Tuesday, March 31, 2015

esorry for the wait (say with a spanish accent)

Holy wow, 
So much as happened since the last post! We've officially been in Argentina for 1 month!!! Time is flying!
In the short one month and that ive being living my Cordobesan life style ive learned/ encountered many news things:
  • I traveled to Mendoza with a group called Intercambio Cordoba, which is a group for all exchange students in the city, and they organize trips and parties and all the fun stuff! The trip was amazing and inspired me to want to get out and explore the rest of the country! We went rafting, hiked in the mountains and did a bike tour of wineries and a brewery. The trip was amazing, because we didn't sleep. there was no time for sleep, it was constant activities. I Stayed in my first hostel (which was super nice!!) and experienced an Argentine Asado as a welcome party to Mendoza.
  • IMG_0250_2 IMG_0243 
    We rode 50 deep on the streets of Mendoza on our bike tour

  • We returned home to Cordoba on a Wednesday at 5:30am and I had class at 8 am. this class is a 3 hours class, about the history of the culture, aka deep, philosophical thinking... in spanish for 3 hours... miserable!!! But the day was far from over because it was my roommate Alison's 21st birthday! Apparently keeping things a secret is significantly harder when there's a language barrier, but Alison was clueless to the all the plans we made her for, and everything worked out well! 
Cheers to officially all being legal (At least in the U.S)
  • We've started to venture out more- and by venture out I mean actually go to the boliches (clubs) and stay out until 4:30 am (which is still early here) you would think walking around at night around 3am would be sketchy.. wrong the streets are just as filled as they are in the morning, just with students going out and doing their thing. We're trying to meet more locals and hang out with mutual friends to meet more people! its amazing how friendly everyone is here and the first time they meet you it's like you are already best friends (my kind of people)
  • My Soccer team= a bunch of crazies. ive gone to 2 practices so far and its been koo-koo. the girls are wild, and yesterday after practice (WHICH IT RAINED, THUNDERED AND LIGHTNING THE ENTIRE TIME AND WE DIDNT STOP....) we  had hamburgers and talked as a team for like 2 hours and it was really nice. Except the talked so fast so i maybe hear/pay attention to like every 4 words they say.
  • I have mastered the answers to the questions:   "de donde sos?" "que estudias aqui, o en que Facultad?" "aprediste castellano antes de aqui, por que hables muy bien." "cuanto tiempo quedas aquí?" Basically- where are you from? What are you studying here? Did you know spanish before you came here because you can speak very well. how long will you be here for?
  • Life/ Argentina doesn't stop for anyone. Pedestrians DO NOT have the right away in the streets, unless want to die. The Buses literally stop for like 30/45 sec for anyone to get on or off. you play soccer until the time practice is supposed to end,regardless of the weather outside. 
  • Strikes are completely normal, even on a country-wide basis. Today the entire country went of strike and all bus, flights, garbage,subways were suspended. We were watching the news last night at midnight everything stopped in Buenos Aires. Crazy stuff!
  • Cordoba is a big city, but has small little places surrounding it and those places are on the top of our check list. today we went to Parque nacional de quebrada del condorito, which is about 1 hr and 30 min outside the city. We climbed/hiked about 12 km (8 miles) My short legs are done for but the view was worth it! we at lunch at the top and enjoyed the view! I also actually have a red-neck.. sunburn doesnt discriminate.                
    The view from today!
  • I have been here for a month and still have NOT registered for classes... crazy, but this coming monday everything will be final! wooo only took a month!
  • Semana Santa (Holy Week) is approaching and we don't have school Wed-Sunday! I really want to travel more and explore this huge country! I have no definite plans yet, but its okay last-minute is totally a thing here
My Spanish has improved 100% since ive been here. Now speaking spanish doesn't even cross my mind anymore, it just comes out and flows like wow. In 4 months watch out. wait what's english again?

More Lessons Learned

Post Lesson 1
I've been struggling with new ideas for blog posts and one presented itself by way of me learning several lessons about traveling in Morocco...lessons I should have learned my first couple of weeks.  But alas, the universe had other ideas.

This past weekend, I traveled to Chefchaouen, otherwise known as the Blue City.  First of all, IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL AND I CAN'T EVEN DESCRIBE HOW BLUE IT IS!

My friend Alyssa and I were supposed to head to Chef on Friday afternoon.  From past experience, the buses are rarely sold out if you get to the bus a couple hours before you're supposed to leave.  WRONG.  The bus was sold out, and there is no other way to get to Chef...so...we have to stay a night in Fez...Alyssa and I don't like Fez.  The harassment there is much worse than any other city.
Hiking buddy!

So, we buy our tickets for the next day and then our return tickets from Chef to Fez and Fez to Ifrane, find a hostel in Fez...UGH, and make our way to the hostel called...the Funky Fez.  Not a bad place.  I recommend it to all who wish to travel to Fez at some point!

The next morning, we catch our bus to Chefchaouen and arrive in the city around noon.  ABSOLUTELY STUNNING!  This place is beyond anything I had imagined!  It's right in the valley of these huge mountains.  Gorgeous.

So, we find our hostel, check in, and go exploring.  We decided that we really wanted to hike up to the mosque because it looked so beautiful from down below.  First, we stopped for an orange and some mint tea and then continued on our way.


I say this because even though I have no problem traveling through Europe with a guy or even without other people, Morocco is a COMPLETELY different story.  We couldn't hike up to the mosque because of the amount of creepy and very high (Chefchaouen is the weed capital of Morocco) men on the path.  Some of them even followed us for a bit, so we decided that is wasn't worth it, and found another path on the other side of the mountain to climb.  (And don't worry Kirsten, I didn't smoke weed!  I was safe and smart about it all!  Besides...weed is technically illegal in Morocco...I wasn't about to get myself thrown in jail where you couldn't help me.)

So beautiful
The building looks like the sky
Other than the creeps, we enjoyed a very relaxing afternoon and found a decent dinner in town before retiring to our hostel.  Hostels, I have found, are wonderful destinations to meet young and old travelers!  We met some really nice guys from the US who were on Spring Break from their study abroad university in Barcelona.  They had been there a bit longer than us, so after we had talked for a few hours, they showed us around the medina in Chef.  It was so beautiful in the moonlight!  The walls looked almost purple in some places.  I wish my camera had been able to capture the image!
Yup..totes climbed that!

I already knew this one, but it's an interesting tidbit for any traveler!  Most shop keepers and waiters won't allow people to follow/harass you while you're in their shop.  Oftentimes you can just duck in anywhere to avoid the men who have no respect for you because you're a woman.  You'd think I'd be used to this by now...

Besides being two women by ourselves in the beautiful city of Chefchaouen, Alyssa and I had a wonderful time and caught our bus at 3:15 back to Fez!  It was the end of a most relaxing weekend...OR SO WE THOUGHT.

Just some street art

Our bus from Chef was the last one to Fez that wasn't a night bus.  We were SUPPOSED to arrive in Fez between 7:15pm and 7:30pm, and our bus from Fez to Ifrane was SUPPOSED to leave at 8pm.  Do you catch what I'm throwing at you?

The bus from Chef was stopped by the police for a routine check...IT TOOK OVER AN HOUR FOR LORD KNOWS WHAT!  All I know is that they took all this food off the bus that it had picked  up at an earlier stop.  There are two possible scenarios that went down:

  1. The bus was illegally transporting such food because it doesn't have a license to do so since it's a passenger bus, and they got caught because one of the guys on the bus was trying to bribe the police                                                        OR
  2. The food that was taken off the bus as a bribe because the bus was transporting weed
Take it as you will...I don't actually know what happened, but it all seemed pretty fishy to me! Haha!

My cute travel buddy!
Anyway, we finally got to Fez at about 8:30


More street art
Alyssa and I did NOT do this because we just assumed that we had missed our bus (we hadn't), so we automatically tried to find a grand taxi to take us back to school.  WE FOUND ONE!  And made it back to school safe and sound.    الحمد لله

Moral of the story: No matter how much you travel, something always creeps in to teach you a new lesson...for five.  It's all about the experience and rolling with the punches. Since being in Morocco, I've gotten much better at letting things happen and not letting them get to me as much as they would have back home.  I've grown as a person, and at the end of the day, that's all anybody can really ask for.
Such a beautiful city!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Nice more like Noooiiiccceeee

Meyerbeer Hostel was so welcoming and full of
other interesting travelers. I am super appreciative
of our first hostel stay experience.
Our destination last weekend was Nice, France. Four of my friends and I hopped from Edinburgh to Dublin then Dublin to Nice. We arrived Saturday evening to stay in our very first hostel ever. As soon as we opened the door we were greeted by 5 other super welcoming travelers that would be bunking with us. I immediately liked the place, but let me tell you, getting to this point wasn’t easy.
                After arriving at the airport, the five of us crammed onto a crowded bus in hopes (because we didn’t actually know and the driver didn’t speak a lick of English) it would take us somewhere near our hostel. We got off in the general area and found the front door of our place locked. We needed some mysterious code to let us into the lobby of the hostel but had no way of knowing it. We now needed to call the number on the door to receive said code. This would be much easier if any of us had working cell phones. Our next task was to locate a working pay phone. Thank the gods for Marina’s knowledge of a little French, as she was able to extract rough directions to a phone from a kind super market cashier down the road. After quite the search, we found one! We weren’t done yet. All of the instructions for operating this phone were in French, but after a good 10 minutes and a little frustration we did it and received the code! We got into the hostel and called it a night.
the city 
                That day we wandered through the city, got gelato from an gelato stand advertising 90+ flavors including tomato basil, olive, cactus, and avocado (I got cookie butter flavored), we strolled the stone beaches, and I practiced the little French I knew (which was limited to ordering at a restaurant).
                Monday was another relaxing day. We all had French crepes from breakfast and took a long nap on the beach. We visited some antique markets and had a relaxing time. It was an invited change of pace from St. Paddy’s Day in Dublin.
                One of my favorite components of this trip was the language barrier. This was the first time during my semester abroad I’ve been immersed in a culture where not everyone spoke English and it was refreshingly challenging. Aside from this, Nice was beautiful, the people were friendly, and the crepes were delicious. 

St.Paddy's Day in Dublin

These past weeks have been maybe the most hectic, but also best, weeks of my life. My roommates, Sophie, Marina, Julie, and I have been country hopping on the weekends between our classes. I’ve already wrote about our time in beautiful Madeira, so on to St. Paddy’s day in Dublin, Ireland.  
The Americans take on Guinness
                Our plan ride from Edinburgh to Dublin was a quick hop, 45 minutes. The plane was understandably packed with kids trekking from all over the world to celebrate Ol’ St. Paddy in the most appropriate place. We checked in and had an early night in preparation for the festivities that would start early the next morning. We arose Saturday morning and walked from our hotel, which was located right next to the Dublin Spire, to the Jameson Whiskey distillery. A big group of us American exchange students toured one of the original Jameson buildings and sampled a few whiskeys. Jameson was by far the best closely followed by our own Jack Daniel’s. Immediately after we not-so-gracefully made our way to the Guinness factory for another tour, because when in Ireland. Here we learned how to pour the perfect pint and that it takes 119 seconds to pour the perfect Guinness. A much needed breather was in order now, as we’d knocked all this out before 1.
                That night we wandered through the incredibly crowed streets of the Temple Bar area to settle in at an Irish pub with live music. While there I conversed with people from Belgium, France, Germany and more from all over the world. I have never been in an area more diverse than the Temple Bar area St. Paddy’s day weekend. I suppose the love of throwin’ down for St. Patrick is universal.
                The next morning we took a short bus ride to the fishing village of Howth to see the Cliffs of Moher, but we’re unfortunately deterred by the blistering cold.
                On our final day woke early to have breakfast at an Irish 
This was the best hot
chocolate I have experienced in
all 21 years of my life
burger joint named BoBo’s. After this we wandered the halls of Trinity College, and from there we made it to Butler’s Chocolate for a cup of hot chocolate ranked #25 best cup hot chocolate in the world. I would say I have to agree. I had an amazing cup of white hot chocolate and my roomies ordered cookies hot chocolate, which is just as amazing as you would think. It had chunks of Oreos in it. Enough said. Whilst sipping our hot chocolate we settled down in a nearby park where we made one of our first Irish friends. Kyle taught us some Irish, not Gaelic, sayings such as “Aon Scéal?” meaning “What’s the craic?” and also “Póg mo thoin” meaning “Kiss my ass.” This is when we realized the temporary tattoo Marina had been happily wearing on her cheek all day indeed said “kiss my ass” rather than “kiss me I’m Irish.”  

                There is an incredible amount of other information I could include for this weekend, but I think that gist comes down to St. Paddy’s day in Dublin was an amazing experience. It was incredibly crowded and rowdy, but I highly recommend it.

And they let it burn, burn, burn: Las fallas y una aventura en Valencia!

I am going to apologize now for how late this post is. It's almost embarrassing, but hey, life is bust ya know!

Obligatory Roomie-selfie 
Enchanting streets 
Let me just start by telling you that I am in love with going to new places. There is nothing more thrilling that finding yourself in a new city, every corner holds something new, every street has something different to see, and you never know exactly what you'll find, but you will always find adventure.

Travel is a thrill, a rush, actually its my drug of choice.

Last Wednesday night I got on a bus with 5 friends at 11:00pm and we began our Valencian conquest! Hours later at 5:30am we were there! How exciting! Yes, we were cold, and maybe just a bit tired, but that's part of the thrill!

One Falla pre crema
To start off the day we went to find some of the "fallas" and to get our first look at Valencia, it was still dark, but it was BEAUTIFUL! I was amazed by the beauty and intricacy of the fallas, the care, dedication, and often the political or social meaning that each held. They truly were breathtaking.

After a few hours, we were walking down the street and BAM, BOOM, BAM. It sounded like bombs were going off, the sun had just risen and to be honest it was a bit scary. We soon realized that this was not an attack, but part of the festivities. These loud explosions were a mixture of small fireworks and "popper wars". As we winded through the streets we happened across a few of these. It was so thrilling, there was live music and all of the people were shouting and throwing these poppers at each other! As clear tourists, we were approached and I let them throw a few at me as well!

Since we were exhausted we stopped for a coffee before heading to our apartment. Around every corner and down every street, I was enchanted by the amount of breathtaking and creative street art, it seems that many of the local businesses utilize street art to decorate their buildings. I loved the concept and how unique each piece was.

Lion during crema
Port Saplaya
We sleepily arrived in Port Saplaya to be greeted by the craziest wind I have ever experienced, but I could tell even in the bad weather that we chose a charming little place to stay for the weekend. 7 of us shared the apartment and it was so much fun! As much as I loved the city, I realized that any trip is not only about where you are, but also who you are with. Some of my best memories from this trip include waking up to make my first Spanish Tortilla for everyone, passing time talking, dancing, and singing in the apartment before going out, giggling in bed at night and in the morning and just being close to people that I have come to love and appreciate so much!

Burn, baby Burn!
End cheesy interlude haha! Back to the fallas celebration! After a much needed nap, we ventured back into the city for the festivities. We passed the hours walking, and viewing the city a bit more and by this point there were people EVERYWHERE! I loved it, the air had a vibe of life and excitement. I am getting exciting just remembering it! La crema, or the burning started at 11pm and lasted until 1:30am. It wad amazing! I was initially thinking that it would be sad to watch these amazing figures burn, but there was something majestic about the burning too. The main event was the last falla to burn and as it set fire, live music and fireworks filled the night. It was the perfect ending to a very long and exciting day.
The Lion, aka the main event!
(Pre Crema)

We didn't exactly have the best weather in Valencia (Which all of the locals constantly reminded us was a rarity in Valencia) but we still managed to make the best of our time. One of the most exciting feelings is when you finally have a grip on a new place and can navigate around without referencing your map! We achieved this level and I was quite proud!

All of the days after kind of mix together because of the weather but here are some of the highlights:
City of Arts and Sciences

  • Paella (When they say its good, they aren't lying)
  • The City of Arts and Sciences (I am realizing that I love architecture a lot)
  • Dinner at Angela's friends restaurant
  • Food, food, and more food (seriously, porras are the bomb!)
It was a pretty relaxed trip but I loved it! So much in fact that I am going back tomorrow to kick off my spring break! Hopefully with a bit of better weather! Check back in for posts about my spring vacation! 

We owned the nights!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rainy Days Can’t hide the Beauty

Ciao Riggazzi!

As you know if you read my last blog midterms are upon me.  I have 2 tomorrow and 2 on Tuesday then I am hopping a train to Rome! But Before I can pack and relax I must study for these tests.  Wish me luck. 
Before my weekend of cramming I went out this morning to the Duomo Piazza and was wondering around.  I also found the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and it is as beautiful as they say if not more so.  It was amazing to see.  Not to mention the hordes of tourists that were present and if you thought the Italians could be rude think again.
The tourists would walk at a snail’s pace in front of you and stop to look at the ground and cause you to run into them and then yell at you in some foreign language. Even with all of the downsides to the experience it is beautiful.  I was planning on climbing to the top of the Duomo today, but it started raining so I vetoed it for another day.  I also wondered around the shopping area in the Duomo Piazza area.  There are always some kind of preforms hanging area the Duomo area. Today there were Violinists playing and they were pretty good.  It is always a treat to see what free show you are going to see when you are just out and about walking. 

Weather is just a pain. Much like the East in the U.S. right now Mother Nature is having mood swings.  From snow to sunny and 75 degrees (F) back to freezing and raining.  Though With this knowledge I can say that spring is just around the corner. 
 Rain, rain, go away bring me sunshine and the beach.  I hope that the weather cooperates for my Spring Break Italian Tour I have planned. Which is almost complete except housing for Rome.  Fingers-crossed on that as well.  Though I sleep really well with the sound of rain coming through my balcony door.  I guess this spring weather means I can go shopping for shorts right? Or a swim suit? Tank tops? Sandals? Yes, thank you Mother Nature I love spring and summer weather.

Spring Break is almost here.  I am so ready for my trips.  Rome-Florence & Pisa – Venice – Verona and Back to Milan to start classes again.  I’m so excited, I’m surprised I haven’t started packing yet. For real though.  I am slightly nervous too though.  But Easter in Rome and Vatican City, will be so exciting! I would jump for joy but I have too much to do for that.  I hope all of my friends had a wonderful spring break. I know I’m rubbing it in but I’m excited for my 12 day break! Whoop! Whoop! Be jealous! Come study abroad and enjoy the experience while you’re at it. 

I love and miss all of my MC family and especially my friends and family.  Also today is my wonderful Papaw’s Birthday! So Happy Birthday Papaw! Sending you hugs and gooses from Italy!

Love and Miss y’all!

Ciao Amici!

Dare to Fly

Yes. I'm stealing from Taylor Rigatti's facebook status: "Great things never came from comfort zones" In order to take off in life, you need to be able to take risks and leap into unknown territory. You may say: what if I fail? But oh my darling, what if you fly?"

So many unanticipated things come from studying abroad.  I figured if you have been following any of our students abroad it is time to remind you about how to go and do this for yourself.

Think about where you want to go?  What do you want to achieve?  How far are you willing to push yourself.  46 countries where you can study in English.  8 languages to learn.  Look at our different types of programs http://www.maryvillecollege.edu/international/studyabroad/programs/

Get guidance from your advisor.
Get advice from International House (Kirsten & Yevie are very helpful)
Find out what financial support you can get from Financial Aid (and visit our scholarships page http://www.maryvillecollege.edu/international/studyabroad/scholarships/ 

Applying is easy.  Usually it means an application form, transcript, references, and choosing some courses.There are different applications for different programs

International House | studyabroad@maryvillecollege.edu 

P.S. have you checked out our J-term programs to ECUADOR, FRANCE, & SPAIN?  Deadline is April 6th. http://www.maryvillecollege.edu/international/studyabroad/programs/jterm/

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Last Day in Geneva


Hope you all are doing well back in the US! We have had a great time in Geneva the past few days... it has certainly been a whirlwind! 

Today we had the opportunity to visit the UN World Food Programme in a separate part of Geneva. Sarah Grace will be guest posting soon with more information on that organization! We also met with a representative from OCHA, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Their work is truly amazing!

Shortly after, we visited the CICR (International Red Cross) and participated in their interactive museum. The amount of history and artifacts on display was incredible!

We had another free evening where many of us went to visit St. Peter's Cathedral and to explore more of the old city. By now, we are pros at navigating the city by public transport and foot! 

We will have an early start to our Thursday as we are leaving Geneva for some new cities! Stay tuned to see where we are off to next!
Bonne Nuit!
ICW blogger