to know many other people who live in the town.

The reality is that everyone experiences culture shock or deals with culture shock differently, but hopefully I can prepare others a little bit more for their trips abroad by revealing how I dealt with it. Other ways to build a family like setting here is to be brave and make friends in and out of one’s program, as I have in Alpujarras and Granada.

Stockholm, Sweden; Reutlingen, Germany; Paris, France

Author: Shannon Ilg

Location: Stockholm, Sweden; Reutlingen, Germany; Paris, France

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

October 20, 2018

Stockholm, Sweden. A beautiful city! Although, it was rather chilly to walk around all day (40,000+ steps, if anyone is counting…) so I ended up purchasing a coat from a second hand shop and a touristy winter hat. Both of them have since then been wonderful additions to my travel wardrobe. Side note… my silly self decided that I wouldn’t need a winter coat so I had originally just brought a jean jacket and a slightly insulated raincoat. I think I would have been okay just in Reutlingen, but with all of the traveling I am certainly glad to have bought the coat and the hat.

October 21, 2018

To save time on traveling by train I secured a cheap flight back from Sweden. It was certainly a great choice, as I got to see the beautiful sunrise over the wing of the airplane (and also saved myself from a 24 hour journey…). Upon flying back into Hamburg, we significantly lowered travel time, and also were able to stop briefly in Berlin again, where we attempted to buy currywurst where we had previously (a delicious sausage street food). Unfortunately, the vendor was not open yet as it was 9 am, so we settled for a chain restaurant.

October 22, 2018

The next morning, Reutlingen greeted us with the first frost. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

October 23, 2018

Another day, spent completely in the walls of the study room, working endlessly on homework. I mean, this is *study* abroad… we can’t just travel all the time! (Although I have done a fair job of traveling every spare moment)

October 24, 2018

I just have to say kudos to the chef of this wonderfully magical mac and cheese that breathed the life back into me at 2 am. It was delicious. Thank you, Lauren.

October 25, 2018

Here you see the contents of approximately 73% of the meals I eat when I’m traveling. A) it’s cheap. B) it’s quite delicious. C) it’s easy to pack upwards of 5 meals for two people at the same time. D) It’s relatively light and packable. E) You can easily carry peanut butter and jam, Nutella and honey, or a number of other combinations so it doesn’t get boring. F) I mean, I could go on, but I think you get the gist…

Oh, by the way, this is the start of Fall Break for classes in Reutlingen (although I still had to keep up with my 3 classes from Valpo), and this countertop is in Paris.

October 26, 2018

Oh, look at that! The Eiffel tower! In all honesty, I was not expecting a whole lot from it at all. My thoughts were approximately ‘it is an overrated hunk of metal that everyone likes taking pictures of’. But it was actually really cool to see in person! It was a lot taller than I was expecting, and you could see it from very far away. Although I don’t think I need to go back any time soon, it was certainly worth the time to go see.

October 27, 2018

So as you can see, I had a pigeon on my arm. This was in front of Notre Dame, and there were a bajillion of these birds out there. There were some men selling bird food that you could attract them with, some people having ten or twenty birds on them at the same time. I happened to have a bunch of stale granola with me, so we used that and had the time of our lives waiting for our tour to begin.

Fall Break

Author: Liam Bodlak

Location: Paris, London, Dublin, Rome

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Fall Break at Valpo is usually pretty short. It’s a time to go home for a bit, recharge, see people, and come back to school to finish out the time until Thanksgiving break. Thanksgiving isn’t as widely celebrated in Europe, so Reutlingen University doesn’t give us a break for it. That makes our weeklong fall break the longest one of the year, and my friends and I took advantage of it. Over the course of the break I traveled to Paris, London, Dublin, and then Rome.

First off was Paris. We left Thursday afternoon, and arrived that night. Paris was slightly different than I’d expected. I’d heard about Paris syndrome, which is an extreme reaction from tourists when Paris doesn’t live up to their expectations, and so my expectations wavered between excited and nervous. Paris was not what I expected, but I liked it. It was somewhat crowded and dirty, but in an endearing way. I appreciated the grittiness of the downtown area. It just felt so alive and exciting. Granted, it was a little annoying to be crammed in with everyone on the metro, but I really appreciated the vibe of the city. The nightlife was great, the tourist attractions (we saw the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Notre Dame Cathedral) were everything they’re cracked up to be, and we somehow found a Steak and Shake in the middle of the city. No complaints about Paris.

Next up was London. It was really nice to have a city without any language barriers, and be able to communicate without difficulty with everyone I met in the city. The weather was nice, and we got to explore a lot. It was interesting to see the different immigrant cultures that are bigger in the UK than other places. There was a Jamaican restaurant next to our hostel, and being able to have authentic Jamaican food and drink was a cultural experience I don’t often get to experience. It didn’t hurt that it was open 24 hours (speaking from experience, jerk chicken is better at 4 AM). London was similar to Paris in the sense of all the tourist attractions, but the people were a lot more interesting than any sort of tourist landmark. The energy of the city makes it what it is, and it’s something that wasn’t lost on me.

We stopped in Dublin for two days after that, and even though we weren’t there for long it was probably my favorite place we went on Fall Break. It was a beautiful city, the people were conversational and friendly, and the Guinness Factory lived up to the hype (the highlight was the sky bar on the top floor, which overlooked the whole city of Dublin). We went out on Halloween night, and the atmosphere was incredible. The people we met were excited to talk about all sorts of things with us, and we met a variety of interesting people as we made our way through the nightlife of College Green. Dublin was an incredible city, and I hope to be back someday.

Our final destination on break was Rome. As with the other cities, it was everything it’s hyped up to be. The food was amazing, the Roman ruins were fascinating, and I got to meet up with a friend from home who showed us around the city our second night there. The highlight was probably the Vatican. I’d seen so many pictures of it before, and it more than lived up to my expectations. It was an incredible, deeply moving experience.

All in all, Fall Break was a great time spent with great people. I got to see some of the most important cities in all of Western Civilization and some of the most beautiful sights in all of Europe, all within the span of a week. I could not be happier with how my Fall Break went.

Twenty-Four Hours in Edinburgh

Author: Emma Hecht

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

I don’t have class after noon on Tuesday or at all on Wednesday. So, for fun, I got on Kayak a couple weeks ago and just looked at flights that would get me somewhere and back in about 24-36 hours (Kayak’s explore tab is my best friend). What I found was a round trip flight to Edinburgh, Scotland for 19 pounds… that’s less than 25 dollars.

I got into Scotland around 7 pm on Tuesday evening, went to a pub for an amazing dinner of steak & ale pie and chocolate cake, and then headed to my hostel. I went to bed relatively early so that I could get up at 5:45 am in the morning and climb a hill/mountain/cliff, “Arthur’s Seat” and be at the top for the sunrise. I tumbled out of bed around 5:52 and began the forty minute walk to Arthur’s Seat. It was raining very slightly. It was also pitch black. Five minutes away from my destination, I reached a forest. Apple Maps thought it was a good idea for me to go through it, but I wasn’t convinced. So I stood and looked at it for a good two minutes, deciding if climbing a mountain was worth risking getting kidnapped. Then I saw cars passing on the other side of the forest and their headlights shed enough light for me to see that the forest was about ten trees on either side of a paved sidewalk. I crossed through without any threats to my safety and worked on figuring out where the paths were to climb up, using three feet of light from my iPhone’s flashlight to guide me. At one point I saw a distant light through the dark and I thought, “Oh wow they marked the path with lights, this is great!” But then the light started moving and I realized it was a person. (I concluded it wasn’t a murderer because murderers wouldn’t wear a light that drew attention to them.)

I remembered that I had a map on my phone of the different paths that there are to Arthur’s Seat, so I whipped that out and saw I was closest to the red path, which was described as a “very steep climb” and I thought, “a) it’s extremely dark out, b) it’s been raining, so there will be a good amount of mud, c) I’m wearing boots with very little traction, and d) I have very little experience climbing.” So, I’m on what I can only hope is the red path and I’m making all sorts of wrong turns on paths that aren’t really paths, until it starts to get light and I make a beeline through some grass that leads up to some peaks. I’m not actually convinced that I made it to Arthur’s Seat, but I made it to somewhere tall and it was beautiful.

After the climb, I went to The Elephant House, the café where JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series, or at least The Sorcerer’s Stone. I’ve loved Harry Potter since middle school (who hasn’t?) so that was pretty amazing. I had a cup of tea (as you do in the UK) and a piece of carrot cake.

I went to a few other museums throughout the day, including the National Museum of Scotland, where I saw Dolly, the genetically engineered sheep! My high school biology teacher would be so proud that I remember things from her class.

I was sitting in the Edinburgh airport, waiting for the screen to announce my gate and I got on Kayak and asked where they could take me for December 4th and 5th. So now I’m going to Oslo for 14 pounds. The train ride from Cambridge to the airport and back is going to cost me more than that.

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