A Travellerspoint blog

Month Two!

Wait, I actually have to study while I'm studying abroad???

My classes began at the beginning of this month, and I was hit with the sad reality that there would actually be work to be done abroad. Unlike the business students, as a German student I have class every week from Tuesday-Friday. It definitely makes traveling with the business students a bit difficult sometimes. Some trips, like London, are easy to tag along on later, but others don't work out so perfectly on the weekend. Nonetheless, I'm so grateful for all the amazing opportunities I've received on this trip so far! My first weekend in March was spent in Germany and the second in England. It's crazy to think how much can happen in a month!
Classes beginning was definitely a bit of a reality check-what's homework again?? The majority of my classes have the same work load as they would back home-homework, papers, presentations, and exams. All of my courses this semester have been in German so far, and I can't believe what a difference it has made for me! I understand so much more now when listening to German, but my speaking still needs some work. German grammar is a bit more than my brain is ready to wrap itself around when I speak. In the last month I've done numerous homework assignments, given a presentation, written three papers, read a novel, and taken two exams. It's crazy to think about how far I've come with this semester!
I can't believe that two months have already passed since I've been in Austria. It makes me sad how fast time is passing and thinking about having to leave in June is something I'm currently refusing to do. I wonder how long it's going to take for me to stop trying to talk to people in German...
Unfortunately I've had some experiences abroad that I was hoping not to have to have. Two years ago I slipped a disc in my back, and of course now is the time that the slipped disc decides to make an appearance again. The Austrian medical system is definitely different from the one at home. The first thing the doctor asked me to do was take off my pants. After looking around the room and not seeing a paper gown my response was absolutely not. I haven't been here long enough for that to be normal to me! After getting a cortisone shot and a few pain killers I was happy to be out of that doctor's office! My teacher was even nice enough to call and schedule my MRI appointment for me the next day. The health insurance here is awesome-free MRIs? Sounds like I didn't pick a bad place to need medical care! I'm not letting my back keep me from making the most of my trips though!
A few nights ago I went to a dinner organized by my professor where I got to meet some of the Austrian students who will be studying abroad at the U of I next semester! After exchanging facebook accounts (because who wants to deal with all the international phone numbers), we all left excited for the next semester! I met up with one of the girls last night for a few drinks with her and a couple of her friends. Nothing feels cooler than a successful night spoken entirely in German. I'm so happy to have met people to work on my German with and who have the patience to listen to me trying to work the German grammar out when I speak!
Monday my mom and I leave for our spring break adventure! I can't wait to see what the next five countries and two weeks bring us! Here's to adventure!

Posted by Skraft94 02:00 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

London!

overcast

On a whim, I decided to take up a friend's invite to join her in London for the weekend. After spending more than I thought on a flight (wow do the pound and euro sign look similar if you aren't looking close enough) I was set to go to London! Unfortunately I took the airline up on the free checked bag and ended up in London before my bag did. After working to get things sorted out at the airport, I finally headed to the Tube at about nine pm. An hour later I was in the center of London! Luckily I had some semi helpful hand written directions to the hostel so I only got a little bit lost.
After a night of sleeping in my jeans, I jumped out of bed (literally-bunk beds) and headed to explore the city with girls on my program without having to worry about what outfit to wear for the day. Or if I was going to wash my hair first. Or how to wear my makeup. Okay so it wasn't actually that bad, I felt a little gross but luckily I was staying at the same hostel as friends and was able to borrow some face wash and makeup.
First on our list of things to see Saturday was Abbey Road! The Crosswalk featured on the Beatles' album is right next to the recording studio and there's a wall you can sign on the entrance gate. The road itself is actually really busy, and there isn't a stop sign for the crosswalk. After some VERY strategically timed pictures, we decided to stop running into traffic and head back into the city to take on London by foot. After a walk through the cute streets of London we made our way to Buckingham Palace and saw the guards as well as the end of the Cavalry Change. We even got a picture with one of the Cavalry horses later in the trip! :) From there we headed to see the London Eye, Big Ben, and Parliament. So many beautiful places in one area! Of course we couldn't let the afternoon go by without stopping for an afternoon high tea! We stopped into a tea house to eat some scones, finger sandwiches, and cake with our own personal tea pot! It was a cool experience, but I have to admit that high tea in Dunlap at Her Majesty's Tea Room is a more fun experience! After tea we headed back to the hostel where I finally got my bag, a shower, and a change of clothes at about 6 pm.
Saturday night we hit the streets of London to find a pub for some fish and chips and a cider. A friend of mine who studied abroad at the U of I last year from England even came out to meet us for the night! I can't express how much I love having friends to see around the world. I love getting a little taste of home while I'm abroad.
Sunday Morning we headed out early to get our pictures at the Harry Potter 9 3/4 platform at Kings Cross Station! Afterwards we hopped on the Tube to see Westminster Abbey. It's definitely a beautiful church-at least from the outside. We got there too late to attend the service and see the inside that morning. After snapping a quick London Telephone Booth picture in front of Big Ben we headed to the National Gallery where I was excited to see paintings that I had seen pictures of in a Greek Mythology Class last semester. Unfortunately a large number of staff were on strike causing most of the rooms in the museum to be closed. I did get to see the famous Waterlilly Monets though! Next on the museum tour was the Museum of Natural History! Let me just say, this free museum is not one you want to be at on Mother's Day on a Sunday. SO. MANY. PEOPLE. I would have enjoyed the dinosaurs way more without being completely surrounded by families. All in all though I'm glad we went! At this point I separated from the girls I was traveling with as they were flying home and I still had another day of exploring left in me. I headed to explore Kensington Palace and its park. Unfortunately there wasn't a sighting of Kate or William :( On the way back to the hostel I stopped for my first Falafel experience and planned the rest of my night! I spent my Sunday night on a night double decker bus tour of London with an Australian girl I met in my room. It was a lot of fun to have someone to talk to as we shivered our way through the hour and a half tour. I love seeing cities by night and I'm so happy that I got to do it by bus-my feet were tired and it's much safer that way! After a drink at a pub I was ready to call it a night!
Monday morning I woke up with the sad realization that it was my last day in London. It was a rather laid back day and I (my feet) was appreciative. I headed to the British Library where I got to see several old artifacts that they have on display there. In the display were things like an old Gutenburg Bible, original Beatles' lyrics, pages from DaVinci's Notebook, and letters from Galileo! It was well worth the trip and I would definitely recommend it! Then I unfortunately had to use the library as a library and work on homework for class the next day. After a quick flight back to Vienna I was happy to be home for the weekend and back in my own bed with one roommate instead of nine. My next adventure is spring break!

Posted by Skraft94 01:20 Archived in England Comments (0)

A Weekend in Germany

In high school my family had the privilege of hosting an exchange student from Germany for ten months. Over those ten months I learned what it meant to have a sister (also how to share because you know, only child). In the time since Cindy left to return home I have gotten to visit her once and welcome her back to America once. I was so excited to have the opportunity to visit her and her family while abroad this year!
Friday after class I headed straight to the train station to get on a train to Prague where I would later get onto another train to Dresden. After seven hours of traveling I was finally greeted by Cindy's smiling face on the train platform! It was so nice to be back in Dresden! As Cindy drove us home to Bischofswerda from Dresden I could only think about how strange it was to be driven around by her. It had always been the other way around in America! After a short catch up with Cindy's parents we called it a night!
Saturday morning started my real German adventure for the weekend! We started the morning at a hair salon where Cindy took me to get my hair cut (again, switched from how it used to be in America). After a trim and style Cindy and I were ready to take on the rest of the day! We did some shopping in Bautzen and then found an ice cream parlor, because when in Germany! We split a Spaghetti Eis, a German specialty ice cream! It has whipped cream in the center, ice cream in strands like spaghetti, and strawberry sauce with white chocolate shavings on top! It was every bit as good as I remembered!
Saturday night Cindy and I took the train into Dresden to explore the city at night. I absolutely love exploring places at night, and this was especially neat because I had last been in the city two years prior with my dad. The trip brought back so many memories that we were able to add to! After a bit of exploring we found a cocktail bar to enjoy a couple fruity drinks at before heading back to the train station! Of course we stopped for a burger at Burger King at the train station when we got there to find that we had twenty minutes before our train!
Sunday was my favorite day in Germany! I headed out to the Saechsische Schweiz National Park with Cindy and her parents to spend the day hiking! It's a gorgeous park with huge rock formations! We had perfect weather to explore the ruins of an old castle as well as the rest of the park! After taking in all the beautiful sights we hopped the border to the Czech Republic for dinner. It was as easy as going to another state for dinner back in the States, except much much closer!
I'm so thankful I had the chance to visit Cindy and her family this past weekend and I'm hoping to be able to visit with Cindy again later in the trip!

Posted by Skraft94 09:32 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

The First Month

My calendar is trying to tell me that I've been here for a month already, but I'm finding it very hard to believe. I can only hope that the next four months don't fly by as fast! A lot has happened in the last month and I feel like I've grown up a lot in the process.
Two of the last four weeks were spent with my professor diving head first into German grammar. After this orientation I'm really excited to see where my German will be at the end of the semester! I finally got to register for my classes-bring on fifteen hours of courses taught in German instead of English.
I'm currently in the process of learning how to cook every meal for myself and make sure that I'm eating properly. Grocery shopping here is a fun game I like to call, I only want to go once this week but I have to carry all the groceries five blocks home in one trip. This trip is making me very grateful for Google and it's ability to tell me how to cook food in one of the three pots/skillets I own. There is only one kitchen on each floor as well so it can be interesting sometimes how many languages you hear while cooking dinner!
Classes start this week and it's going to be a harsh reality that this trip isn't all fun and games. After being out of class for three months I'm interested to see just how much I procrastinate on my first homework assignment. I've definitely taken advantage of not being in class for the last month though! I've been able to be a tourist in my own city and every day has been an amazing new adventure full of museums, cake, and coffee! The first museum I went to was the Museum of Natural History and it had dinosaurs so naturally it was one of the coolest things I've ever seen! The museum was full of exhibits on rocks and minerals, asteroids, dinosaurs, mammoths, the impact of humans on the earth, and a lot of animals, both extinct and living. My favorite part was the femur of a dinosaur that they had on display for visitors to touch!
I also got to go on a tour of Vienna's Parliament building. It was a beautiful building that the representatives of the different political parties meet in to make decisions. It was an interesting building to see with incredibly ornate artwork of the Greek gods and goddesses lining the hallways. We also got to see the parts of the building that were bombed in the second world war.
Vienna was one of the homes of Sigmund Freud, father of psychology. Being a psychology major I made going to the Sigmund Freud Museum a priority. The museum is housed in the apartment he lived in with his family before he was exiled from Austria and made the move to London. Getting to see and be in the room that he treated his patients in was such a cool opportunity! The only disappointing thing about the museum was that his couch isn't housed in this museum, but in the one in London.
Some of the other places I've been are the Spanish Riding School, the Vienna Museum, The Roman Museum, and the Clock Museum! Everything I've seen in the city has made me fall more in love with it! It's going to be hard to leave in June. Even getting lost here is fun, because everywhere you turn is another beautiful building or monument!
I can't wait to see where my travels and the rest of my time in Vienna take me! I'll try not to wait as long to post another blog post next time :)

Posted by Skraft94 07:27 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Feeling Hungry in Budapest, Hungary

February 6
Off to Budapest! After a quick three hour bus ride we were in Hungary! We made a quick and easy journey to our hostel-or should I say, party hostel- and settled ourselves in. After dinner at Hungary’s version of Chipotle and some half price margaritas, we headed up to the Citadell. The top of the Citadell houses a statue of a woman holding a palm branch. This wasn’t always the case though. Until a few years back she was holding a red star to symbolize communism. She was veiled for a while and after the unveiling, she held the palm branch. The Citadell is a high point in the city and it was a gorgeous place to be at night. We got gorgeous views of the city all lit up.
After exploring, we headed back to our hostel to meet up with everyone for the Pub Crawl. We went to and explored four different ruins bars. These buildings were bombed during WWII and declared by the city that the structures couldn’t be changed so they were turned into bars. It was a very cool night!
February 7
Our morning started with breakfast at the world’s nicest McDonalds! It was two stories and was definitely nice. After breakfast, I split off from the group going caving and explored the city on my own. I headed first to go see the Parliament building. Budapest’s Parliament building is modeled after London’s and is the third nicest in the world. From Parliament I headed to see the Jewish Shoes Memorial. This was an absolutely breathtaking memorial. The shoes that line the Danube have ribbons and flowers to honor the Jews who lost their lives there. During the Holocaust the Jews were brought there to be executed by being shot into the river. I didn’t realize how involved Hungary was with WWII until I got there.
After seeing the shoes I started heading back into the center of town. I passed the Opera house and also saw St. Stephan’s Basilica. I headed inside of the Basilica and was amazed. It was one of the most gorgeous churches I’ve ever seen.
I then headed towards the Terror House Museum. The building housing this museum was Nazi headquarters in WWII. After the Holocaust, the building was transformed into a Holocaust museum. The whole museum was unreal. The walls were often lines with survivors giving testimonials about the things that they experienced and saw. The offices of the officials were still kept the way that they were when they were in use. The basement of the museum hit me the hardest. This is where the chambers were, and still are. It sent chills down my spine to see the rooms and tools that killed so many during the war. It is definitely a museum that I would recommend experiencing.
After the museum and my tour of the day, I headed to a restaurant called Bors, which served typical Hungarian soups and sandwiches.
February 8
My last day in Budapest! Also my most tired day in Budapest. The problem with hostel rooms that house ten people is that you’re bound to get stuck with a snorer in the room. I managed to get stuck with three. That all sounded different. All. Night.
I spent today solo as well and headed up to see Heroes Square and City Park. After walking around for a few hours in the morning and seeing the Vajdahunyad Castle, I headed to a Starbucks to relax with a very large cup of coffee before heading to the bus stop to get home to Vienna. After four very busy travel days I was definitely ready to get back to my dorm and relax!

Posted by Skraft94 01:47 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

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