Preparing for the Unknown

The other day my friend said to me: “I can’t believe you won’t be here next semester; I remember two years ago when you told me you were thinking of studying abroad and now you’re really going.”

Ever since I was young I would daydream about what it would be like to live in a foreign country: to live in an old city and be one like the locals. And now here is my chance: this is actually happening. All those extra hours I put into my summer job, all that research, all that paperwork is now going to show for something. I could not be more excited— I chose to study abroad in Prague because people only raved about all this city has to offer: the culture, the history, the location, the beauty. And now here I am, sitting at my kitchen table in New York, wondering how I am going to make the best of my four months abroad. How much traveling is too much? What do I need to make sure I do? Will I truly be able to integrate into the local culture and be seen as more than just a tourist?

             These are questions I constantly think about, but I also have way more immediate concerns, like, how am I going to pack my entire life in two suitcases? Not only how, but what do I pack to be truly prepared? What can I expect to happen during my time abroad?

The answer to the last question is nothing. I can expect nothing. No matter how many travel blogs I read or Rick Steve episodes I watch, I will still experience a few shocks I could have never imagined. Living in Prague is going to be completely different from the American suburbia I lived in for the last 19 years; and with this one fact in mind, I know I need to keep an open mind during my time abroad.

And that’s kind of the fantastical part of studying abroad, right? You’re really not too certain what you are getting yourself into, but you know you will learn so much in the end. What you will learn is yet to be determined, but you know it will make you a better person. It will turn you into the person you are meant to be.

Once I get off the plane in Prague I’ll have my two carefully packed suitcases, a couple of Czech korunas, and the uneasy feeling of not knowing what I will be doing in the next month, week, or even that night.

Anything can happen and anything is possible. And in my opinion, that is the true beauty of adventure.

#tbt: Amsterdam

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I visited Amsterdam. It was my last trip until I headed home to New York. I’ve always wanted to visit Amsterdam. I remember my aunt going all the time and bringing me back souvenirs. It was great to finally have the opportunity to see it for myself.

In order to explore Amsterdam we used transportation and walking. However, we soon realize that walking was the best way to get around. I realize the bus pass we got for the four days we were there was not worth it. Lesson learned!

Tip #1: Research! If you don’t need transportation, don’t be pressure to buy a weekly pass or etc. 

Also it’s very important to pay attention. Not only are you look both ways for cars, but bikes make up most of the transportation around Amsterdam. I had to constantly look back and forth just in case.

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The highlight of my trip was visiting the Anne Frank House. I’ve heard about this place for such a long time. I grew up learning about Anne Frank and the holocaust that I had to check it out. The whole time I couldn’t believe I was there and learning about new things I didn’t know. I left that place feeling inspired and grateful for the life that I live.

I also learned that you have to be patience because you have to wait about two hours to get inside. That didn’t stop me from wanting to see the museum. I’ve waited for concerts longer than that!

Tip #2: Be patience and arrive to places early. 

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Another highlight was visiting the Van Gogh Museum. Gogh was another person I grew up learning about. It was great to be surrounded by his art and other artists that were inspired by him or that he was inspired by. It was great to see his famous work and learning more about his life.

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It was also the beautiful scenery that Amsterdam has to offer. There was beautiful canals, flowers, and weather all around me. It was a great time to go to Amsterdam. Although I didn’t get to go on a canal, I was able to experience riding a bike around Amsterdam. It was very nerve wracking at first, but then I got the hang of it. I would definitely ride a bike again in Amsterdam if I have the chance.

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I got visit the famous I Amsterdam. I watched people climb the letters with so much ease and I wish I had the strength. Maybe next time!

I miss all the travel places I got to visit. I can’t wait to experience it again one day.

Back To Reality

It’s been exactly ten days since I left Wales. It felt like just yesterday that I was walking the streets of the lovely country and creating a life there. I remember the people, the food, and the place I called home. There are small moments when I think back to the six months I spent abroad. Sometimes it feels like a dream and I just woke up from it. I still can’t believe I got the opportunity to travel and study in UK.

I think over the past six months I developed a greater appreciate for the world and where I live. I started taking a closer look of my surroundings and feel grateful to live in one of the greatest cities in the world. Since I was away for six months, I feel like a foreigner. I have to start falling into the familiar patterns and rediscover my city.

Two days after returning, I went to Manhattan and I couldn’t hide the smile from my face. It was great to be back and call home, home once again. One thing that I started paying more attention is the tourists. I have a better understanding of what goes through their minds when visiting a new place for the first time. Now, I have patience when it comes to being surrounded by tourists because I was a tourist for six months.

I wouldn’t mind being a tourist in my own city. There are still so many things I haven’t seen and I lived here all my life! I still have places in Europe that I want to visit in the future or even return to places like Wales once again. With studying abroad, it made my love for traveling increase. I want to travel the world and grow my appreciation for the world even more.

Aside from seeing the differences between UK and US, I think I’ve become a better person and student. I have learned to take on new responsibilities and skills. I’m on my last year in SUNY New Paltz and I’m ready to take on the upcoming tasks with the new skills I learned. Studying abroad helped my growth and helped in redefining my goals I set in the beginning of the year.

I love that I had the chance to study abroad. It gives me the chance to talk about my experiences and hope that my brother would want to study abroad one day. I can also offer tips to my cousin, who will be studying abroad in two years. I think everyone should have the chance to study abroad and discover the world we live in.

Goodbye Cardiff!

In less than 24 hours, I will be returning to New York. I can’t believe that I will no longer be studying abroad in Cardiff University. For the past six months, I’ve been independent and experiencing a world I read in books and seen in movies.

I’ve made a life in Wales and I grew so much as a person. I have learned new skills and adjusted to being on my own. I have seen the differences in cultures and taught people about the how New York really is.

I never thought that a Puerto Rican from the Bronx will ever get the chance to travel the world. I never thought that I would get the opportunities to create memories that I will talk about for the rest of my life.

I’m excited and nervous to head back to the states. When I come back home, I have to remember that there’s no more Tesco and that I have to rely on transportation. I have to remember I can’t just hop on a bus to London or plan trips to Ireland or Rome when I feel like it.

But I’m excited that I will be reunited with my family after all this time. I’ve been away from my family before, but not to this extend. This was an experience for the both of us. I can’t wait to thank them for giving me the chance to study abroad. I can’t wait to tell them all about my trips and give them the gifts from all the countries I visited.

I can’t wait to provide my parents with the support they’ve given me. I want to be able to cook for them, clean for them, and provide just as much as they provided for me.

I know once I return, I need to start looking into jobs, internships, and start preparing for my last year of college. Vacation is finally over! :p

I’m sad to be leaving Cardiff, but I have a feeling it won’t be the last time I visit. One day!

Hello Ireland!

I have less than two weeks left in Europe. I thought it was be good idea to squeeze in two more countries before I head back home. My friend Lauren and I made a decision to visit Ireland and Amsterdam because those are two countries that we always wanted to visit. Spring break happened so fast that we didn’t get to include these countries into our travels.

So in the beginning of June, we headed off to Dublin, Ireland for three days. Out of all the traveling I’ve done, Ireland was the easiest and smoothest traveling day. We were able to explore on the first day with no problem.

Tip #1: Traveling can be fun, but it’s not glamorous all the time. There were moments that I was so exhausted and wanted to just sleep. You’re constantly on the move and alert. Traveling is fun, but it’s not always fun.

On the first day, we explored the city of Dublin. We even went to the Guinness Storehouse and learned how beer was made. It was really informative and I learned a lot about the industry. The highlight  of that day was that met three different people that either lives in New Paltz or went to SUNY New Paltz. It was such a small world!

Tip #2: You never know who you’re going to meet on your travels. The world made me large, but it can surprise you in the smallest ways.

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On the second day, we took a bus tour to Belfast which is in Northern Ireland. The bus tour ran from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. filled with so many things to do. First, there was a black taxi tour in the town of Ulster, where I learned about the troubles between Catholics and Protestants. It was interesting to see and learn about the history between the communities. It’s crazy to think it’s still going on after all these years. We got to visit the peace wall and I wrote a small note with the lines of “Love is love. Peace is peace. All lives matter.”

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While we were on the bus, the tour guide gave us information on Ireland and told us many mythological tales. There were even moments that we learned about Game of Thrones shootings, a show that I love very much.

Aside from that we visited the Giant Causeways and the Rope Bridge which I went over. It was amazing! The view of Northern Ireland is breathtaking. The water is a bright blue and there is so much green life around. I fell in love with the views of Ireland. By the time we headed back to Dublin, a rainbow appeared in the sky, and I knew that going to Ireland was a great decision.

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On the last day in Dublin, it was a perfect day to visit the parks. I got to see the Oscar Wilde statue. He is one of my favorite authors and the statue fit his personality perfectly. I also got the opportunity to visit Dublin Castle for free because it was the first Wednesday of the month. The day ended with a view of the state apartments as well.

Tip #3: Make sure you research the places you go to. There can be great discounts and free places to visit.

Ireland was such a great place to visit and I can’t wait to come again!

4 Reasons To Visit Cardiff

Cardiff has been my home for the past six months. I’ve created so many memories as a visitor and as a student of Cardiff University. I was fortunate to get to know my surroundings in the small city. I was able to visit places like the National Museum of Cardiff, Cardiff Castle, and soon the Millennium Stadium in June! If you (the reader) is planning to visit Cardiff, here are a few things you should do:

1. Walk everywhere! Explore your surroundings.

I’m going to miss walking everywhere. Although a part of me misses transportation, it was great to not rely on it. I was able to walk to class everyday and to the city centre when I needed something. I loved the shortcuts I found to get to places faster.

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2. So many food options. Try them all! 

I’m glad that I was able to try different restaurants, diners, and food joints all around Cardiff. There are even hidden arcades with even more food places to try. Whether it was brunch or a traditional Welsh dish, it was great to try different things each time. I enjoy brunch the most because who doesn’t love a good breakfast in the afternoon?

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3. Catch a rugby game at a bar or live. 

An exciting thing I was able to do in April was cheer on Cardiff University in a rugby match. Students traveled to Swansea to go against the university there. It was great to dress in red and represent Cardiff. I’ve never been to a college game before and it was exciting! There was school pride everywhere I turned with cheers and banters against the other team.

It was also exciting to go inside a stadium for the first time. I’ve never been in a stadium before and I never realized how huge it was! I’m pretty sure it’s smaller than most stadiums, but I like that even though I was in the second to last row of the stadium I was able to view everything. Rugby is still a confusing sport, but every time Cardiff scored a point, I cheered so loud! The day got even better because Cardiff University won!

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4. Visit Cardiff’s attractions. 

I got to visit the one and only Cardiff Castle. I remember seeing it the first time when I arrived in Cardiff and I was glad I finally got to visit. I got a Castle key (it’s great for three years) and all it had to offer. The Cardiff Castle has the best view of Cardiff. The breathtaking view brought a big smile on my face. I also learned the history of the castle and was happy about the sunny weather.

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I visited City Hall and although it was limited there was a lot of things I did get to see. I was able to see an art piece of Princess Diana and marble statues of important people from Wales. It was a very elegant place that many events are held there.

I also returned to Cardiff Bay and saw the difference between the first time I went to now. The weather was warmer, so many people were out enjoying the sun. I was able to go inside a building filled with history of the bay and Wales as a whole. It was perfect weather for a burger and walking around the bay. I even tried the best Welsh cakes in Wales and let me tell you that they were telling the truth!

Since I only have three weeks left, I decided to visit the National Museum again. It was a different experience since I was alone exploring it again. I was able to sit down and draw a few of my favorite paintings and statues. I also got to visit the new exhibits and fall in love with art all over again. I was glad to have the opportunity to just leave my flat one morning and walk to the museum for the day.

I can’t believe that I’m almost heading back to the states. I’ve been so accustomed to Cardiff and all that it offers. I hope that I have the chance to visit Cardiff again in the future.

Final Stop: Austria & Germany!

I couldn’t believe Spring Break was almost over. Before I was returning to Cardiff for my last weeks of classes, I headed to Austria for a few days. I’ve heard of Austria briefly and I was curious to find out all about it. The minute the plane landed and I was surrounded by a breathtaking view of the mountains, I knew I was going to fall in love with the country.

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I stayed in Salzburg, Austria, the home to the famous movie Sound of Music. It’s also the hometown to the composer Mozart. The town is small, but nonetheless it held a lot of history and fun things to do. It was a change from the busy cities I’ve traveled previously. We spent the whole time walking around rather than relying on transportation.

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On our second day in Austria, my friend and I went on the Sound of Music tour. We got to see places where they shot the classic movie. It was also a great opportunity to see how scenic Austria was. Austria is filled with so much green life, it’s honestly the most beautiful place in the world.

I’ve only seen the movie twice (my friend Lauren was more of the fan), so I got to learn about the scenes, fun facts, and even sing along on the bus with other fans. By the end of the trip, I knew all the words, and I  may have even get some holy water from the famous church that the main character got married in.

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397562_10205498911728850_5837471293956446950_nOne of the things I miss from Austria is their delicious food. I got to try their famous pretzels, apple strudels, schnitzel, and goulash. I loved the opportunity to eat different foods from the different countries I visited.

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Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to try new things. When you’re traveling, step out of your comfort zone.

On our third day, we decided to take a trip to Munich, Germany! We took a train from Salzburg and decided on a hop on/off bus for the day.

Tip #2: If you’re only in a country for a day, try a hop on/off bus. It’s a great way to see everything that country has to offer and learn about them in a short amount of time.

The weather was nice to see Germany through the top of the bus. It was nice to get off the bus and spend time to see the city through our eyes. It was weird to see everyone out and about because most of thee stores were closed. This was a repeated pattern in Europe. Either stores were closed completely on the weekends or they closed earlier than I’m use to. I’m so use to stores being open everyday on late hours. Just one of the many differences between Europe and America.

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A moment that I will always remember is when an elderly woman dropped her phone, I picked it up, and gave it back to her. She was so thankful, she decided to give me some German chocolate and 50 cents. I wasn’t expecting that and it just made my day that she was just so happy that I helped her out. It made my experience in Germany even brighter.

Tip #3: Expect the unexpected. There are good people in the world.

I couldn’t believe Austria and Germany was my last countries that I visited for the break, but it was a good way to end the best trips of my life. So when you’re planning your trip to explore Europe, don’t forget to add Austria and Germany to your list.

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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