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.

Spring Break VS. Spring Vacation

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SPRING BREAK BABY!  As I write this post my spring break unfortunately comes to an end.  No, I am not bummed to be back in Milan.  However, who would say no to more time off?

Ano Poli, Thessaloniki with Dyeemah

Ano Poli, Thessaloniki with Dyeemah

I had probably the greatest spring break of my life.  My spring break started in Thessaloniki, Greece.  Now I know what you’re thinking, why Thessaloniki?  Lucky for me I have always wanted to go to Greece, and I have a friend from high school, Dyeemah, living there for the year!  It was pretty much fate that our spring breaks collided and I could visit her and truly see her world.  Greece to say the least is truly breathtaking.  I love Milan, but it is a city through & through.  To be able to spend my time along the Mediterranean, gazing upon the gorgeous skyline was something I made sure not to take for granted.

Dyeemah and I infront of the White Tower in Thessaloniki

Dyeemah and I in front of the White Tower in Thessaloniki

The food in Greece was SO good!  The best meal I had was my first night in Greece, where I tagged along to a dinner with Dyeemah, her students, and her colleagues.  We all ordered multiple dishes, and just kind of split everything.  Everything was so delicious, and authentic I can’t really pick a favorite!  That meal really was unfair because of how high it set the bar so early on in my trip.  But I did eat many, many yummy things while there, including a pork hero.  Street food in Europe is one of my favorite things ever, we need more in the US.  Street food is cheap, yummy, and a total comfort.

Pork Hero = yum yum

Pork Hero = Yum Yum

Greece was very relaxing, and serene.  It was nice for once to go on a trip and not have to plan anything.  I was just able to go with the flow.  Plus I got to use Dyeemah’s dryer for my clothes, so that pretty much made the trip worth it just on that note alone.  I was in Thessaloniki for 6 days before heading off to London.  While I have already been to London before, I needed to go back.  I truly mean need, this was far beyond my wants.  Having not been overwhelmed with excitement from my prior visit to London, I was determined to return in order to visit the Harry Potter studio tour.  During my study abroad adventures I really am trying not to double dip on past trips, London so far being my only exception.  My camp friend, Nina, is spending her semester studying in Copenhagen.  Nina and I are huge HP fans, having once even been to the Quidditch world cup in NYC.  Once we both decided on Europe for our Spring 2015 study abroad destinations, we knew it was fate.  We booked our tickets for the attraction months in advanced because it is popular beyond belief, selling out constantly.

Butterbeer with Nina!

Butterbeer with Nina!

The Harry Potter studio tour was beyond what I could have ever imagined.  However, I must say just in general, London really was the real MVP of spring break.  While our stay in London was brief, it was jam packed.  We did a free walking tour, caught up with another camp friend over dinner, spent the day in Camden (which was perfection), and lastly but most essentially left the muggle world behind for bigger and better things.

Nina & I with our camp friend Nicole

Nina & I with our camp friend Nicole =)

IMG_2604If you have the chance to visit the Harry Potter studio tour in London I really do recommend it.  Being a die hard fan of the books, films, and everything in between, this experience really did provide us with an insight into the intricate details of this world we have learned to love with all of our hearts.  Harry Potter is universal, teaching messages including love, determination, friendship, imagination, and so much more.  Harry Potter was such a big part of my childhood, it had become a ritual for my mother to read the books to me at night.  Seeing the world come to life in front of my own eyes was the cherry on top of my London sundae (or the Cadbury egg McFlurry I had while in London).

Hogwarts!

Hogwarts!

It is safe to assume that after my spring break I will be leaving Italy, in search for my new study abroad destination aka Hogwarts.

Thanks for reading, until next time keep practicing your spells!

This proud Slytherin is off to her next adventure

This proud Slytherin is off to her next adventure

Starting Winter Break In France

L’Université de Franche-Comté grants us a total of three weeks of vacation during the spring semester, starting with one week off at the end of February for winter break. I had the opportunity to travel with Gissel and Trish to Lyon first.

We found an apartment to stay in on www.airbnb.com. I greatly recommend this website for whenever you are looking for affordable accommodations during your travels. You create an account and can browse through countless offers, tailoring your search to certain price ranges, lodging types, and specific locations.

The first day in Lyon we discovered the Parc de la tête d’or to visit the botanical gardens and the zoo. Unfortunately it was too chilly so some animals couldn’t come out.

View from the apartment

View from the apartment

Plants from South America

Plants from South America

"Le Petit Panda"

“Le Petit Panda”

Absolutely breathtaking

Absolutely breathtaking

This guy looks embarrassed. He's probably just cold

This guy looks embarrassed. He’s probably just cold

 

Unfortunately my camera had broke so my iPhone had to suffice for the rest of the week. The next day we explored Vieux Lyon where we found breathtaking churches and ancient Roman ruins.

Amphitheater

Amphitheater

These churches are too big to capture in one picture

These churches are too big to capture in one picture

Vie of Vieux Lyon

View of Vieux Lyon

 

We purchased tickets for a Segway Tour for our third day in Lyon. What started off as a joke turned out to be a great experience. Where can I find myself a segway?

There goes Gissel practicing

Gissel practicing, it’s not as easy as it looks!

Proud of my nearly learned skills

Proud of my newly learned skills

 

And at night we attended Oh! Paradis, a one and a half hour drag show for 25 euros that included desserts to share and a drink each. Please excuse the quality of my photos, I was heartbroken that I no longer had my camera.

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Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury

Madonna

Madonna

 

For my first drag show, I was not disappointed. I sang along to the songs I knew and just stuck to dancing for the ones I didn’t. Those three days in Lyon were incredible. Although three days was not enough, it was off to Nice to meet up with Gabby and Anna!

Introduction To My Newfound French Life

As I think about the past two and a half months of my life I can’t seem to understand how all of my experiences fit into that small span of time. So let me start from the beginning.

I can still remember the day I landed at the Charles de Gaule airport in Paris with seven other New Paltz students and no idea how to get around like it was yesterday. For the first few days I didn’t understand any signs around or anything anyone was saying. But my relaxed personality kept me from feeling a culture shock and I adjusted to French life almost immediately.

The view from my room

The view from my room

 

Wall art everywhere

Wall art everywhere

Looking back over two months later I realize many things have happened. Starting with the obvious, my French has greatly improved. But what I did not realize right away was that I had never truly had a conversation in French before my departure. My confidence in the language only arose from conjugating verbs in class and reciting prewritten sentences that I had plenty of time to construct beforehand. Now I find myself debating topics in class and bonding with people that don’t speak a word english.

So far this semester I have made a bunch of incredible friends from all around the country, I learned to rock climb with French directions, and I’ve been to two Rugby games.

The dorm rooms are small but we fit

The dorm rooms are small but we fit 

Trusting Gabby to bring me down

Trusting Gabby to bring me down

 

Merguez and vin chaud from the rugby game

Merguez and vin chaud from the rugby game

 

I’ve also been lucky enough to enjoy the two excursions included in the SUNY program – the first to Haut-Doubs.

Enjoying the cheese factory in Haut-Doubs

Enjoying the cheese factory in Haut-Doubs

The cheese factory: where the magic happens

The cheese factory: where the magic happens

 

It was impossible to capture the beauty of the waterfall that serves as a border between Switzerland and France

It was impossible to capture the beauty of the waterfall that serves as a border between Switzerland and France

We're standing on the Switzerland side of the waterfall while the picture was taken from the France side

We’re standing on the Switzerland side of the waterfall while the picture was taken from the France side

The second trip to both Geneva, Switzerland and Annecy, France was even better.

Le jet d'eau, or the geyser, in Geneva

Le jet d’eau, or the geyser, in Geneva

We enjoyed a beautiful boat tour on the lake of Annecy

We enjoyed a beautiful boat tour on the lake of Annecy

 

We even got to explore the Centre Ville of Annecy at night

We even got to explore the Centre Ville of Annecy at night

 

Though the culture here is much more relaxing than New York, I have had all but a dull moment this semester. We’ve even been lucky enough to enjoy a week off at the end of February for winter break, which made it possible for me to explore other parts of France, including the Carnaval de Nice. Stick around for my next post to see how incredible that vacation was!