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.


After exploring four different countries in just twelve days, I can say without a doubt that traveling around Europe is an incredible experience, but also an expensive one. It isn’t the flights or the hostels that run up the bill, but rather it is the day-to-day expenses of attempting to see as much as possible when being a tourist in some of the most amazing cities in the entire world. The four stops I made on this trip were London, Paris, Dublin, and Berlin, with the latter two cities not being overwhelmingly pricey, but the first two cities making NYC seem cheap. However, expenses aside, each city presented a much different culture, atmosphere, and experience that I won’t soon forget.

Dublin: My first stop had a little bit of a different feel from the other cities I visited, mainly because I stayed with a good friend of mine from UC3M at his parents house, rather than a youth hostel. Exploring a new city with someone born and raised in the area and who knows the culture well allowed me to see the city more from a resident’s point of view rather than a tourist’s, which I personally think is better. The Irish are warm, welcoming, and love to have a good time (the Guinness is amazing).

London: The second stop on my trip had a much more touristy vibe to it and it’s hard not to in a city as grand as this. Similarly to NYC, it is so big and there is so much to see, but at times it almost felt like everything was just one giant rip off. Dealing with the conversion rate of the pound while also dealing with inflated prices is definitely a hard thing for a college student on a budget to handle. Other than the damage done to my wallet, London was definitely a city that I enjoyed and that I plan on returning to (I also find the slang there to be quite comical).

Berlin: The third stop on my trip seemed like one very long and very dark history lesson. Man, does this city have a lot of baggage to it when it comes to the 20th century. From WWI/WWII to the Berlin Wall, it was quite interesting to see how all of these events were linked and how bad humanity can be in desperate times. In addition to the history, the nightlife in Berlin is also second to none, I’ve never seen people party quite like the Germans do (even though it was freezing).

Paris: Similarly to my stay in Dublin, the final stop on my trip I was with a good friend of mine from New Paltz and crashed at his apartment… and similarly to London, this city didn’t treat my wallet too nicely either. I’d have to say that Paris is the most beautiful city I have ever been to thus far in my life and it was the closest to Spain in that the majority of people didn’t speak English, whereas in the other cities I visited, everybody spoke it perfectly. Going to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre were unforgettable experiences and this is definitely a city that I would love to come back to in the not so distant future.

Now I am finally back home in Madrid, where I have a little over a week left to enjoy living in this amazing city before returning back to NYC!

Heading Home!

So I’m currently sitting on my plane home as I write this, I’ll make another post in a week or so to update you all on being home 🙂 Sidenote: This is the first post I’m actually on time with, so at least I’ve finally caught up!

It’s weird to think about how fast six weeks went. It feels like just last week I was on a plane on my way to Germany. Six Weeks. Gone in a flash. I learned so much, but I feel like six weeks wasn’t nearly enough time to appreciate the culture and language as much as I should have. The first month was spent adjusting to life in Germany, so it wasn’t until the last two weeks where I really had the hang of what was going on.

The last week alone was incredible. I can’t remember what I did Monday or Tuesday off the top of my head for some reason. I think they were mostly spent gift shopping for people (I put that off until the last minute). Wednesday I went to the Wochenmarkt for the last time. It was raining, but it’s one of my favorite things in Münster, so I had to go anyway. I don’t remember if I’ve talked about it in a previous post (and I’m on a plane so I can’t go check), so I’ll give a quick explanation about the Wochenmarkt.

The Wochenmarkt is a huge farmers market that takes place twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, at der Domplatz, or the large area outside St. Paulos Dom. There are all sorts of stands: there’s a whole row of meat and fish sellers, a lot of cheese, lots and lots of bread, so many strawberries (and other fruits), some vegetables, a bunch of flower sellers, people that sell food you can eat right there (like Bratkartoffeln, yummy), some candy and other misc. trucks, and a bunch of people that sell their art/things they make. It’s really cool, and I absolutely love it, but unfortunately it was raining on the last day that I could have went. There’s a really nice man who sells his art, and I was going to buy another print, but because of the rain, and the fact that all of his merchandise is paper products, he wasn’t there. I did, however, buy 500g of delicious strawberries that I then ate while sitting in my afternoon class. I only had an hour that Wednesday, because my teacher had changed our Intensivkurs from Thursday to Wednesday, but it gave me time to walk around one last time before heading back to Kapito. Other than that, I didn’t do much on Wednesday other than start packing and start making a thank you card for my host family.

Thursday was an awesome day. There was a Wasserburgfahrt, or a trip to go see castles on lakes. We went to two castles (one was a Burg and the other was a Schloss. From what I understand Bürge are forts/castles and have more of a military character, whereas Schlösser are fancier castles where royalty livesIMG_4410.), and they were both lovely. On the way I felt super bus-sick, because busses and my stomach aren’t friends, but once I got out of the bus at the first castle, I felt pretty okay. The first one we visited was Burg Vischering, which was a castle from the 1200’s, which was re-built to be stronger in the 1500’s. It was really awesome to see the inside (and the outside), though unfortunately photos weren’t allowed in the museum. After the museum we had the opportunity to walk around the castle grounds for about an hour, so that’s exactly what I did. The bathroom was in a dungeon, which i thought was interesting. (Okay, so maybe not a dungeon exactly, but old castle basement looks quite a lot like a dungeon if you ask me.) The grounds were beautiful. The castle was it’s own little island in the water, and then there was another little island, with a shop, a cafe, and some other buildings. Each of these little islands (I don’t know if they’re considered islands if they’re completely manmade brick islands and not actual earth islands) were connected by bridges (that were next to the now-unsturdy originals), and surrounding the lake there is a beautiful trail, which allows you to see the Burg from all sides.

Everything there was lovely, and I was expecting the second castle to be similar, but it was completely different. It’s called Schloss Nordkirchen, and it was modeled after the Palace of VersaillesGEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA  (and is actually referred to sometimes as the “Versailles of Münsterland”), right down to the gardens. It was a beautiful view, despite being a little cloudy on first view. It cleared up shortly after that, which was nice. You walk from a treelined path into a clearing to see a beautiful Schloss with a lovely sculpture garden in front of it, and a still lake/pool in front of you. Everything about the Schloss and the garden is completely symmetrical (though the sculptures do vary on the two sides of the garden). We had a group picnic in the garden, which was really cool. I’d brought some snacks, not expecting to be eating there, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise. I didn’t necessarily like the food, but I got a peach and a lot of gummy bears out of it, so I certainly can’t complain. After eating I walked around the outside of the castle a little bit (mostly because I needed to pee), and it was equally gorgeous on the other side. Then we went home and I tried to get the rest of my stuff packed and finish up the thank you card.

Friday was super busy, but it was a good last day. I meant to write this post last night, but I needed to finish packing, so I didn’t have time until I got on the plane (and it’s an 8 hour flight, might as well give IMG_4419myself something to do). Friday started with class. Last IMG_4418day of school! I took selfies with my teachers, said goodbye to the friends I’ve made in these six weeks, and then met Robynne, Kate, and two others downstairs to finally go to the Pinkus Müller Brauerei for lunch. I couldn’t decide so I went for a potato soup and Flammkuche, which turned out to be a great decision because they were both delicious. After that, Kate, Robynne, and I got ice cream and the other two went home, and then Robynne and I finally went to the Stadtmuseum, or City Museum. We’d been saying we were going to go for the entire program and then suddenly our six weeks were up so we needed to go on the last day. The museum seemed boring at first, but then it was cool once we got up to the third floor. It had a lot of IMG_4464really cool things from the World War II era (Münster was a Nazi Headquarters), and a scale model of just how destroyed the city was during the war. It was really interesting to see the buildings that we walk past every day without roofs, some of them completely demolished. After the Stadtmuseum, we bought flowers for our host families and then went our separate ways. I walked through the city center on my way home just to walk past the Stadtfest (city fest) that was happening this weekend, but I couldn’t really stay because 1) I was carrying around a pot of flowers, and 2) I really needed to finish packing. And then it took me ages to pack and repack.IMG_4475

Later on (like 11 or so?), when Jemima and Angelika got home from the Stadtfest, I went and asked if we could take a photo together (see above!) and then we got to talking. We ended up just hanging out for a while, and then Angelika opened a really old bottle (don’t ask me how old, I have no idea) of port wine to celebrate me having a great six weeks, and we had a toast and a small glass of wine to celebrate. We ended up all staying up until almost 2 am talking, and I added my address and email address into the card I’d given them so that we can keep in touch.

And today was airport day (actually yesterday now that I’ve had time to go through and add photos to this), so I finished packing, and had a cup of coffee with my host family before leaving. My backpack weighs about as much as my suitcase, which was awful on the walk to the train station and walking around the airport, but my suitcase was just under the weight requirement. If a suitcase is over 23kg (about 50lbs), you have to pay €100, which is a little bit much in my opinion. But I made it safely from Münster to Frankfurt, and I’m now on my plane on the way to JFK, and all in all I’m pretty excited to be heading home.

I was excited, and then sad, and then excited again. In the airport I just wanted to go because I didn’t feel like sitting there all day, and now that I’m on the plane I’d just like time to move faster because I feel like it’s going really really slowly. There’s a cute kid next to me though, so that’s always fun.

This trip was an amazing experience, and I’m so glad that I got to go. I’m curious to see how adjusting back to being home will be, but I’ll update you all on that later next week.

TL;DR I had an amazing study abroad program, and an amazing last week, and I’m pretty excited to be on my way home (but also kinda sad to be leaving such an amazing city).

I wrote this on a plane, sorry if it’s rambly in places :p

Weeks 4-5! More than half-way done!

After the half-way mark, it certainly didn’t feel like I’d hit the halfway mark. In fact, I’m writing this half-way through my last week, and I certainly don’t feel like I’m going home in 3 days, but that’s a story for the next post (which will actually be on time, hooray!). But despite my program being half-way over, I was busy as ever with school programs.

In week 4, there was a ton of stuff that happened. On the school calendar there was a trip to the Natural History Museum, the city Carnival, and a trip to Bonn! And there were other big things that week too, like taking the test that would determine whether I’d passed B1 or not.

The natural history museum was cool, and exploring it with my friend John (from New Paltz), and my friend Diego (from Switzerland), was a ton of fun. It was pretty similar to your standard natural history museum (and by your standard I mean I’ve only been to the one in New York City and the Smithsonian one in Washington D.C.). This one was a lot smaller, with a pretty confusing layout, but a lot of the exhibits were similar. The special exhibit currently there was about living in the dark, so many of the exhibits were about animals such as owls, bats, or moles, or sea-creatures that live in darkness. It was pretty interesting, though I mostly just looked at what looked cool while skimming signs, because when you have a limited amount of time in a museum, it’s just not possible to read every sign (especially when every sign takes double the amount of time to comprehend). It went from animals living in the dark, all the way up to ways that visually impaired people live today. And then there were the dinosaurs and things about human history that are part of the permanent exhibit (I like dinosaurs). This was also Diego’s last week in Münster, so later in the day a group of friends got together to celebrate, which was also super nice.

The next day was the B1 Abschlussprüfung, which is the big test that everyone has to take in order to move up to the next level. I was in the B1 class, but I was really worried about it because I hadn’t been there for the first half of the course. At the same time, I wasn’t too worried, because if I didn’t pass then I would stay in B1 and not move up to a level that’s too hard for me. Good news though! I did end up passing, and then the next monday we started B2!

Friday, week four, began the Münster Send, which is a huge carnival that takes place in Münster. There were tons of rides, games, and vendor booths, and it was all pretty fun (and very over-priced). When we first got there, we were told that we could meet back in an hour for a free ride on the school, so we set off to go explore for an hour. The first thing we did was go on a ride called The Flasher, and let me tell you, it was awesome. We were all terrified while waiting on line, because it’s taller than everything around it, and then it goes around really fast. (I’m awful at explaining this, but imagine the thing in the photo on the left is a giant clock hand and you’re sitting on the end and the clock is being rewinded very quickly). At the top of the tower, you end up sitting up there for a few minutes as the car on the opposite end unloads and reloads, and it’s by far the most beautiful view of Münster I’ve ever seen. You’re high above everything, and you can see the entire city and the fields beyond it. The car spins slowly around so that you get a 360º panoramic view of Münsterland. The city itself was the most beautiful part, because it was really beautiful to see all of the red roofs and the various churches sticking out over the tops. I could keep rambling about how lovely it is forever, but unfortunately since it’s such a fast and flippy-upside-downy ride, I couldn’t take any pictures. And I don’t think my describing it over text is going to do it justice at all. I did, fortunately, capture some lovely photos from the Ferris Wheel, which boasted similar views of the city, but at a significantly lower altitude, so they don’t go on as far. When we met up for the free ride on the school I decided to go on the Flasher again, while my friends chose a different ride, but after the ride that gave me some time to explore the Send on my own, which meant I got to see everything that was around without having to worry about where everyone else wanted to go. I was going to leave because I’d explored the whole thing, and at that point being by yourself is kinda boring, but I ended up running into my friends again near the exit. I joined them for the fireworks show, which was pretty cool, and then we all went our separate ways, because we had to get up early the next morning.

The reason we had to get up early? To go to Bonn, of course! Home to Beethoven’s birth house, a lovely Schloss and Rathaus (see the photo at the top for the Rathaus), lovely churches, and a wonderful museum about the history of Germany since WWII. My favorite part of Bonn was Beethovens Geburtshaus, but everything was interesting.

We started with a city tour, but that was pretty short and we then had free time, so after going on a long adventure to find a public restroom, we got lunch at a currywurst stand. This was my first time trying currywurst, and mmm, I was missing out. It was very good. And then we went to the Beethoven House Museum. We weren’t technically allowed to take photos inside (I had to leave my camera in a locker), but I had my phone with me so I snapped a few. It was cool to see some of the stuff that I’d learned about in Music History courses in person, such as the actual papers of the Heiligenstadt Testament, or the instruments that he really played on. After that, we went into a really beautiful church to look around, and then got ice cream before meeting back up with the group to go to the museum. Once everyone was back together, we went to the Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. It went through the history of Germany, but really, I just spent a lot of time looking at the stuff that looked cool. I made a new friend while in Bonn (her name is Kate and she’s pretty cool and is also from the US), so we spent a lot of our museum time talking, rather than reading about everything that we were looking at. What I did read, though, was pretty interesting, because I do like history, I just didn’t read a whole lot because to be honest I was tired and I think my brain had decided it didn’t really want to process a foreign language that day. The day as a whole was pretty interesting, because I like getting to see and learn about new places, so I’m definitely glad I got to go to Bonn.

The next week was just as busy (as always), with another movie night, a fun boating adventure, another concert at the music school, a trip to the beach with my host family, and a trip to the Münster Altwetter Zoo!

In week 5, I started with B2, so new text book, and harder class, but I find that it doesn’t feel much harder because at least this time I was starting from the beginning of the course. The end of B1 was much more grammar-heavy than the beginning of B2, so it isn’t as stressful. Tuesday, we went peddle-boating on the Aasee with school, which was fun. We made a New Paltz boat and spent most of the time talking about our time here and then just random life stuff. That Wednesday was Kate’s birthday, so after class, Kate, Robynne, and I went to the Pinkus Müller Brewery for lunch to celebrate! Or so we thought. It turns out that the place across the street, called Pinkulus, has tables outside Pinkus Müller. So it wasn’t until after we’d ordered that we realized that it wasn’t the Pinkus Brewery, but we had a really good lunch outside under some nice trees, so we weren’t complaining. We got ice cream and then explored the toy store and then made our separate ways home.

After that the weather started to get way too hot and it was awful. That Saturday was scheduled to be the hottest day of the week, and surprisingly the weather reports weren’t lying. Or rather, they were a little off, they didn’t report quite how hot it would actually get. It ended up being 105ºF. On the bright side though, that morning my host family had invited me to the beach. I denied at first because I desperately needed to shower (after all, it was hot out), but then I agreed and showered really quickly before packing my things for the beach. When I first got there I laid out my towel and immediately applied sunscreen (which I’m so glad I did, because I’m not a lobster this time!) and then laid in the sun for a while. I was bored, it was too hot, too sandy, too beachy. I’m really not a beach person. But then Jemima invited me to go swimming with her, and I agreed, naturally, because that would definitely help me cool off. Swimming was pretty fun, and we talked a lot, which is always cool (she gets a good laugh when I royally mess up my grammar, but then she helps me correct it so I (sometimes) get it right next time). Then we went back to laying on the beach, and I fell asleep for a little while. I woke up and my family was asleep and then I moved myself into the shade with them, because it was entirely too hot in the sun. I sat around for a while, trying to go back to sleep/at least alleviate my boredom, but I ended up just playing games on my phone until they woke up. We then got food (Currywurst und Pommes (fries). Yum.) and chatted some more, before going back to the beach. Jemima and I went swimming again, this time with a ball to play catch with. A little while later we traded the ball in for a set of snorkles, and we swam around. She had a good time trying to scare me by (attempting to) make me think that fish were grabbing my feet. I had a good time (successfully) scaring her by just putting my hand in front of her goggles out of nowhere. The water was pretty murky because it was a lake, so all of the sand and water gunk made it hard to see more than arms length away, but it also made it really startling when things suddenly appeared. We then played a “guess the song” game where you hum a tune into the snorkel while we’re both underwater and then we have to guess. It was pretty fun, and then shortly after that it was time to go home (by shortly after that I mean we were at the beach for a total of like 7 hours).

Actually one of the only performers we saw

The next day Robynne and I went to the zoo! It had been raining and thundering all morning so we weren’t sure if we were gonna be able to make it, but it cleared up in the afternoon so we decided to check it out. It was super cute, though the layout was confusing (and you had to pay extra for a map so we decided to just wing it). There was supposed to be a street artists festival going on, but due to the storms earlier in the day there weren’t very many performers out. Despite not getting to see the performers, we did still get to see all of the animals, and animals are cool.

Overall, I had a great time in Münster, and I’m excited go be going home, but that’s for tomorrow’s post 🙂

Weeks two and three: Highlights Edition!

I’m really behind on these because I got the blog more than half way into my program and I’ve been pretty consistently busy since I got here. I go home this coming weekend and there’s no way I can write a post about every week that’s passed in that time, so the next two posts are basically going to be just the highlights of the last month 🙂

Weeks two and three were fun (as were all of the other weeks). Week two consisted of a movie night, a concert at the music school, a trip to Bremen, and a free swing dance!

The concert at the music school was really cool for me, because it was a guitar concert, which is an instrument that I don’t tend to listen to very often. As a music major, going to live music events is an important part of our curriculum, so getting to do that even while abroad was really cool, and to see the similarities and differences between concerts at the Musikhochschule and our own music department at SUNY New Paltz. (And besides, who doesn’t love a free concert?)

The trip to Bremen was also really cool, and it was only a week and a half after I’d gone to Amsterdam, so getting to travel a lot was really awesome. I’m still not entirely sure what exactly Bremen is famous for, but it was cool to get to see cities other than Münster. There was a Stadtführung, or city tour, lead by the teacher from Kapito who was running the trip, but my friend Robynne and I decided to just explore the city on our own. We looked at the map that we had gotten and went to the Schnoorviertel, which is a really old harbor/shipping town. It was beautiful, the way that the architecture mixed really old buildings with some modern ones, and the shops were all very cute. We wandered around for a while and ended up going in a circle back to Schnoorviertel. While we were wandering, it had started pouring, so we ended up going into a random restaurant for lunch, which ended up being pretty good. After wandering for a while, the school had a trip into a museum; the Übersee Museum, a natural/cultural history museum about cultures all over the world. It was really interesting, the way it went from ancient to modern times, and it was really fascinating to get to see artifacts from cultures from so many different places.

The Sunday that ended week two held something pretty awesome as well: a free public swing dance! As a member of the New Paltz Swing Dance e-board (yes we have a swing dance club. Shameless plug that everyone should join because it’s tons of fun and we have lessons), I couldn’t resist going when I read about it on Münster’s Lindy-Hop website. It was an outdoor afternoon dance with a small stage set up in a park, and it wasn’t too far from my house so I decided to go. At first I was terrified to ask anyone to dance, because while I know how to say “would you like to dance” in German, it’s still a new language and a new culture, and I had to get a feel for it first. After observing from the sidelines for quite a while, a man (he turned out to be from Holland and his English was better than his German, so that made it easier for me) asked me to dance and told me that I’m never gonna get to dance if I just stand there and watch. We had a good few dances before separating, but that was just the small push that I needed. I asked someone else to dance, but he ended up not knowing swing, he was just there (I’m not really sure why), but we chatted for a while and then I was asked to dance by someone else. That ended up being a really great dance, which is always fun. I absolutely love swing dancing, so getting to go while in Münster was a wonderful experience. After a short break for ice cream (it’s become it’s own food group for me here), I sat down at a picnic table and just watched others dance for a while. It’s interesting to see how the locals here dance, because they have a much different style than what I’m used to. A little later I made awkward eye contact with someone and we danced. He clearly didn’t know how to Lindy, but that’s alright. I got sucked into a conversation about the state of the world and differences in cultures, which was pretty interesting (though he repeated himself quite a bit), and it helped me with my German since he didn’t speak any English. I danced with one more person (another really good dance) and then headed home before it started to get dark. It was a really fun day, even though sometimes I’m a little too awkward to function in situations like that on my own.

In week three, I found a really interesting shop, saw La Boheme at Theatre Münster, went to the Planetarium (admittedly I slept through most of the show), there was a flea market at Schloss Münster, music on the Promenade, and another swing dance!

Short explanation of the above photos: It’s half Disney/Mickey Mouse museum, and half shop with really interesting things like chairs that look like Prinzipalmarkt, or various garden gnomes.

La Boheme was super cool. I’ve been trying to go to more fully staged operas lately, and so I had to go while in Germany. Since one of my majors is classical voice performance, it should be a given that I see a lot of opera’s, but since they can be pretty expensive, I’ve actually only ever been to three (and they were all within the past year). I’ve been performing in opera’s since elementary school, but through a small workshop near my hometown, and we didn’t do fully staged opera’s often. Because the Theatre has a discount for college students (our New Paltz ID’s worked!), we got half priced seats, so we managed to sit in the eighth row for only 20 Euro. The performance was great, though at the end everyone started clapping in sync and it was the strangest thing.

The following weekend was one of Europe’s largest outdoor flea markets. Unfortunately, I was mistaken on where it was located, but we spent the day exploring the city and wandering around and eventually just so happened to come across it right in front of Schloss Münster (Schloss means castle in German. The Schloss is now the main building for Münster’s University). We found the flea market about 5 minutes after it was scheduled to close, but many of the vendors hadn’t yet started packing up, so we still found some pretty cool stuff. Walking home from the flea market, I got to experience part of “Music on the Promenade,” which is an event where all along the Promenade are various artists playing their music. Since I live along IMG_4063the Promenade, I got to see quite a few talented people along my way. My favorite was probably a drum circle at the very end, because they had really interesting rhythms, and I find it to be really fascinating the way that they could communicate with each other to play the songs without saying anything. It reminded me a lot of doing improvisational drumming in my music therapy classes, which I love doing. I don’t think they were improvising, but the style was very similar.

The next night, there was another swing dance! This time it wasn’t free, but it cost only 8 Euro for a whole night of dancing, and there was also a buffet. (I didn’t necessarily like the buffet food, but there was some fruit and yogurt, so I guess I can’t complain) Much like the first swing dance, I had pretty cold feet about asking others to dance. This time, however, my host family had come with me. They didn’t dance at all, but they came for a little while and we hung out. I only got one dance in before they left (I spent a really long time not dancing), but they had to go since it was a school night. After they left, I ended up getting in quite a few good (and quite a few pretty bad) dances. There were also quite a few times when I debated just leaving because it was pretty overwhelming. The first swing dance had been outdoors, but this time it was in a small venue and there wasn’t much free space to breathe. I ended up going outside for a little while, when one of the locals was talking to me and saying that i shouldn’t be nervous to just ask people cause once you get to know them everyone in the community is really nice. That didn’t surprise me because swing is generally a really great scene, but it was a good confidence boost. I still felt pretty overwhelmed though, so I took a walk around the block to get some fresh air, and then got a few awesome dances in before going home.

On a completely and totally unrelated note: One thing I do have to say, is that the food here is amazing. I haven’t yet had a meal that I didn’t like (with the exception of maybe one, but I liked half so that can count), which is saying something considering how picky I am. The food is also pretty cheap, at least at the grocery store. In restaurants, the prices are similar to American pricing, though you definitely get more for what you pay. I’ve had to get a to-go container nearly every time I’ve gone out to eat, and that’s great because then I have lunch or dinner for the next day!

Meine erste Woche! (And a trip to Amsterdam)

It’s really difficult to keep up with blogging about a month ago when new things happen every day. Sorry about that!

If you’re reading this because you’re interested in studying abroad, that’s awesome! You should do it! One thing I will say though is this: they tell you that you’re going to get homesick, and that it’s inevitable. If you’re anything like me you won’t believe them because you’ve been on trips without family before or you’re independent, or any other reasons. No matter how much you tell yourself that, there’s going to be culture shock (especially if you’re somewhere with a different language), you’re going to get freaked out by things that are so totally different (like being so stressed out in a supermarket because you don’t know what any of the food is called and you just want a jar of peanut butter), but after the first couple of days the culture shock will (sort-of) subside and turn into wonder. You’re going to get homesick, and it’s gonna suck a little bit, but you’ll get over it, so don’t stress too much over it.

IMG_3946Completely unrelated to this entire post IMG_3969but my family has the most adorable bunnies here. Freddie and Filou are super fluffy and they make me smile every day (even when they try to steal my breakfast while I’m eating). Tell me those aren’t just the cutest little faces you’ve ever seen.

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The way the Kapito Sprachschule system is run is really strange to me. The classes don’t just start with new students, they keep going and then new students join the pre-existing courses.

So my first day, I had a placement exam, and then got placed at the B1 level (the level I wanted to be at), which was great, but then the second day was super stressful. I went into class expecting to be starting from the beginning of the course, but on my first day, we had a test on chapters (I think) 4 and 5 (I’m not sure because I wasn’t there for the chapters). I ended up with a 49 on the test when I got it back the week after because I hadn’t been there for any of the learning, so I didn’t know most of the answers. After the test, I was thrown right into chapter 8, which was definitely ahead of where I should’ve been, but I stuck with it and it worked out pretty okay (though I still think the class is a little too hard for me). I don’t quite understand the system of why they just add people to classes that are already almost done with the course, but oh well.

There are programs almost every day in the afternoon or evening, which is really nice. Within the first week, there was a casual get-together at a local bar, a Münster city tour, a trip to Amsterdam, and the Hafenfest.

The city tour was really cool, it was done in English because the only people that chose to go were me and a group of students from a beginner class, but I got to learn a lot about the history of the city. We learned about how the Promenade came to be (the Promenade is a tree-lined walking and bike path that surrounds the Altstadt (old city)/city center), because it was where the old city wall was. When the city no longer needed a wall to defend it, and needed more space to expand, the wall was taken down and the architect in charge decided that rather than just becoming a part of the city, it should remain as a green space where the old wall was. The Promenade is my walk to school every morning, which is super great because it’s lovely (it was awful for allergies until my body got used to it though). One of the other things on the city tour was learning about the history of the buildings, which I love. There’s a long history of religious fighting in the city, which is actually why there are three cages hanging from the top of St. Lamberti Kirche. In the middle ages, the city was taken over, and then when it was reclaimed, the Bishop hung the bodies of the three most important figures in the other regime from the top of the tallest building in the city as a warning against others who may want to attack. There’s a really interesting (and violent) history to the city, so it was cool to learn about it. The city also served as a regional Nazi headquarters during WWII, so a lot of the buildings were destroyed during the second World War. All along the Prinzipalmarkt (the main street in the Altstadt), you can see where buildings have been re-built. Most of the buildings have two dates: one that shows when the building was originally built, and the second is when it was rebuilt after the war.

The first weekend I was in Münster was Hafenfest, an annual festival held at the Hafen (the Harbor). It wasn’t as exciting as people had made it out to be, but I got to hang out with some new friends and get to see the local culture a little bit more. There were lots of shop-stands, as well as games, activities, and live performances. It was pretty fun, and it was great to see how beautiful the harbor in Münster is (even if it did get me very sun-burnt).

Other than just doing things with the school, I did a lot of exploring, especially in my first week. I spent a couple hours walking around the entire Aasee (the lake that’s connected the the river Aa), because it’s pretty close to my house. It was absolutely beautiful (everything here is), but walking roughly 3.5 miles in 90+ degree heat (in Fahrenheit, I still don’t fully understand Centigrade, even though it’s used everywhere but the US) probably wasn’t my smartest decision. I ended up stopping at a restaurant on the opposite side of the lake, and it was lovely.

It wasn’t all fun and rainbows the first week though. Finding out that your computer charger doesn’t fit into your adapter will stress anyone out. On the bright side, I was able to find a store that sells Apple products, so I bought just the plug part of my computer charger that works in a German outlet. After buying a new adapter, I was able to wander around the city and go exploring. The sun sets extremely late here, it’s usually still light until 10:30 or so, and so being out in the evenings is nice because you can stay out until 9 or 10 without having to worry about it getting dark. I wandered around the city quite a bit my first week, because I wanted to see what was around, and I knew how to get home from der Dom, one of the most prominent landmarks in the city. That made it easy to explore, because if I did get lost (I never did), then I’d be able to easily find my way home by asking how to get to der Dom. I learned that it’s a really lovely city, with a lot of really interesting shops, though they have weird hours, so I didn’t get to go into all of the shops that I would have liked to.


~~~~~~~~~~Trip to Amsterdam!~~~~~~~~~~

The Thursday of my first week was a Catholic Holiday (Corpus Christi in English), and since Münster is a really Catholic city, it’s a public holiday so everything is closed. Most stores are closed, and more importantly, there was no school. Because it was a public holiday, Kapito organized a trip to Amsterdam for the day, which I was lucky enough to be able to go on.

Amsterdam was a beautiful city: at the time we worded it as “Like New York City but older and with canals.” In Amsterdam we went on a short city-tour, where we GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAgot the chance to walk around and see the city. We saw the Red Light District, which is famous for prostitutes and marijuana. It was really interesting to see it. In the Red Light District, many of the buildings have windows with closed curtains, and then at night, in the windows there will be a prostitute sitting in a chair, waiting for potential customers (it’s illegal to photograph them though, so on the right is a photo of some of the windows during the daytime). There are coffee-shops on every street corner, and most of the souvenirs in the region are either related to marijuana or shaped like genitals. Any other souvenirs are either windmills or Dutch wooden shoes.

For me, the most interesting part was the Anne Frank House Museum. I have no photos from it, because you can’t take photos inside, but it was a really interesting museum. It was a little bit surreal to see the house in which the famous little girl lived. It made it a lot more real to me, seeing the photos of the famous people idolized pasted on her wall. It humanized her, and I think that that’s a really cool thing. It was an interesting museum, filled with fascinating history (and a lot of stairs), and if you’re ever in Amsterdam I’d highly recommend it.

All in all, Amsterdam was a beautiful city, but probably not somewhere I would visit again. Other than the fascination of seeing a culture is so wildly different from what we’re used to in America (or even in Germany), it was just another city. I’m not really one for weed and hookers, so it’s not on my list of places that I necessarily need to revisit (though I’m always up for more travel).

6 Wochen in Deutschland!

I typed this post up and then it didn’t post properly, so I’ll try to word it as well as I had the first time (it was pretty good, so this probably won’t be quite the same). I got access to this blog a little bit late (I’ve already been here for three weeks! It’s crazy!) but that’s alright!

Finals Week Spring 2015: A combination of finals stress, nervous excitement over this trip, and trying to make sure I had everything sorted out, both for spring semester and for the summer. Once home for the summer, I made a list of everything I was packing, everything I needed, and basically anything else that could be listed. With the help of my mom (thank you), I packed and I re-packed, rolling up all of my clothes to make them as small as possible. I was worried that I wouldn’t have very easy access to a washer-dryer (It turns out that there’s a washing machine in my kitchen here) so I packed enough clothes to only have to do laundry twice for my entire 6-week program. I bought shampoo, cough drops, granola bars, and everything else I thought I’d need. For the last few days before departure I was constantly thinking, “Did I pack everything?” Plug converter, chargers, Advil, camera. Double check again. I think everything’s all set, and then it’s time to go to the airport.

My friend Cara and I were flying together to avoid having to be alone in the airports and train stations on the way, so that was nice. In the airport we also ran into our friend John, who ended up being on the same flight as us. We all hung out in the airport for a little while waiting to get on board for our 8 hour flight. Lots of naps, a couple of movies (Into the Woods was pretty good!), and some really awful food later, we touched down in Frankfurt. From there, it was clear that it was a totally different world; there were no water fountains to re-fill reusable bottles, so we ended up having to buy bottled water. They don’t drink tap water here, which I think is interesting because Münster is such a “green” city. (I now drink quite a bit of the tap water since learning it’s safe to drink, I’m not entirely sure why the locals don’t)


Flying into Frankfurt!

From Frankfurt, we all got on a train to Münster, where we got to see some lovely views of the German countryside. We all ended up napping through half the train ride because our body’s hadn’t yet adjusted to the time difference, but for the parts that I was awake for, the views were lovely. The train was cramped because we couldn’t fit all three of our suitcases in the small overhead compartment, but for the most part it was a pretty good journey.

Once in Münster, we all went our separate ways to try and find our houses. I found mine pretty easily, but being so tired with a large suitcase and a paper map in the rain was pretty stressful. Once I arrived safely at what would be my home for 6 weeks, I met my lovely host family. I’m living with a mother and a daughter and their two rabbits (the bunnies are so precious). Since I’d been traveling all day, my family took me out to dinner because I hadn’t really had a chance for a good meal. At that point I was so hungry that I could barely eat, so I managed a few bites before getting a box for the rest (cold spaghetti is pretty good the next day). They were so sweet to me, and since they don’t speak very much English, I started learning more German as soon as I arrived.

And the next morning I got to wake up to this lovely view:

The view out my window!

The view out my window! (St. Antonius Kirche)

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.


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.



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.



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.


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.


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.