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.

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).


I AMsterdam

I AMsterdam

Hello all!

I have returned from my most recent adventure, Amsterdam, or as I have been referring to it as: TAMsterdam.  Amsterdam was very pretty, I must say that.  There was a ton of water, there are canals everywhere.  Our tour guide assured us that it was the Venice away from Venice.  There were also a ton of bikes.  Our tour guide told us that there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam.  Although this fact sounds crazy, I must believe it to be true.  There were bikes everywhere!  You had to make sure not to get struck by one, while crossing the busy streets.  Amsterdam is relatively small as well.  You can take busses, or trams around, but walking is just as simple.  Plus with walking, you really can take in all of the sights!


11208675_10153329129773921_6733189024393518330_nWe arrived late Thursday night, and just hung out.  But we awoke extra early Friday morning in order to visit Anne Frank House.  I tried to book tickets in advanced online, however the first available tickets were for July 4th!!  Needless to say that would’t work.  I will be back in the US then!  Luckily for me, my friends are troopers.  So Friday morning Heidi, MK, and I headed off to the long line that would await us.  We rose early enough though, so the line really wasn’t too bad!  I was very pleased that we got to the museum, and still had plenty of the day left to explore Amsterdam.

Patatje Oorlog with Heidi & MK

Patatje Oorlog with Heidi & MK

Ok I know I always go on and on about food in my blogs.  But hey can you blame me?  Food is a big part of travel!  Amsterdam was no exception.  I found it similar to London, in the sense that it had such a mixed bag culinarily, something I did not expect.  First off we had to have the fries.  Why oh why must sauce cost extra?  Of course I am going to buy sauce, because what are fries without it?  So why must I be charged extra for this necessity?  I must say I prefer Belgian fries from Brussels to Amsterdam fries (mostly because the ones I had in Amsterdam were frozen), but the sauce is better in Amsterdam.  It may sound weird but the Patatje Oorlog is a must try!  This concoction consists of peanut sauce, mayonnaise, and onions.  It is super unique and super yummy!

Red Velvet cake twinning with MK

Red Velvet cake twinning with MK

Beyond fries, one must have Stroopwafel, cheese, Indonesian food, and Poffertjes.  Stroopwafel is incredible, not only do we need it in the United States, I am also kicking myself for not bringing some back to Milan.  We bought a package of these thin wafer like waffles, sandwiched with caramel in the middle.  The bag was surprisingly heavy!  They are sweet, but not too sweet, and just an overall satisfying snack.  Indonesian food is very popular in Amsterdam.  Although I spent more on it then I would have preferred, it truly was one of the best meals I have had abroad.  We all shared a bunch of small dishes, with a big bowl of rice.  This is one of my favorite ways to eat, so you can try everything.  As for the Poffertjes, they are tiny dutch pancakes.  We dipped them in butter and mugs of hot chocolate.  There were other culinary gems, including my fave RED VELVET CAKE.  But that is not as exotic.

Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh Museum

We ventured to the I amsterdam sign to take some touristy pictures, and then we were off to the Van Gogh museum.  These tickets we had booked online in advanced, so we got them for less money, which is always a good thing!  The museum was actually really big.  I was quite tired, so I felt I could not take it in, to the best of my ability.  But I powered through as best I could.  Not being a huge art, or museum fan, I liked how interactive the museum was.

Skinny Bridge with MK & Heidi

Skinny Bridge with MK & Heidi

The next day we decided to sleep in, and walk around.  We went to the Skinny bride, because I had heard a lot about it.  Amsterdam was one of the places where I really just compiled tips from everywhere.  We got some food tips from Buzzfeed, some tips from Kara (who visited during spring break), as well as some tips from a guy named Alex we met at a club in Milan a few weeks prior.  Fun fact, Alex too is a SUNY student, a Binghamton Bearcat studying abroad in Amsterdam.  The world is a tiny place!

The big flaw I must point out has to be the amount I spent on bathrooms.  I should not have to pay to pee.  But Amsterdam was after my pockets, more so than any other destination.  So make sure to carry extra change with you!

We embarked on a lengthy but entertaining walking tour.  Our night ended shortly after dinner.  And we woke up the next day to head back to Milan.  Lucky for me, our bus was running behind schedule so I could get my touristy I amsterdam photo, alone.  This was the greatest pro of flying so early in the morning.  Although after how early we flew from Dublin to Milan, any flight after 8pm seems like a piece of cake, mmmmm like that red velvet cake I had in Amsterdam 😉  Till next time readers!