Art, Culture… and Airports

This past weekend I traveled outside of Spain for the first time since I arrived here on my study abroad trip, making stops in both Brussels and Amsterdam. Being in Spain for so long I was almost unaccustomed to speaking English when talking to other people, but it was most certainly refreshing. Both cities were absolutely beautiful and shared many similarities.

In Brussels, the beer and chocolate were as good as advertised. I couldn’t walk more than 1 block without seeing a chocolate shop or waffle house, but I wasn’t complaining. Being able to see the European Parliament was a surreal experience, knowing that it is in essence the de facto capital of the European Union. The buildings and architecture all around were stunning and the people were all very warm and friendly.

Amsterdam as a whole was a surreal experience, at certain points I almost felt like I was in a movie. However, despite what most people know about Amsterdam, the best part was easily the museums. The Rijksmuesum had some of the greatest artwork I have ever seen and due to its size you could easily spend the entire day in there and still not see it all. My favorite painting had to be the The Night Watch, Rembrandt van Rijn’s most famous painting in the museum. The Van Gogh museum was incredible as well and I’d have to say my favorite painting by him was The Potato Eaters.

But what really hit home for me was going to see the Anne Frank Haus, where Anne Frank infamously wrote her journal while hiding from the Nazis. With my father being Jewish, I felt it was important for me to go and I knew it would make him happy. I thought I wouldn’t be able to at first because the line was hours long everyday, but I stuck it out on the last day to see it and it was definitely worth it.

In regards to the airport, I experienced an abundance of emotions. In the image above you will see a plaque in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks that took place in Brussels Airport on 3/22/16. I remember how much it meant to me being from NYC to see the 9/11 memorial for the first time and while this is attack was on a much smaller scale, I knew it still meant a lot to the people of Brussels.

However, this feeling would not last long. My friend and I were going to make our flight just in time, but we got stopped by security for having cologne… This delay resulted in us missing our flight and ended up costing me over $200. Once again I hope those of you reading this will learn from my mistakes, I’ve made plenty of them so far and I’m sure there will be more to come!

Terrorism Abroad

In light of the attacks in Brussels yesterday, I feel that blogging about terrorism abroad might be prevalent.

I’m happy to report that I as well as all my friends are fine. Nothing is happening in Besançon, it’s been just like every other day, which I am more than thankful for. But as I was saying to my housemate earlier, even these small, less know, less popular cities like Besançon are on high (maybe high-ish) alert all the time. Everyday when I’m walking down the street there are the “vigipirates,” the soldiers/police who drive down very slowly, très lentement, in their white vans, looking closely at average people like me walking down the street to make sure nothing suspicious is happening.

A few months ago before I even arrived here, I had received an immediate notification about the attacks in Paris. It was Nov. 13. I was in my office with my boyfriend Jack, getting ready to prepare the night’s newscast. I remember both of us got the notification simultaneously. My heart sank a little when I read my update from The New York Times. Jack got the same one but from The Associated Press and he asked me, “Are you sure you still wanna go to France?”

I took the question as a half-joke because 1) of course I was still going to go to France, and 2) I didn’t want to psyche myself out. But of course, I did anyway.

Because when you hear about the kinds of things that happened in Paris in November and what just happened in Brussels yesterday, you get nervous, you get scared, you start to think too much. You hope to God that something like that will never happen to you but you never really know, because it can happen anywhere. It can happen in Europe, it can happen in the Middle East, it can happen at home in the United States, especially somewhere like New York.

But even though this is the current state of the crazy world we live in and things can happen anywhere at any time… they usually don’t. More often than not, it’s a case of wrong place at the wrong time. And to me, these circumstances make these violent attacks all the more sick and tragic. Are these terrorists bombing innocent people just to prove a point? To show that they are capable of such threatening and violent acts?

An article from CNN reported that ISIS tweeted a statement saying “What will be coming is worse” after yesterday’s attacks in Belgium. Now, we are not at that point yet, so I’m not going to continue to dwell on it. And this goes without saying – BUT – life would just be so much easier if these kinds of things didn’t happen in the world and if there weren’t people who felt the need to act in such extreme, horrific ways.

Obviously as study abroad students we are inclined to be traveling a lot – it’s just a part of the experience being here. We want to do as much as we can while we’re here, because we won’t be staying for long, and who knows when we’ll have the chance to come back. So this obviously makes parents, friends, family members, professors and the like nervous, as it should. But traveling abroad is a lot simpler and a lot safer than some people make it out to be. And it is especially safer after events like these happen. That’s also why we have the vigipirates in Besançon.

Everyone is on high alert, everyone is looking out, everyone is well aware. My thoughts, prayers and love go out to those who may have lost someone yesterday in Brussels and I hope I never live to experience whatever they may be feeling. And as I’ve said, this is just the state of the world today. It certainly isn’t ideal, but the important thing is just to remain cautious, aware and vigilant. It’s also probably in everyone’s best interests to stay away from dangerous situations, ie. major cities, riots, large crowds, religious gatherings of any kind. I know that these attacks are scary and frightening above all else, but they just can’t and shouldn’t stop everyone from living their lives. If we start to live in fear, then the terrorists win, don’t they? And we can’t have that happen. It’s plain and simple.

Au Revoir, Brussels

Tonight is my last night in Brussels – I can’t believe it! This experience, as I’ve said so many times before, has been amazing. This past year was an extremely hard one for me, and I felt like things wouldn’t get better. After experiencing this new culture and exploring this beautiful country with the friends I’ve made here, I can proudly say that I feel the complete opposite way now. I’m so incredibly thankful I was given the opportunity to come here.

I just checked in for my flight and moved my seat so I could sit near some friends. I used the Delta App, which is extremely convenient! I’m hoping I can sleep on the plane; I didn’t on my last flight, which was not fun. It’s safe to say that I will sleep for two days straight once I get back to the States.

I’ll be heading out with the rest of the New Paltz crew for a final group dinner at around 7. It’s going to be bittersweet, I’m sure. My flight is pretty early tomorrow morning, so I sadly won’t be doing anything tonight other than sleeping, packing, and saying my final goodbyes.

Chocolate and Cantillion

My time abroad is coming to a close, and it’s so bitter sweet. I really miss home; if only I could ship my family, boyfriend, and friends over here. Europe is such a beautiful place and I’m so thankful I’ve had the opportunity to spend two weeks in this amazing city.

Our first briefing for this morning was canceled, giving us the morning off. Myself and two other New Paltz students decided to check out the Chocolate Museum. We had the chance to watch one of the workers make chocolate – he even gave us a sample. It was delicious, to say the least.

This afternoon, our group took a trip to a nearby brewery. The owner of the brewery, Cantillion, was a man who was extremely passionate about his profession and his hatred for the European Union’s regulations. It was interesting to hear this perspective from a person who lives within the EU, especially because I’ve only heard positive things about it since I’ve been here.

These past two weeks have been extremely busy, so it was nice having a day to decompress! ☺

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!


The above orange trees caught our eyes.


Tigger, the bicycle.


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

market square

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

market square 3

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!


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

FullSizeRender (18) IMG_2683

The Journey Continues

Hey everybody! Bonsoir from Brussels, the place I’ve been calling home for the past few days. During this short period of time, I’ve traveled to some amazing places throughout this amazing city. Along with discovering some really cool places, I have also discovered some of the ins and outs of Belgium’s culture – I’ve picked up on some basic French, tried some of their renowned, delicious drinks, and I’ve seen waffles displayed in places that I never thought I would see them displayed.

The only language I am fluent in is English, and I have a basic understanding of Italian because I took it for years in both middle and high school. French is something I’ve never been exposed to and never learned about, until now. I’ve learned how to ask questions like ‘Where is the Metro?’ and I’ve learned how to simply say ‘thank you’ to someone. At first I was extremely confused, but once I started hearing other people use the language (along with using Google Translate) I was able to quickly catch on.

Another aspect of Belgium that interests me is the type of beers they have. After our first day of the Model EU Simulation, all of the participating students went to a Student Mixer that was held at a bar. We were given two free drink slips by the women from Vesalius College who coordinated the entire event, so we all tried some of the drinks that they had. It was so crazy to me that their popular flavors were far different from the ones from the United States. They had Pecheresse, which is peach flavored, and Chocolate!

My favorite thing that I’ve seen on this trip so far has to be the waffle vending machine. I kid you not, there is a vending machine that actually sells waffles! It only costs .90 euro, too!  The machine was at Vesalius College, where the simulation is taking place, and I can honestly say that it was the most beautiful part about the school. It’s great location in the city of Brussels definitely is a close second…


♥ The Waffle Vending Machine ♥


Brussels Here I come! – 01/04/16



Arrived at Airport. Check in was a breeze no line. I would definitely recommend the web check-in. For Brussels Air there was a separate drop your bags web check-in which was great. Said goodbyes to my dad who drove me in. Thanks Dad! Security was a bit long but not terrible.


Sitting at the airport waiting to get on the plane. Luckily I am traveling with two other Suny New Paltz students. It wasn’t intentional we each booked separately and just happened to all be on this flight. It will be nice to be able to know someone as soon as I’ve stepped off the plane. We’ll be able to travel together to the Hotel where we have a bit of rest and recover and then a short briefing on safety and security at the hotel.

Eric who is also on my Belgium team had a bit of a snafu at check in. He was two kilo’s over or about 4lbs. They wouldn’t let him pay for the overage so he had to reorganize his bags. Stuff some things in his book bag, as he put it he’ll never be able to show his face in NY again because his “unmentionables” fell out and everyone got a good look. But he was able to toss a bunch of stuff in his book bag/carryon and made it through security. Moral of the story be really sure you’re under the limit some Airline staff will let you through but some Airline staff are very strict. Now Eric is on the hunt for a duffle bag. He’s already nixed the Victoria secrete bag.


Had a snack Airport prices are so high. I would definitely recommend you eat before you go through security….at your house preferably. Ian came through with no problems and we’re all just hanging out waiting for our plane to start boarding.


Lined up waiting for boarding to start. Some issue with the plane hopefully they will resolve it and we can get on. Can’t wait to get to Brussels.


Still waiting nobody has boarded as yet they’re calling up passengers. Met a nice guy working with the US government in Brussels frequent flyer. He said they’re probably calling people for upgrades. Thousands of dollars though for business class/1st class. I’ll save that for my next trip overseas.


Still waiting there is an issue with the flight being over booked and the plane is experiencing technical difficulties weight distribution probably. They are asking people if they would be willing to stay.


Flight should have taken off by now. Nobody has boarded Brussels Air is looking for 34 people to stay behind. I think they have about 10.


They’ve asked all people who are not trying to make a connection and are staying in Brussels as they’re final destination to line up separately. Now they’re making a hard sell. Hotel-Vouchers food vouchers and 600 Euro if you stay. They’re threating to cancel the flight completely if they don’t get enough volunteers.


After a discussion between me Eric and Ian and a phone call to our Professor we’ve decided to stay. The three of us decided to stay. We’ll lose a rest and recovery day and have to get right into scheduled events visiting the European Parliament and European Council. Hopefully we’ll get to sleep on the flight tomorrow night.


Finally being led out of the secure area we had to make a quick stop at Duty free for people to return their items. They’ll have to repurchase it tomorrow. We’re going to get our baggage and go to the hotel and hopefully get dinner.


Still waiting on our baggage it seems to be “lost”. They’re trying to rebook some people onto other flights tonight but it doesn’t look like we’ll be one of them. Have met some really interesting people while waiting for Brussels Airlines to get the Hotel and food vouchers together for us.

Nellie: Is a Diplomat that works for the Egyptian Embassy and Ian Eric and I are going to stick with her she knows the tricks.

Kimberly and Husband: Kimberly is this super cool laid back lady from Seattle and her husband are heading back to Ghent Belgium after a wedding. Kimberly works for an NGO pretty cool stuff. Her husband is in a special master program that sends the grad students to different countries over two years.

Alexandria: Is from Poland but she lives and works in Brussels, she works for a small think tank that makes recommendations to the European Commission on housing energy efficiency strategies.


Still waiting and waiting and waiting….


Nope still waiting….


I don’t think we’re ever going to leave the airport.


Yes. I can see the light or at least the headlights of the Radissons shuttle bus.


We’re waiting again… for room card and food vouchers. Accept the kitchen is closed even though they said it was going to be held open for us and it looks like we have $35 to go shopping at the little Food Store in the hotel. Chips and Cookies anyone.


Finally crawling into bed after a half a turkey sandwich a bottle of water and a cozy snack rice pudding cup! King size comfy bed ZZZZZZZZzzzzzz……. We’ll try for Brussels again tomorrow.

Welkom in België

The moment has finally come – I’ve finally reached Brussels! It took about seven hours to get here from JFK to Brussels Airport, which I didn’t think was too bad. As we were preparing to land, my excitement grew more and more. The man next to me seemed to be extremely nervous, and I think I was scaring him even more by recording our landing. When I got off of the plane, I honestly did not know what to expect from Brussels. So far, the city has not disappointed.

As I was riding on the train to get to our hotel, the Ibis St. Catherine, it was really starting to hit me that I wasn’t in the States anymore; I was in an entirely different continent and country. It may sound ridiculous, but that’s what was swimming through my head after a long and sleepless flight.

Due to the terror threats here in Europe back in November, our group had to relocate from a hostel to the St. Catherine hotel. The rooms aren’t very big, but they are not horrible. Once I checked into my room, I decided to break the rules and take a nap. In all honesty, I felt refreshed after getting some rest! I’m going to cross my fingers and hope that jetlag won’t hit me.

Once I was settled in, myself and other students from New Paltz participating in the program explored the area. We ate dinner at Amadeus, a restaurant that is popular for ribs (thankfully they had vegetarian options), and walked around Brussels for a little bit. Christmas lights still cover some of the cobbled roads and it was absolutely stunning to see.

The highlight of my night had to be when we found a waffle place. I personally am not a breakfast food fan and never eat waffles at home. But because literally everyone talks about how amazing the waffles are here in Belgium, I decided to give it a go. Needless to say, if I memorize exactly how to get to this place from my hotel, I will be there at least four times a day until I leave.

Countdown to Brussels


So I’ve never blogged before but I thought this was a great opportunity as I am only doing a short intersession study abroad. So let me introduce myself my name is Danielle I’m a Junior at Suny New Paltz, working on my Accounting BS. I am what is termed a non-traditional adult returning learner. This basically means I’m older than 24 and have previously been to school left but now I’m back again. Which also means I work a full time job so a full semester study abroad would have been a life changing ie. quit my job decision. This is why the offered two weeks three credits through Suny New Paltz is so nice I can just take vacation time from work and be able to have a mini study abroad experience.

Being a Business major you may ask why are you on a Poli Sci Study Abroad trip? Well I have a Poli Sci minor which this three credit study mission will take care of some of those required upper division credits, I love to travel and I find Politics and all the different version of government out there fascinating.

So my study abroad trip is for two weeks the first week being the Model European Union Simulation portion. We’ve been assigned alter egos, I am the Finance Minister for Belgium. We’ve been set agenda items to discuss and debate and hopefully come to some resolution that can be approved by all 28 member states.

I’m pretty much all packed and ready to go. That was an adventure in and of itself. Only going to be gone for two weeks but do to some issues abroad they moved our hostel to a hotel. Which is a nice upgrade in a lot of ways but one of the things I was counting on was being able to do laundry which I don’t know what the availability will be at the hotel and if it’s a costly service etc. Therefore I went from a small suitcase to a medium/large suitcase. Hopefully I’m under the 50lb limit and won’t have to reorganize at the airport.

Well that’s all for now early to rise tomorrow and I will be taking a flight at 6:15 out of JFK.

Pre-Departure to Belgium!

I honestly cannot believe that I will be on a plane to Brussels, Belgium at this time tomorrow! In High School, I went on a school trip to Italy and was absolutely amazed. Since then, I knew that I wanted to go abroad again. Who knew that three years later I would be embarking on another journey to Europe?!

I am an undergraduate student at SUNY New Paltz, studying both Finance and General Business Studies. This past summer I worked two jobs and saved the money I made so I could experience life abroad again. Even though it’s only for two weeks, I’m still as excited as ever!

When I started looking for Winter Intercession programs, I had no idea where to start. It is thanks to my many trips to the Study Abroad Office that I was able to discover this awesome program. The program I will be participating in is the SUNY Model European Union Simulation and the 3-credit Study Mission.

The Study Mission is political science related, which will be interesting to me since I’ve never really pursued any courses in that realm. I’ve always been interested international politics; however, since I am not a Poly Sci or IR student, I wasn’t sure if this program would be the one for me. After speaking to an advisor and getting more insight on the program from Professor Dowley, I knew that this was exactly what I wanted to do. I cannot wait to see what this trip has in store for all of us.

Au revoir, America! #npabroad