Blog Post Four
I thought I knew who I was, my interests, and what I wanted to do in the future, but after doing study abroad, I learned so much more about the type of person I am and want to be. I learned that I’m excellent at public transportation and that if there’s something I want to learn more about, then I’m pretty good at researching to dig deeper. I learned that I possess people skills and can mingle with almost any crowd. I can adjust, adapt, and conquer more situations than I thought I ever could and I learned that about myself on this study abroad program.
Aside from the things I’ve learned about myself, I learned a lot about cultural differences and the history that has caused these variations, such as the devastations of the two World Wars and the continuous grief it still causes on affected countries’ economic growth, IQ rates, children’s development, and the overall emotional state of the population. As the U.S. continues to prosper, relatively without strife, Europe still grieves the losses from the wars that killed so many unnecessarily; all of this gives me a new outlook on the pleasures in life that I take advantage of. I forget that I’ve been fortunate enough to go through life never having experienced the assaults of war, or the feelings of starvation, or the inevitability of loss, and I never would have known that had I not been a part of this study abroad program. I mean, I didn’t even know how much I loved sleeping in my own bed (or having ice) until embarking upon this study abroad experience. Our lives are so characteristic of privilege and opportunity and most of us have no idea. No freaking idea.
For those of you considering going on a study abroad program, don’t hesitate, just go! You’re not only going to learn about different cultures and their lifestyles, you’ll learn more about you (and that benefits your character in the long run). I’m not going to lie, the workload is intense, and you’re definitely going to have an iconic college breakdown somewhere in the there, but I can’t emphasize enough how worth it was to have this experience.
If I had a couple pieces of advice to provide it would be:
- Apply. I understand there are financial concerns and responsibilities, but try your best to just go.
- Budget. Depending on the program you’re going into there are a lot of hidden fees that you don’t think to account for (i.e airport stuff) so just prepare yourself for that.
- Take pictures. When I came back from Europe, 3 weeks later, for whatever reason I just could not readily recall a good chunk of the first half of my trip. Take pictures of your experience.
- Time manage. If there are assignments due, don’t procrastinate on these! Just get them done. What would happen a lot of times for people is that others would want to go explore the city and go do things and they couldn’t come because they had to finish the assignment that was assigned a couple days ago. Don’t be that person.
- Expect a serious workload. You’re learning a lot in crunch time, so you will, without a doubt, get work thrown at you; however, like I’ve said before, it’s worth it!
- Have fun! This is the most important (and most cheesy) thing to add. Don’t forget that you’re in another country and that’s alone is a privilege that a lot of other people don’t get to have. You gotta appreciate the little and the big things.
Please consider these tips if you’re thinking to perhaps apply to a study abroad program. I wish you well!
Blog Post Three: Food in Prague and Freud in Vienna
A few days ago in my last blog entry, I touched on my study abroad group’s experience exploring the beautiful city of Berlin where we ate currywurst, made friends in the hostel, and connected with Germany’s history. After Berlin, we made our way to Prague in the Czech Republic where we went on a food tour called the Taste of Prague, and tasted a mix of modern and traditional Czech cuisine (think fried cheese and beer!).
Czech food reflects the essence of the city being both old and new, romantic and reminiscent, political and cultural. It takes mutually exclusive flavors and fuses expressive juxtapositions. That’s what Prague generally feels like. Since they were under German occupation, the Czech Republic evaded most of the population loss and destruction of infrastructure that occurred during WWII. In result, many of the old, gothic-styled buildings remain intact and can be seen next to new, modern buildings.
On a fun side note, we also went on a ghost tour that combined Czech history with eerie, old tales. A popular one from Prague is the story about a thief who attempted to steal the jewels off the Virgin Mary statue. It is said that when he touched them, the statue came to life and grabbed his hand, holding him hostage until the priest caught him in the morning. In order to remove him from the grip of the statue, they had to cut off his hand, which ironically was the punishment for stealing at the time. His mummified hand can be found dangling in Kostel Sv. Jakuba Vetsiho (or the Church of St. James the Greater).
Though Prague was my favorite city we have visited thus far, we had to leave for our next stop: Vienna, Austria. Vienna is home to the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Freud’s work, he related childhood trauma, hidden in the unconscious, to the anxiety we experience in our adult lives. He used talk therapy to sort these anxieties out and alleviate distress. We went to Freud’s apartment and saw how he lived and how he worked. His therapeutic couch serves as a famous icon for his image and the image of psychology; however, many would be disappointed to find that it is not located in Vienna. Freud, who was Jewish, had fled to London when Nazis began to persecute Jewish people before WWII. Thus, his couch moved with him. London is where visitors can find his iconic couch where patients spoke freely of their woes.
In Vienna, we also visited Narrentuturm, the Vienna Pathological-Anatomical Museum, where there are hundreds of wax models of several communicable diseases (this place is not for the faint of heart). We also went to Schönbrunn Palace, where we roamed acres of gardens open to the public and got to see how famous Viennese Apfel Strudel is made (and yes, we got to eat it!).
As our study abroad program is starting to come to a close and we have one more country to venture to, I’m beginning to think of home. I’ve loved everywhere we’ve been and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I am going to miss eating all of this great food, but I do miss home. I miss routine and seeing my family and my bed (of course!). I’m ready to decompress and relax from this go, go, go schedule, but I won’t forget all that Europe’s offered me!
Blog Post Two: Stop 1 of 4: Berlin, Germany
Hallo jeder, aus der Stadt Berlin, Deutschland!
I’ve spent the last few days basking in the wonderful things Germany has to offer; the architecture, the people, the history, and especially the food! Berlin is home to delicious Currywurst, best described as wiener drenched in curry ketchup, and so popular that they even have dedicated an entire museum to it called the Berlin Currywurst Museum. I tried this mouthwatering cuisine from Curry 6, located in the developed, deep inner-city Berlin. It was so simple and yet so savory, drenched in this smoky curry sauce and paired with pommes frites and a Berliner (potato fries and a common Berlin beer). Your barbeque hotdog has nothing on this delicacy!
Aside from Berlin’s offer of delicious and rich food, the city is also rich with history. Berlin is filled with several historical landmarks that recognize and reflect the continuous suffering of the German people from the consequences of Nazi Germany. A few places my group had the privilege of experiencing were the remnants of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the East Side Gallery, Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Brandenburg Gate, and Reichstag Building to name a few locations (for more information on these places, see to the links placed at the bottom of the page).
People congest the streets surrounding these landmarks, eager to get their own portable version of history, lacking formality or understanding of the weight of the events surrounding these symbolic pieces; however, I think it keeps the memory of these tragic events alive. Pictures encapsulate memory and if there are endless images of these pieces, it’s difficult to forget about their importance. We have no way of truly comprehending the fear, the anger, and the anguish that German victims and their families had and still feel, but we can choose to not forget and to learn from the mistakes that cost lives. Mothers, sons, neighbors, doctors, lawyers, friends, and classmates perished in the name of politics and majority dominance. We can’t ever forget about these people and all the possible contributions they may have had to offer to the world.
As for the people of Berlin, they have been more than hospitable! My study abroad group stayed in a local hostel where we were able to meet and greet with people from all over the world! We met people from Malaysia, the Netherlands, other parts of the U.S., the U.K., Italy, and of course local Germans. We spent most of our time outside of school activities hanging out in the lounge area of the hostel speaking with different people! We even did a karaoke night where we spent several hours singing, dancing, and laughing. Some people from the hostel are actually going out of their way to book the same hostel as my study abroad group plans to stay in as we travel to different countries! It’s pretty crazy and amazing the quick friendships you build and hold on to with individuals from the other side of the world! So far, I am having a blast and I can’t wait for our next stop in Prague, Czech Republic. Don’t worry, you’ll be getting an update on that soon! In the meantime, BRB going to go grab another Currywurst!
Information on places listed:
Berlin Wall: https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/berlin-wall
Checkpoint Charlie: https://www.berlin.de/en/attractions-and-sights/3560059-3104052-checkpoint-charlie.en.html
East Side Gallery: https://www.berlin.de/en/attractions-and-sights/3559756-3104052-east-side-gallery.en.html
Brandenburg Gate: https://www.berlin.de/en/attractions-and-sights/3560266-3104052-brandenburg-gate.en.html
Reichstag Building: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Reichstag-building-Berlin-Germany
Blog Post One: Bags Filled with Worry (but Not Much Else)
I attempted to pack for my study abroad for five nights in a row, and nothing much came of it until I was forced by time to shove things in a bag. I kept thinking: What if I packed for weather too warm or too cold? Would I need these shoes? What if I don’t have access to a washer and dryer? Do I need a spare one of these? What if *insert any worse case scenario*? While these thoughts swirled through my head, I sat in my floor for five nights, staring blankly at clothes strung across the floor, making no real effort to pack. I had so much to do and yet I couldn’t get myself to move, overwhelmed with no clue as to where to begin.
My parents are military, so we’ve lived in places like Korea, Hawai’i, California, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and more. I’ve experienced both international travel and traveling alone, but this study abroad was different. I would not only be expected to travel internationally and alone, but I would also have to figure out how to get there, where to stay before the rest of the class arrived, make sure my phone and payment cards worked, have backup plans… The list goes on and on.
I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many hidden fees came from planning this study abroad program that didn’t even include tuition. I felt like I was drowning in check-lists of things to-do and, the funny part is, instead of doing of all of this in a timely manner, I stared at my clothes for hours doing nothing. Once time demanded that I finally choose what to pack, I stuffed my bag and cleared my floor of discarded clothing. I sighed in relief. That wasn’t so bad.
I think in life we get caught up and worried about all the possible mishaps, or we stress about how unprepared we feel we are to face the challenges that life brings us, but once we’ve made the hurdle, we look back and think how painless the process really was. Preparing for this study abroad program was no different. I scared myself into thinking this might be the hurdle I couldn’t overcome and that perhaps I bit off more than I could chew, but I was wrong.
With my bag now packed and my plane ticket in hand, I feel more than ready. I made it, and nothing could stop me. Not even the terrors of an unpacked bag.