Getting Familiar With The Unknown

It’s now been three weeks, almost four since I moved to Prague. Researching culture shock and reading all the charts can’t really prepare you for it. Writing this is weird and I don’t mean that in a bad way; it’s just that I’m trying to reflect on things that just happened but feel like a lifetime ago. Getting used to Prague isn’t hard or bad, it’s absolutely beautiful here. The amazement hasn’t really passed either, I continue to be amazed at the history and beauty that I discover every day. The hard part is home: thinking about how it is back home, what your friends are doing without you, what your family is doing, what your significant other might be feeling and not telling you. It has been hard. I try to not to sit in my room because when I do I just scroll on social media waiting for it to update. Thinking about my parents at home working for me to be able to do this makes me sitting in my room even worse. I’m not sure if there is a way to break the shock or not feel it, but whenever I find myself sitting at home sad, I just put my jacket on and walk out the door and go anywhere. Sometimes, i’s better to be alone in public than at home.

I feel like the first two weeks, everything felt magical and unreal. I had no actual concerns and then reality set in. I’m surviving in Prague alone. I have to be smart, I can’t spend crazy amounts of money because everything is cheap, it adds up. I can’t be alone nor can I be surrounded by people all the time. I haven’t been able to find a middle ground. I’m constantly thinking about when I get home how life will be so odd and there’s this thought that maybe I don’t have to go back home. Maybe I can find happiness here even though “it’s not a destination”. And as sad as it sounds now, almost all of the times where I have felt so lucky to be here is when learning about the tragic history this country has. Last night I saw the film Anthropoid, it was so moving and it’s hard for me to believe all those events happened where I walk by every day. It really puts things into perspective.

Adjustment is hard, I would be lying to you if I told you I haven’t spent nights lying in bed unhappy and being unhappy because I am unhappy in such a beautiful city. It’s a paradox I hope to break soon.

First Week Anniversary!

Hello from the other side of the world!! I have been in Prague for a week and a half now and it has been such a trip already! I feel like this past week and a half has felt like forever and no time all at once. Leaving home was surprisingly easier than I imagined, yes some tears were shed but as I stepped on the plane and stayed awake for all five hours, I didn’t cry once. Arriving in Prague with some fellow friends, felt surreal. My dorm itself was much nicer than I expected, walking into my room I was pleased to find myself really happy. It is a single room, very spacious and has huge windows that overlook Praha 6 (aka has the Prague Castle in it’s view).

I’ve been non stop busy since I got here. The first couple days were purely dedicated to orientation. We took care of basic orientation stuff and were given time to walk around Old Town Square. There was also this nice trivia night at a café with the International Students Club.

Culture shock is real people! And it’s not necessarily bad either. Everything in Prague is so cheap compared to NYC. I can buy a nice dinner for $8. I feel rich here, and I don’t mean money wise. I feel rich in the opportunity to see and feel how it is to live another life. Getting a huge caramel latte for $25=59 crowns, sitting down in a cafe with the bustling life around me and amazing sights, I feel full of light. I thought I’d be a lot more sad than I am. Buying groceries for $35, going home and cooking dinner every night with some friends. I feel like a somewhat actual adult for once.

It hasn’t been a complete walk in the park. Living in a building with so many people is hard because every single person is unique and has a set of different values. The first week I was here, I automatically got attached to a group of people. Friend wise, I put all my eggs in one basket. A week and a half in, I HIGHLY ADVISE AGAINST THIS. As hard as it seems to be give every one a chance and opening up, that’s the key to having a smooth transition into making friends. If you stick to one group and something goes wrong, its very hard. Stick to people who make you happy when you start to get sad, stick to those who offer you anything even when they can’t afford to. Those are the ones who will save you from the bad side of culture shock. I’ve only had one sad day, but it passed fast and I’m ready to continue to be happy.

My Czech intensive language course has been so interesting! Yes, it is five hours a day for ten days, but I got an amazing teacher and class. At first I felt nervous to learn, but as she spoke to us the entire class warmed up and before you know it we were speaking Czech! She takes us out into Prague to really teach us the culture and that way we actually use our Czech and learn through interaction. On top of all that she’s like a mini tour guide who knows the city very well. I’ve had the best time in that class even though it isn’t easy. Today was my midterm, but I believe I passed (I hope!)

The Calm Before the Storm

A year ago, if you asked me if I would study abroad I would have told you that it’s impossible. Last summer I thought, why not just try and then its quickly became a reality that I couldn’t fathom to be real. Coming from lower middle class, studying in another countries university was merely a dream. I remember the day I was accepted it felt as if the moving day was too far, but that day is quickly approaching now. It is a little stressful; I have never left the United States before. Actually I’ve hardly traveled outside of New York. I have never been so far from my family before either; all of this is on my mind. I can’t help but want to focus on the positive, the incredible fact that I am about to move and study in Prague.

It’s a little daunting yes, but I can’t begin to imagine how amazing it is going to be. I know my family and friends will still be home when I get back. When I think about how it’s going to be living in Prague, I get giddy inside. In Prague I’ll be considered an adult; I’ll have to be mostly completely independent. I’ll have to learn the Czech, learn their culture and  assimilate myself. All I know is life in New York City, but I am so ready to go through this change. I feel that this trip is going to change me a lot as a person. I hope to come back more mature and grounded and I don’t think staying somewhere where I am comfortable will help me with growing. SO here’s to the big leap across the world 🙂

Arrivederci NY, Ciao Italia!

Summer 2016 was a season of different feelings. The reason for this is because you are living in a world where soon you will be leaving to experience something new. Even though your physical body is here in the present, your mind is already gone into your new adventure. Your head becomes solely dedicated to the future and all that will and can happen. You begin to have ideas of what could be. Your new adventure becomes a fantasy.

I have never left the country before and so taking this opportunity my senior to study abroad I had to. I chose Italy because of my strong Italian heritage and values. I wanted to strengthen my language skills as well. Milan is a city that is really center to many other European countries too so it will give me the culture experience I need.

This was my first time ever flying. So of course my worries were mostly surrounded with the experience of being on a plane for the first time. I was less worried about the feeling of being in Italy only because I have Italian blood in me and I grew up with a strong Italian culture in my household. I was ready for Italy but maybe not the plane.

The initial take off was emotional. All that was in my head was saying good bye to my parents. Thinking of how they are feeling seeing their first-born first child to ever leave the country. I was saying goodbye to NYC my state of NY. I was finally lifting off.

I remember meeting Jenn, the other student from New Paltz in my program at the airport; and within a couple hours I woke up on the plane walked a few seats over to her and said “WOW, Jenn I just cried when I saw France”. It was a funny moment because I just met her and I am revealing how emotional I am.

I couldn’t have prepared for this trip anymore than I did. I think since it is a life experience you just have to be ready for anything to happen. This experience came to me at the time in my life when I knew it was ready to grow up and get real with my life.

Foots-crazy (cray)

Today marks a week since I landed at Melbourne airport, and it feels like I’ve been here for months; time is an illusion here.

When I first arrived at my apartment complex, I was taken back by my overwhelming, and relentless anxiety. I was alone, and surrounded in an suburban area, plagued with graffiti; I felt uncomfortable, and dying to be near the beach or the city. I learned too quickly that the drug culture is immense here, and something different from that of New York’s. Where I live Aussies call “Foots-crazy”, instead of “Footscray”. And, I should be careful about walking at night. My initial reactions of this place were something that never crossed my mind when I daydreamed of Australia. I felt an underlining disappointed because Australia seemed like it was nothing like I wanted it to be.

But like I said, time is an illusion here. My initial reactions subsided as fast as they clouded my every thought. I now love it here, I love that just down the road there is a beautiful park that runs along a river, with the city skyline in clear view. I like how I’ve mastered public transportation, and can now get anywhere in Melbourne quiet easily. I love that after a hectic day at the city or beach, I can come back home to my familiar “suburban life”, and feel at ease. There’s a comfort in being surrounded by houses, that look so different from any I have ever seen ( especially when you live on the 12th floor). There’s an independence I’ve gained by finding the hidden gems in my area: incredible brekkie places, and quaint bars. I like the friends I’ve made here, and the many more I keep meeting; I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Australia has been a dream, that was all it was, a dream. I fantasized what it was going to be like, and there was no ounce of reality in those dreams. But now, Australia is a reality, and I’m so happy it’s not what I’ve dreamt about. It’s different in ways I would have never expected like understanding most conversations here. Would you believe me when I say there is more of a culture shock here than you would expect? Because there is, and it starts with the slang. Not only is almost every word abbreviated, but one word can have five different meanings. It’s endearing, and confusing, and I feel out of my element. I’m learning slowly what things mean, and incorporating the words I like into my every day vocabulary. But I’m just getting started, and I’ve already fallen in love with Aussie culture.

 

With love,

Brianne

BRUGES!

It’s my 6th day here in Belgium and I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone by. After going through with the SUNY Model EU simulation, which was awesome by the way, we all went on an excursion to Bruges.

A few people I know have been to this city before and have told me that it looks like it would be the setting for a fairy-tale; I didn’t believe them until I saw it for myself. There wasn’t a set agenda for the day, so everyone who went on the trip was free to do whatever they wanted. Myself and the New Paltz students stuck together, exploring the city and taking advantage of this amazing opportunity.

We went to a beautiful cathedral, climbed a bell tower, and rode bikes throughout the streets of Bruges. My favorite part of the trip had to be when we rode the bikes. I can honestly say that I am the world’s worst bike rider, since I almost killed myself and another student (I’m a bit clumsy) – but hey, we made it out alive.

Until next time!

-Ashley

#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.

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!

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.