Third Stop: Rome!

The next stop for five days was in the beautiful city of Rome! Not only was I spending the first week in April in Rome, but I was spending my birthday in the ancient city.

The weather in Rome was a nice change from the wind and rain from our previous trips. Before heading to Rome, one of the things I was looking forward to was the food! The first meal I had in Rome was a pizza filled with prosciutto. I knew from that first meal that Italy was not going to disappoint!

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The first place I visited was the Vatican Museum. The Vatican Museum was overwhelming, amazing, but overwhelming! There was so many things to look at. In every direction, there was beautiful art that I wanted to capture in my mind forever. It took my breath away at the amount of work that went into making these masterpieces we know today.

From my time at the Vatican Museum, I learned two things:

  • Be VERY careful: I learned before traveling about the thieves, but also keep in mind for the people trying to sell you a bag, selfie stick, tour, whatever. Be mindful and smart.
  • Be in the moment: I made the mistake of missing the most important piece in the Vatican. I was so focused on taking a photo of the overall picture, I forgot to take the finer details in. Put down the phone and just take it in.

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Aside from the Vatican. I saw the Colosseum and I was in awe. I’ve always saw this on television and photos that actually being there left me speechless. I remember taking photos and realizing how unreal it looked. I also had the opportunity to go inside and explore it’s history. I was surprised at the information I’ve already knew. (Thanks SUNY New Paltz!)

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Since I went the week of Easter, I was honored to see the Pope! On Good Friday, we were able to see him and be apart of a mass in front of the Colosseum with over thousands of people from around the world. It was a surreal experience that I will never forget. Also seeing the sunset behind the Colosseum wasn’t a bad sight.

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Towards the end of the trip, I wanted to fulfill my Lizzie McGuire dream of seeing the Trevi Fountain. Now, I knew beforehand it was under construction, but I was in for a surprise.

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Tip #3: Don’t assume things are going to be like the movies or the way you wanted it.

Even though it was HEAVILY under construction, it was still great to see it and throw a coin, even if no water was running.

Rome was filled with so much great history and delicious food. I had an amazing time and wouldn’t mind visiting Italy again.

Next Stop: Paris!

Bonjour Paris!

It took about eight hours to get to Paris. We took the night bus and I don’t think I got any sleep. At one moment, the bus was in a ferry and yet I couldn’t even feel it! I didn’t even think that was possible.

I couldn’t believe I was in Paris as I walked to my first hostel of my long trip. It was the St. Christopher’s Inn and I highly recommend it for anyone traveling to Paris! Unfortunately we were earlier than our check in date, so as a result we got free breakfast from the hostel and a free walking tour of Paris!

Tip #1: Always have back-up plans. You ever know what’s going to happen. 

My friends and I were able to put our luggages in the lockers provided in the hostel before joining the group for the tour.

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The free walking tour of Paris was the best decision! I was only in Paris for one day, so I wanted to be able to see all of the city in such a short amount time. I did not only see these well-known places, like the Notre Dame and Louvre, but I got to learn about its history from my tour guide.

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Tip #2: Find out what your hostel offers and do it! This can be a once and a life time opportunity, so take chances.

When the tour was over, my friends and I ventured to see the Eiffel Tower up close (it wasn’t included in the tour). It was a long walk, but when we got there, it was breathtaking! I couldn’t believe I was actually sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower. Of course, the first time I see the Eiffel Tower, I’m exhausted and my phone dies.

Tip #3: Make sure your phone is charged or you brought a portable charger. (It’s not important because it’s better to have memories than photos, but still!) 

Although I didn’t get to sleep in the hostel (long story due to poor planning), it was great to experience a day in Paris. I always dreamed of visiting the city of love and I’m glad I had the chance to!

Two small highlights of my day in Paris: I got to try a macaroon for the first time and have a crepe in France!

I also met two Australian women that were so kind and one even paid for my friend and I’s train fare when we didn’t have any.

BUTTTTTT guess what?

I returned to Paris when I left Italy! Although I was walking around Paris with my carry-on, I was glad to have the opportunity to see the city once again.

I was able to visit (and take photos) of the Eiffel Tower and the Arch de Triumph. I was able to enjoy the perfect weather and have a moment to appreciate the Eiffel Tower without taking photos with it or of it.

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Although I had fun in Paris, I still have a list of things I still want to do. Hopefully before I return home or later on in life I get the chance to visit such an amazing place again!

First Stop: London

I can’t believe spring break is officially over! I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to visit five countries in the course of three weeks. I’m constantly looking at my photos and my notes to realize that it wasn’t a dream.

There are so many things to cover and tell you guys, so I’m making four posts of my travels 🙂

I started my travels in London, England! London is the closest area to travel to from Wales (only three hours by bus). When I stayed in London, I stood in an Air B&B.  For those who don’t know, an Air B&B is an alternative place to stay other than a hostel. You are able to find a room in an apartment or a house that can provide you with a variety of extra things to make your stay worthwhile such as free breakfast, kitchen access, your own bathroom, and more!

It was just three of us that had the room to ourselves with our own bathroom and breakfast every morning from the host. It was also a great location, only twenty minutes from all the main attractions.

The bus became our main transportation. It was a great way to travel and admire London from the top deck of the double decker.11082650_10205409531214393_3875162331161001711_n

Tip #1: The first thing to remember when you’re traveling through London is to buy an Oyster card. I learned that the harder way when I didn’t have one and it took us longer to get to our place than it should have.

Since our first day in London was spent getting there, we did everything the next day. On our second day in, we spent it doing all the ‘touristy’ things. That included Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Millennium Bridge, St. Paul Cathedral, and King’s Cross. I still can’t believe we got all that done in one day and I think we only use transportation three times!

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Tip #2: It made be hard and overwhelming, but try to plan as much as you can. We tried to do that as much as we can because there’s so much of London, but so little time.

On our third day in London, we saw other parts of London such as Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street, Soho, Shoreditch, and Abbey Road. London really reminded me of New York City. Each area had a different presence, a different way of making me smile.

Two highlights of that day was finding a random picture of Bradley Cooper and getting to see the Cinderella exhibition…for free!

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Our final day in London was filled with saying goodbye to our Air B&B, checking out Hyde Park which featured Princess Diana’s Memorial Fountain and saying goodbye to London overall.

Tip #3: Always ALWAYS double check on plans. Communication is key! I was stuck with my luggage for about two hours because of miscommunication. So always communicate with the people you’re traveling with.

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Although the weather was never in our favor (maybe for a short while), it was still easy to travel in London. There wasn’t an area of London that we didn’t see, whether we were traveling by foot or not. I got so accustomed to traveling, I felt like I was a native in the city.

London was so fun and so rewarding with great friends. It was sad to leave London, but I was excited for the next journey. Hello Paris!

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St. David’s Day!

I remember when I was looking through study abroad programs and came upon Wales. It was the first time I’ve heard about the country and I knew that before I headed to the unknown I had to research it. Just from reading on the place, I was excited. Now that I’m here, two months later, I’m glad I made the right decision!

Wales is filled with nice weather, people, and places to see. Cardiff reminds me of a smaller version of New York City. Although there are differences, I feel comfortable and safe here. I have become accustom to my surroundings and cemented daily routines.

Recently, I headed down to the City Center to see their annual St. David’s Day parade, a celebration for the patron saint of Wales. I brought the Wales’ mascot hat (a red dragon) and joined the mixture of Welsh and tourists that came together for the celebration. While I walked through the streets I can see flags, flower pins, and hats everywhere I turned. In that moment,  I felt like part of the community.

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As I continued to walk the streets, I stopped for a moment to capture a duo dancing to music, while street vendors sold Wales merch. The street vendors always come out for special events like this. The only times I see them is during the Rugby matches that I had the pleasure of going to watch a game in one of the pubs for fun.

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I didn’t know what to expect of the parade. I was so use to the ones at home that I just assumed it’ll be the same. But then I realize there were no barricades or security insight. Their parades were a bit smaller and intimate. Overall, it was a fun experience, seeing the people in the parades, the music playing, and the smiles on everyone’s faces around me.

Once the parade was done, there was free access into Cardiff Castle. Cardiff Castle is one of the key places to visit while you’re in Cardiff. I haven’t went inside before, so I was happy to had a chance to. Once I was inside, my jaw dropped at how beautiful it was. I felt like I was in a whole new place as I looked around at the many people crowding around the grass. Although many things were restricted (just an excuse to come back) I managed to go up to a part of the castle and look down at the sight. For a moment, I felt like I was in an episode of Game of Thrones.

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It was a great to celebrate Wales! Events like this makes me appreciate picking such an interesting, historical and exciting place to study abroad. I can’t wait to plan travels to explore outside of Cardiff and love Wale even more!

Academic Adjustment: Cardiff Style

I can’t believe I’m in my 8th week of classes! I only have three more weeks left until my classes are officially over and finals kick in. I remember how intimated I was on the first day. I didn’t know what to expect because I was so accustomed to classes in SUNY New Paltz.

In the beginning of the semester, I can already tell the difference between SUNY New Paltz and Cardiff University. I was only taking three classes (each count as 20 credits), Tuesdays became my off days, and the earliest class for me was 9 a.m. It’s also tough getting to classes each day, especially on Fridays. I’m so use to all the academic buildings being so close to each other that when I came here, I was in for a total workout!

It was beneficial to take courses that will count towards both my major and minor. So I decided to take two English courses called Graphic Memoir and Reading Old English. I’m also taking a Journalism course called The Making & Shaping of the News.

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This where I have Reading Old English. I’m always the first one in the classroom :p

I decided to take Reading Old English, knowing it was a challenge. I like to say it’s the most challenging class I’ve ever taken in my three years of college. I’m basically learning a whole new language that I didn’t know existed. The first time I saw the text, I already had a feeling that this wasn’t going to be an easy A.

I felt at ease knowing the people around me didn’t have a clue on  how to translate Old English. Without the guidance of my professor and the glossary provided in our textbooks, I would be lost. Thankfully I’ve been doing the coursework and taking my time to understand for the upcoming exam.

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Long hours translating Old English!

 

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Bute Building – This is where my journalism class is held.

When it came to The Making & Shaping of the News, I was learning about UK news, something I’ve never learned before. I was learning concepts that some students were use to since their freshmen year of university. It’s also cringe worthy to watch examples of ‘bad news’ coming from America. It doesn’t help that the professor looks my way every time America is even mentioned.

But overall it’s interesting to learn about UK news and the background information I wasn’t aware of with news in general. Although this class wasn’t my first choice, I’m glad I had a chance to take it.

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Tons of reading for class!

By the end of my week, I have Graphic Memoir. I wasn’t expecting to analyze graphic memoirs! All this time, I viewed them as comic books, but there’s so much more to these work of arts. It feels similar to the English classes in SUNY New Paltz when it came to analyzing literature. However, in this case, we’re taking a closer look on concepts we learn each week on books like Maus and Fun Home.

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This where I take my English classes!

Out of all my classes though, it’s weird to have Graphic Memoir on the same day at three different times. It’s different from SUNY New Paltz because Cardiff University breaks up their week by lectures and seminars. My lectures are in medium-size lecture halls, where we are taught in great detail the topic of the week. But, the seminars are small and intimate. Just like SUNY New Paltz, all three of my professors know who I am and it gives me a chance to interact with other students during the seminar time.

Overall, my classes have been great! It’s been informative, interesting, and overall fun! Although it’s weird being the foreigner in most of my classes, it’s great to interact with people from around the world.

Now final essays and exams are another thing…

Adjusting My (Budgeting) Life

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Roath Park

I can’t believe it’s been over a month and a half! I’ve been settling in Wales nicely with juggling personal responsibilities, academics, and a social life.  Although I feel like time is moving fast, my life has been at a steady pace. It took a while to adjust to the calm atmosphere that Wales brings me.

I always considered myself an independent person. However, I realized I wasn’t as independent as I thought. It was a new challenge for me to start budgeting my life when it came to food, travels, and social events.

Although it’s fun to spend money on traveling and social events, it’s also important to budget money for eating. When I first came to Wales, I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know how I was going to use my money wisely. How was I going to eat and have fun at the same time? I realized I relied so much on a meal plan, that I forgot how to step out of it.

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First real cooked meal at Wales!

 

By the next week, I was getting better at budgeting. I began writing my expenses down and focusing on what’s important. I only cashed out money once (even twice) a month. I used the cash when I really needed it or my purchases were less than twenty pounds.

When it came to food shopping, I began comparing prices. There are three (sometimes four) supermarkets I look into. By comparing prices of the items I buy, I’m cutting cost and getting an abundance of items that can hold me for a month or two. Before coming to Wales, I was afraid I wasn’t going to find anything I like. But that fear slowly faded with the variety of choices I was familiar with when I walk the aisle of the supermarkets. Oh poptarts, how I missed you!

With a focus on what I’m buying and how much I’m spending, I have enough money left over for fun stuff like trips, social events with friends, and delicious traditional Welsh food!

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Traditional Welsh Breakfast

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Welsh Rarebit & Earl Grey Tea

 

I always relied on the advice of my mother or on SUNY New Paltz for so many of things. It’s weird not being able to pick up the phone and call my mother (with the rates for international calling and the five hours difference it’s difficult). It’s also weird that my student id is nothing more than just identification. I never use my id except to let people know I go to Cardiff University or discounts at stores (there’s 20% discount at Krispy Kreme’s!).

From meals to printing, budgeting has become a major adjustment to my life.

 

My First Month At Wales!

I can’t believe I’m studying abroad in Cardiff, Wales! I’ve been wanting to do this since I was little. I always wanted to travel to Europe and my dreams finally came true.

Now that I’m settled in. I thought I give you a recap of what’s been having in the past month.

I traveled six hours from New York (with Amsterdam being a layover) to Wales. I got about four meals, two hours of sleep, and one movie in (How To Train Your Dragon 2 anyone?). Sadly, I didn’t get to explore Amsterdam, but hopefully I’ll get the chance to later on. However, at one point, I was more excited to drop off my heavy luggage, shower, and sleep than anything.

It’s weird being known as an exchange student. I’m always use to people coming to America and now I’m the foreigner. For the first week there was so many things to learn and see. I felt like a freshman all over again. I got a City Centre tour (small version of Time Square) and of campus (3x bigger than SUNY New Paltz). The real challenge for me was to learn how to go from campus or the City Centre to my flat. It took about three days to get it right. The first time it took about two hours in the pouring rain with a ripped up map.

My first month of classes went well. The courses I take are Reading Old English, Graphic Memoir, and The Making & Shaping of the News. So far, they’re interesting and small enough that my professors already know my name.

Overall,I’ve been enjoying my time at Cardiff!  I also made friends from different countries 🙂 I explored the area near my flat and found a lot of food places from around the world. There are also places to visit like Cardiff Bay (It was beautiful!), Roath Park, and the National Museum of Cardiff.

I still keep thinking that this is a dream and that I’m going to wake up any minute now. I can’t believe I’m here