Traveling on My Week Off

Half way through the semester Kingston has what is called Enrichment Week also known as Reading Week. This week is supposed to be where you get ahead on the work for the next half of the semester, but no one does that obviously. It is like spring break at New Paltz. People are supposed to do work during it, but that barely happens (unless you have a paper or test right when you get back). Since they barely give work here most kids either go home or go on trips. As a study abroad student, I obviously made plans to go somewhere during this break.

My first stop was to see my friend who is studying abroad for the full year in Munich. She was kind enough to let my friend and I stay in her apartment the few days we were there. She was a huge help in showing us around and the fact that she understood the language really helped. She was a great tour guide and showed us everything we wanted to while we were there. We even were luck enough to see a Russian opera in Munich. It was so nice to catch up with her and talk about everything and anything with her. Munich is such a pretty city and I highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about going.

My next excursion—after a day or two of rest and exploring London—I was headed to Amsterdam with a tour group. We didn’t have much time in the city itself, but it was still a lot of fun. We had two nights there and the days were either traveling or seeing some of the cities around Amsterdam. We saw Edam and Volendam, which were both beautiful and worth the visit. I also got to go to Anne Frank’s house. That is definitely something you want on top of your list when you go to Amsterdam. You do need to get tickets ahead of time, but it is worth it. You walk through their hiding space and walk in the same space they lived in for two years. It is a moving experience and is definitely a must see.

I had a great time seeing different countries during my week off. I wish I had more time to explore more countries, but that just means I need to return to Europe in order to see more countries that I wanted to see. The week was a lot of fun and made me want to travel more. I highly recommend traveling to as many countries as you can while you study abroad because it is so easy to get around—as well as is very cheap to travel.

London, Venice and More Oh My!

While studying abroad, I have been fortunate to do a ton of traveling- both in and out of Italy!

My first trip was to Cinque Terre. It was my birthday weekend; my friends and I visited each of the towns in one day! Each offered a different experience but they all had one thing in common- an amazing view. Cinque Terre was only a 2 hour train ride from Milan, making it a super accessible but fun trip!

After that, I flew to Prague and London! My sister had planned to travel to Prague coincidentally during the time that I’d be in Italy, so we thought it was a perfect weekend to meet up. My sister is 6 years older than me and lives in another state, so seeing her had made me so happy- who knew we’d be in Prague, TOGETHER?! It truly made my heart full.

London has to be one of my favorite cities I have ever visited! It was so metropolitan, and nostalgic. Everywhere I went felt sophisticated and chic. There, I visited shops and pubs, walking along townhouses in Notting Hill, while stopping to drink tea or eat falafel pockets (which were SO yummy). Being in London made me SO happy. I definitely will go back to visit one day.

And lastly, my most recent trip that I did happened to be with my dad! At my university, we just had our mid-semester break and my dad was lucky enough to get some days off so, he flew all the way to Milan and we took a “road trip” of Italy. We went to Lake Como, Venice, and Florence. All of the places were so different from one another; it is mind-boggling to me how you can be in the same country yet certain parts are so vastly different from each other! All were beautiful in their own unique way. Visiting all 3 places were truly enriching, especially with my dad by my side.

Being Comfortable Across the Pond

I have now been in England for a little bit over a month and the more time that I spend in England the more I love it. Everyone is very accepting. On my campus there are people from all over: study abroad students (for one semester as well as the year), Englanders, and people who are studying here for the full three years to get their undergrad. The campus also has a club called Connect UK where they give free lunches every Tuesday and anyone who wants to talk to international students can come! I go every Tuesday to talk to other study abroad students as well as the free meal.

As I got more comfortable here, I started to plan more trips out of the country. I am seeing my friend in Germany who is also studying abroad as well as traveling to Italy with my family when they come visit me. I also have people visiting me whom I can show around and act like a real Londoner. I really do feel like I am from here. I go into London at least once a week, so once I take the twenty-minute train into Waterloo I know exactly where to go and how to travel around.

Not only am I getting more comfortable with the towns, I am also getting comfortable with the classes. The teachers are all very nice and I feel comfortable enough to go up and talk to them if I have an issue. Students’ attendance is very different from New Paltz though. Some students leave after they have signed in or leave during a break and have another student sign them in or just have someone else sign them in. I, personally, do not do this because I am paying for the class as well as the classes only meet once a week, so if I do not go to the class then I am not attending the class for the week.

Traveling Anywhere and Everywhere

So far I have been in England a month and have gone to many places. I have been into Central London 7 times seeing a bunch of different tourist destinations and museums. I have been to Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, the National Gallery, took a tour of Buckingham Palace and took a tour of the famous Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I have seen the London Eye, Big Ben/Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Leister Square, and explored the South side of the River Thames. I have taken every chance I have to go into Central London. Central London is like New York City, but it is also completely different. Everyone is a tourist there so you don’t feel weird or feel like you are bothering anyone by stopping to take pictures. Everyone is very nice as well! I have had to asked directions or questions to the police or workers of the tube. If you ask nicely they will be nice to you. Also, travel where you want to go! It’s okay to go see things by yourself. I have seen many things by myself because my friends aren’t interested in seeing it or our schedules clash.
I have also gotten to go out of the UK once. This past weekend I went with a tour group to Ireland. It was a lot of fun! If there are tour groups that your school supports then I would highly suggest that you go! I saw so much more than I would have on my own. I saw small things that most people just pass by. I wish the trip was a little longer, but there is only so much you can do while classes are in session. I highly recommend traveling as much as possible because it is very cheap once you are in Europe to get to a different country.

This is not a goodbye.

Seville became everything to me and this includes the people that I met. My personal thoughts and personal development happened here in 3 months. For a long time, I have been struggling with my self-discovery as a person but all of my problems disappeared here. Seville became my safe haven, I could love who I wanted, I could dress as I wanted and I could speak my mind as I wanted. How could I not fall in love with Seville, when this place lets me be who I am— It’s a free zone of judgments.

My experience here will always be unforgettable. The people I met here are by far one of the humblest and happiest people I have ever met. The Sevillanos know how to party, cook, celebrate and everything else that makes a perfect place. Now that this trip is almost over, I booked a few flights and I decided it was a perfect way to say goodbye to this experience. Last week, I went to Morocco, Gibraltar and Amsterdam. They were 3 crazy trips in a week and it was by far one of the best experiences of my life.

Sadly, I don’t want to face my farewell to Seville. How do you say goodbye to your favorite place? Is not easy. Everyone keeps telling me that I’m coming back and I know I will, but it’s going to be different. I’m going to be at a different stage in my life and I’m afraid it will not be the same. About 3 months ago I was given an unforgettable opportunity and now I have to return everything. It’s not fair. No one wants to give up a world they have created for themselves. I’m not good at goodbyes either. I do not want to say goodbye to my teachers, friends or the lady I see every day in the cafeteria. Why should I? —I created this world and I can not talk to anyone at home about this because no one will understand. So my experience here in Seville is a secret. Between Seville and me.

Thank you, Seville. I love you forever.

 

 

Where to?

Portugal?  Italy? Madrid? Cordoba? Granada? ok ok ok . ….. Yes, I’ve done A LOT of traveling. Where do I even begin? My life here is different, i finally have the opportunity to fulfill my passion for traveling. When I first arrived here, my mind immediately began to plan every weekend that I had free to travel. However, three months or to make it easier, twelve weekends is not sufficient for my long list of places I want to go.

But an important factor that a friend of mine told me was that, i must remember that I will be back. I can’t keep thinking that this is my last time in Europe and hearing this, my entire outlook changed. I decided to take a break from traveling and to stay four weeks in Sevilla. This allowed me to get to know my own city and actually make some Sevillano friends.

I never thought I would fall in love so quickly with a city and all the hidden gems within it. A lot of people don’t think about sevilla when they think of Spain. Rather, people with go straight to Madrid or Barcelona. But why? We have everything here! History, Culture, night life, tapas (food), ancient architecture, and the list goes on. Trust me, if you need a tour guide- I got you! I love that I don’t get lost here anymore and that’s because I decided to say here. Tons of my new friends especially in my classes are gone every weekend making it impossible for us to go out! But don’t get me wrong, I understand why being in Europe can entice you to travel wherever, especially since it’s so cheap.

However, I did save some big trips for the end of the semester! In my last three weeks I will be in Morocco, Amsterdam and closing off my trip in Paris. I can’t believe it. I’m going to Paris. I cried when i booked the flight because Paris is very special to me, I always thought I would go when I was way way older and a had a career. But, no. I’m going now in my 20s, my prime years, exactly when i feel invincible.

I am throughly looking forward to my last weeks living in Europe.screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-5-23-25-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-30-at-5-23-10-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-30-at-5-23-04-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-30-at-5-22-51-pm

Hope This Helps!

I’ve been in Spain for 21 days and to be honest, I got super comfortable the first week. The people here are so amazing and they definitely know how to fiesta! I’m still getting used to it because leaving your house at 1:20 a.m. is apparently way too early.

Another hard adjustment was dinner time. You know how you normally eat around 5pm? That doesn’t exist here. That’s siesta (nap)time and dinner time is around 9-10pm. It sounds crazy but, now I’ve become so accustomed to it and I’d probably cry if I don’t get my siesta time!

An adjustment that I’ve struggled so hard with since I have arrived in Spain is the fact that tipping is not a thing here. Since I am the type of person who tips a LOT and even over-tips (Does that even exist?) all the time, it has not been easy. I was speaking with my friend from Spain and she said that the maximum that people give is around 10-20¢. Who does that? If you were in New York, people would definitely spit in your food the next time you went. Right? I am constantly tempted to leave at least 1 euro and it is just unheard of. I tried to do this at a bar while it was really busy and the bartender gave me the most confused look EVER. So yeah, don’t tip while you’re in Spain.

Below I am going to put my personal tips on cultural norms in Spain and adjusting to studying abroad:

  1. Don’t tip.
  2. Do not skip siesta.
  3. Do not walk in the biking lane, they will hit you.
  4. It’s okay to talk to a stranger, you might make a friend.
  5. Don’t get freaked out if you see people openly partying in the streets.
  6. It’s okay, you can wear the same outfit… no one cares.
  7. Walk slow, you’re not in the concrete jungle anymore.
  8. I hope you have someone like Alyssa as your partner in crime.
  9. Give your body some time to adjust to the food, I am still trying to.
  10. All you have to say is “I’m from New York.”
  11. Don’t book three trips in one week. You’ll want to die. I almost did.
  12. Ask questions, remember, just like your first-grade teacher told you, “there is no such thing as a stupid question.”
  13. Speak with other internationals, they’re having similar experiences too!
  14. DO NOT EAT OUT EVERYDAY.
  15. Don’t leave your friends and family at home completely out of the loop, they miss you.
  16. When it comes to ordering food at a restaurant, I am bilingual and I don’t understand half of the food options.
  17. Get Sprint, the international service is beyond amazing. Seriously, I had to ask three times to make sure that there will be no international fees.
  18. Well, this is all I have so far and considering it’s only my third week abroad, I’m sure things will change. However, I will keep you guys updated.

P.S. shout out to Alyssa for helping make this list!

 Ta Luego 

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Okay. Breath in. Breath out.

So, I did an amazing yet emotional thing recently. I went to New Paltz a few days before going to Spain. Trust me, it wasn’t easy. I let go of my comfort zone. So, there was a lot of crying. But, I will not forget what my friend told me that weekend. Which was to prepare myself for the best experience of my life and not to worry because things will be exactly the same when I get back. That’s when it hit me. He was right, I’m going to Spain. I’m going to Spain. I’m going to Spain. Spain. Spain. Spain.

Me? Spain? I was born in Honduras, I have 30 cousins and 100 tias and tios and I’ve only seen one person go to Europe and now me. AND now me. I’m 22 years old so I know what this experience means to my family. I’m Latina and proud, and everyone in my family is now completely involved. It’s crazy, I have my godmother buying me a purse because I have to represent Honduras, my other aunt bought me some films to take pictures, my cousin is showing me Spain bloggers, my uncle— well you get the point! Do you see what I mean? This is not only my experience anymore, it belongs to my family too.

Also, I can’t even begin to explain how lucky I feel and I owe this to my parents, myself and SUNY New Paltz for making this dream possible. On another note, I feel nervous too. Who’s going to be my roommate? Will she be nice? AND THE CLOTHES, am I packing correctly? How do I know when to stop packing? I’m a huge fashionista and I’m trying to fit my closet inside my luggage. It’s sad, I’ve watched so many tutorials on how to pack but it’s still hard because I want to take my top 100 shoes. haha. But, I’m serious. So many people are telling me that there are stores over there, mhm nope I don’t believe it.

 

Alright, I’m joking but still. I can’t help it.

 

 

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New Paltz


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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.

American Feet on Belgian Streets

Bienvenue! Welcome to Belgium, the land of chocolate. If I had known how many chocolate shops we would have seen today, I would have started counting at the beginning of todays journey! And it’s only our second day in Brussels. Yesterday, we arrived in Belgium in the afternoon, we met our host mom, Judith (also known as Maman), and her daughter Angélique. Both are wonderful! Ema and I live together in Judith’s house with two other girls: Erica (of Washington) and Domenica (of Ecudor). This morning, we scouted out the grocery stores of our area: fresh fruit, muesli, and chocolate spreads galore! Later, after lunch, Becca (our third European adventurer whom is living with another host mom) found her way to our house and we “headed into town.” We set out around 2pm with the goals of finding our school campus (check), finding our internship locations (no check), and finding the city center — or what is actually known as Grand Place or Market Square (check). By the end of the day, we had found our specific campus building, learned how to use public transportation, and saw the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula and Market Square — so much beautiful architecture!

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The above orange trees caught our eyes.

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Tigger, the bicycle.

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St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, much larger than its luxurious front entrance.

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Not sure about this building yet, but it’s green! We will be given tours later this week.

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Another beautiful building, not sure again, but we will soon find out!

That’s all for now, there will be more to come from these already sore feet!

Katie

PS. Below are some photos of beautiful Ireland flying above:

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