I live in the neighborhood of Žižkov in Prague 3. I love all the things that are near us, but in regard to school the location is a bit of a hassle. There are three buildings used for housing through our program. Two of them are located a 30 second walk from the metro we take to school, the grocery store, busses, trams, you name it. The last building, where I live, is located on the top of a hill a 15 minute walk from the metro and grocery store. While this does ensure I get a little bit of cardio, it is frustrating when others from our program can hop off the metro after a long day and already be home, and the rest of us have to go for a hike. To get a bit more off my chest about the living situation, we are also right next door to some very noisy neighbors who play the strangest music. It’s so loud and clear it’s almost as if they are in our bedroom. On the other side of us, they have been doing construction starting around 6:45am almost everyday, ensuring we do not have the chance to be lazy and sleep in.
Now that my rant is over, there is so much I love about our neighborhood. We are right up the hill from a park that’s great for running and also has a really spectacular view of city. Also at the bottom of the hill is my absolute favorite place in Prague. It’s a little bike shop called “Bike Jesus.” They’ve got a really great alternative vibe going on in there, the decorations are fun to decipher, and there are usually dogs playing around the shop. Now that the weather has been getting nicer, I’m also really excited to check out the outdoor patio that hasn’t gotten much use yet. When I’m not having a coffee at Bike Jesus I am usually at school or exploring Prague with my friends. A typical day would start out with me snoozing my alarm 10 times, then finally scrambling up to get to school. I have class for a few hours a day, then I’ll usually grab some lunch with classmates. The food in Prague, especially near all the housing and the school, is very cheap, so we eat out very often. Depending on the day and the weather, we will either wander around finding new places to try out, or we will revisit places we know are well suited for whatever we are doing that day. There really is no set schedule or “typical” day I suppose; we really just take what the day gives us and make it work to our advantage.
There have not really been any surprises that I wasn’t ready for other than how quickly this trip has gone. We have done so much nearly everyday and seen so many amazing places. As for my goals, I don’t think I have talked to as many locals as I would have liked. It’s very intimidating to know hardly any of the language and try to make conversation. Czechs also do not always have the most friendly exterior, but as I mentioned in my previous posts, it is just a cultural difference I don’t think I will ever get used to. I have been doing a lot of really fun and adventurous activities though, and, so far, do not have any regrets or anything I haven’t done and wished I had or anything of the sort.
The community engagement aspect is really just about putting yourself out there. This goes for anywhere you are. A lot of people do appreciate when you at least know how to say a few words in Czech, such as please, thank you, hello, and are much more receptive to you than if you just came up and only used English. While I don’t have any regrets, I do think if I did this over again I would try to learn more Czech before my arrival. This is also my advice to others studying abroad. Try to learn a few words or phrases in your host country’s language, and don’t be afraid to ask someone how to say something. They are almost always more than happy to help you learn. Other than that the only advice I can offer is to be ready to anything and always try to see the fun side of every situation (I could stand to get a little better at this).
I am so happy with everything I have seen and accomplished on this trip and can’t wait to see what the last of it holds!
The Strupwaffle is the best snack ever to be gifted to mere mortals in my opinion. But then again whole blog is my opinion..
The first Strupwaffle was flown down from Valahala by a chorus of golden swans. The Original had wafers strewn from grain that grazed Kiera Knightly’s fingertips. It was crafted by the finest bakers of the heavens, ensuring that every bite remained satisfying to the soul and complete to the molar. The syrup was harvested by honey bee’s, just regular honey which is an oxymoron because honey is heavenly and everything but regular(bee population is up 3% btw). The snack was then hand delivered to the Dutch people who promised to ensure it’s simple elegance. If we’re cool I’ll bring you some.
I’ve deleted this draft only once this time! If this happens again I will not inform you as to maintain the illusion that I am less accident prone then usual. Turns out that forty-five minutes of typing without a grade on the line is a debilitating loss. Really cause me to question the merit of this entire endeavor. Good thing I’m motivated and back with a vengeance and mad typing skills. Tech tech typing might have failed me but travel writing for Western is actually creating some nuance in my finger bones. Might take that last part out. This sentence too, or maybe I’ll keep it who knows.
Today I will be walking y’all through the daily routine of a contemporary cosmopolitan. Do all of this if you want to succeed abroad, in life, and during your mindful meditations!
First activity of the morning is I wake up. The next activity of the morning is I indulge in 20 minutes of meditation. Once I achieve enlightenment I hover crosslegged down the hall and into my community kitchen and kick it with one my flatmates. Some are cooler then others and they quality of the conversation varies as such. We discuss life and whoop up breakfast.
Breakfast is typically eggs, bell peppers, and cheese. Eggs and peppers are cheap as af and come in three packs for 1 Euro. Peppers are referred to paprika which is what the spice is derived from! Another PAPRIKA fun fact is that the green ones are just unripe, not separate vegetables. When I learned thisit blew my mind into a thousand pieces. My german friend Theresa would say ‘Mind Blowing,’ instead, which I love because it’s just wrong enough to be adorable.
Once the munching and chatting come and pass, I hover to my floor’s elevator and loosen my grip in nirvana so that I may mingle with the masses . I head down to my hotel’s lobby and walk through the automatic doors into the depressing dutch climate. Weather in the Netherlands is similar to that of Washington’s except for way more wind. Look it up on Reddit it’s insane.
There’s a giant rack where every bike in the hotel is stored. Here’s a picture instead of a thousand words-
I snatch mine and head to The Hague University of Applied Science. But, I work hard and have my very own blog, so today I treat myself to a pastry at one of the several bakery’s within eyesight. Baked goods have become a weakness of mine ever since I realized gluten intolerance is a social construct propagated by alt-right amazon shareholders. I stuff my backpack with lemon tarts and Nutella filled donuts and bike on.
IF I get to school and every single bike stand is full, I feel entitled to a certain degree of frustration. This doesn’t happen often but when it does it is daunting/makes for decent story telling. Dilemmas are good when writing because it makes the reader/obligated family member feel bad for an abstraction of yourself and root for the noble cause. It doesn’t have to be a major dilemma. Something small works to. In this case, I was in an innovative mood and strapped my bike’s chain to the frame of an acquaintance of mine before hustling up to class. Crisis has averted and pastries secured.
The ‘energy/flow’ of my Dutch classes is not super duper different then college at Western. A bit more dialogue going on between the teacher and the students. Easier for me to ask questions and receive critique and whatnot.
When school is over I corral my friends into some sort of a bonding activity. It could be anything, but today riding bikes through the dutch countryside is the winner. Frank Ocean has a great song called “Biking” that I reserve for such moments. The part I especially love is: “I’m biking uphill and it’s burnin’ my quads. I’m biking downhill and it sounds like a fishing rod. Savage at bikin’, yah.” The song is best experienced while biking with good company in sparse shrubbery. Surrounded by slow canals and no sound but that slight click click click.
I DONT GET WEAK IN THE KNEEES
Zoop bap beep iz about time to eat! The sun sets at 17h (5pm for n00bs) and we all want to get home before the darkness sets. There are two buildings of residence for exchange students and my friends are split between the two. The Student Hotel (where I live) is the luxurious choice. It sports a pool table and private vending machines. DUWO is the other option. It’s a housing company in the Hague and has like three buildings that are decently close together. We choose TSH for dinner and proceed on the fifteen minute trip. We pass over several arched bridges and narrow alleys along the way. It is all very European.
Dinners are a popular social activity throughout the world. We are all from the world so it is popular with us. For the most part they are great fun and chalked full of intelligent conversation about our friendly differences.
The cultural question I get asked the most is, “Ellis, why do Americans like their flag so much?” To which I reply, “Don’t you like yours?” To which THEY say, “Well, sure but we don’t have like flag poles in our front-yards and like fifty flag laws.” Then I’m all like, “Whaaaaat ,I thought every country had those rules. Your right, I guess that is pretty weird. I think it has to do with our novelty as country, and how the flag is like a symbol for freedom and bald eagles are an endangered species and the red, white, and blue are across from each other on the color wheel and jet fuel doesn’t melt steel beams.
I say something like that to which they reply with a theory that is WAY more plausible and eloquent.
The personal question I get asked the most is, “Ellis, why do you never where a coat or rain gear when it rains?” To which I reply, “Cuz I’m just super hard core yo. Umbrella’s are for nerds and raincoats are upper body umbrellas.” I haven’t really said that but I DO get asked that all the time. I think that people from Washington are just true northerners that don’t let a little thing like latitude effect our pride as a people. Helpful to realize this when abroad. Nothin but a little rain.
The Temptations have a really fantastic song called, “I Wish it Would Rain” that I like to reserve for such weather. It’s about a man that wishes it would rain so he can go outside and be able to cry in public incognito. BAD ASS, not at all as sad as it sounds.
Ok there ya go, a cinematic snapshot into the daily life. I go to bed after all this but that should be obvious because I’m not like sentient code or something. I leave the Netherlands on the 26th and will be working in Spain so that I may learn Español and eat muchos Tapas. I’ll be writing all about it. Adios!
Sitting in my bedroom at my home stay and looking out my window, I’m reminded of home. It’s strange to me that while I’m over 5,000 miles away from Bellingham, in a completely different country, it doesn’t seem so far away. Maybe it’s because I’m looking out at the pouring down rain and thick fog that’s hanging low on the mountains… I mean, what’s more Bellingham than that? But it also might have to do with the fact that over the last few months, this place has begun to feel more and more like home.
In the mornings, I wake up (usually before my host parents) and get ready for school and whatever I have planned for the day. I have my typical French breakfast of some slices of baguette with jam and a large cup of coffee. The days are getting a lot colder now, similar to the weather in the Pacific Northwest this time of year, so I bundle up in all of my layers before heading out to catch the tram. I walk out the front door of my apartment to see the small market that is set up in the square just in front of my building. The vendors are all set up with their selections of fruit, vegetables, bread, and whatever else they brought for the day. As I make my way to my tram stop, I pass by the butcher shop and the bakery that tempts me every morning, with delicious looking pastries and croissants. I gaze out the window during my 15 minute ride to campus across town; no matter how many times I take this route to campus, I always notice something new along the rivers or up in the mountains. When I get to the university, I usually run into some of my friends, a good way to spend the last ten minutes before a two hour block of classes. At the end of the school day, I take the tram back into town to grab a bite to eat or head to a cafe to do some homework. While I’d like to be able to stroll around town or enjoy the crisp mountain air, it’s officially a little too cold for that. Instead I prefer the warmth of a hot coffee and the comfort of one of the many bustling coffee shops throughout the city. It’s nearing the holiday season, so as it begins to get dark outside, the streets light up with color, coming from the alleys and roads covered in Christmas lights, with trees decorated throughout the town as well. I make my way back to my apartment each night in time for dinner, where my host family will have a delicious home cooked meal waiting. I get to share my day with them, and talk about the news and current events and weather and whatever other topics happen to come up. This has become one of my favorite parts of the day, and not just because of the great food.
Given that my days left here are dwindling, I’ve been able to reflect on my experiences so far, and begin to think about what I hope to get out of my last few weeks in Grenoble.
I’ll be honest here, it hasn’t always been easy living here in a foreign country that speaks a foreign language with people who started out as strangers, but if nothing else it has definitely been a learning and growing experience. When I first arrived, I greatly struggled with making small talk and casual conversation with my host family and others, but now I look forward to be able to express myself in French and continue to practice my language skills. My French is by no means perfect, it is very far from it, but I can tell that I’ve progressed, which is really important to me nonetheless. Classes at times have been difficult, especially since there are so many international students from around the world that there is no common language here, besides French. It was frustrating at first trying to get through classes, but being “forced” to use the language at all times has had its benefits, and I feel more confident as time goes on.
Nevertheless, though, this experience so far has had its benefits. Being in France, and in Europe in general, is especially awesome because of how easy it is to travel. As of now, I’ve travelled to about 14 different cities in a total of 5 different countries, not including Ireland which I’ll be adding to the list after this weekend. With all of those travels, though, I can still say that I greatly enjoy coming back to Grenoble and being here in this city. There’s just something about it that makes me feel at home, and it might be my favorite place of all.
Looking ahead to the time I have left here, and heading home in just about a month, all I can say is that this experience is not something I’ll soon forget. The friends I’ve made, the daily routine that I’ve grown to love, the French family that has become my second family, and this cute little town that has become my second home; I’m not entirely sure how I’m supposed to leave it so soon. I plan on making the most out of these last few weeks here in Grenoble, as I know I’ll miss it when I’m gone.
Mid Program: Everyday life, surprises, and advice
Living here in Marburg is peaceful, and the living accommodations in the international student dorms are exceptional. My dorm room has twice the space of my shared dorm room back home, and comes with a sink, walk in closet, bed with bedding (there is even a cleaning service for the bedspread but as I’ve been out of town most weekends I haven’t tested it yet), recliner, and several sets of shelves. The rooms are cozy even without anything in them. My dorm is also next to a residential area- something which let my friend and I visit a local Haunted House on this past Halloween. We were able to enter despite being strangers, and it was the high point of our holiday~
Even though the university is spread out all over the city, the city is small enough to access all everyday needs by foot. Walking around Marburg is nice, as long as you can go up inclines. The old city has cobblestone streets, and if you keep walking up you’ll eventually reach the castle. I haven’t visited it yet, but I mean to before long. The smell of cigarette smoke is also not uncommon, and it seems to be very fashionable here. On a daily basis, you can see everyone from sixteen year old’s, to parents pushing strollers, to sixty year olds getting off from work- all with a lit cigarette in hand. It can be very difficult to get away from all the smoke. In mid-November, Christmas trees started appearing out of the blue in main public squares, and even now the Christkindmarkt in the Understat is halfway assembled. When you need a break from the buildings (and the smokers!), chances are that your not far from a wooded hiking trail. I’ve seen squirrels, the occasional stray cat, birds, moths, mosquitoes, and even a few rats on my outings through the outskirts of the city and on trails. The rats surprised me most, and the cats are majorly indoor only cats that scampered outside against their humans wishes. Germany is not as clean as Japan, but is definitely cleaner than the United States. However, on the few occasions I have tried to pick up trash sitting non-conspicuously besides a hiking trail when with my relatives, they berated me and told me to put it back on the ground, teasing that they wouldn’t let me back into their car after our hike unless I did so. Luckily we passed by a garbage can by a bench and I was able to dispose of it there to both of our satisfactions. I still don’t understand what they were thinking though, perhaps something is being lost in translation…
As with most things in life, I’ve found that its the little things which have surprised and delighted me most about this trip. For example:
- At first I didn’t realize that most people in Germany don’t use dryers. It wasn’t long before I resigned myself to drying my clothes their way- on hangers or a line. Clothes dry in my dorm room this way even when it’s not warm, but let the traveler be warned- they will not dry overnight. Typically all of my clothes will have dried after at least three days on the line, so it’s important to have a few spare clean clothes when doing the laundry so you don’t have to change into damp ones.
- Germany’s harvest festival is called the Erntedankfest. It has far less emphasis than Octoberfest or the USA’s Thanksgiving. The Erntedankfest is celebrated on the first Sunday of October. It consists of a giant crown of vegetables and wheat being woven together and being brought into church to be blessed during mass. After mass, people take some of the vegetables and other foodstuffs that have been blessed at church to their homes. They cook a meal with it, and share it with their family. One of my cousins showed me a picture of such a crown from a trip that he took to Austria. In preparation for the harvest season, some people also make Früchteteppichs- intricate mosaics made of seeds. Here is one from a village my relatives took me to depicting the parable of Lazareth:
- I underestimated how much Germans love their carbonated water. If you don’t ask for “stilles Wasser” or “Leitungswasser”, odds are your getting a carbonated beverage. Also: water is not free unless you ask for tap water or , Leitungswasser (“pipe water”), although some establishments may try to charge you for that anyway. Once in Berlin I was charged €5 for a liter bottle of water because it was a ‘fancy’ restaurant. Yet some restaurants don’t even have non-carbonated water. So check to see if your getting the right kind of water, and check the price too.
- People may not supposed to be smoking in or close to buildings but some do it anyway. My neighbor was smoking weed at the beginning of the semester and opened his door so it stank up the hall. Somehow it didn’t set off the buildings fire alarm. Overhangs and entrances of buildings are especially beloved by smokers, and oftentimes come with their own ashtrays. E-cigarettes also appear to be gaining popularity with people in their twenty’s. If you come to Germany, you will end up inhaling tobacco smoke, whether you set out to do that or not, so if you need an inhaler, please bring it.
- If you go to a bar and order “tacos” they are actually nachos with cheese sauce and weak salsa. While a slight disappointment to taco lovers, they are still very tasty.
- Unfortunately, Germany still has a ways to go as far as sexism is concerned. I don’t know where it stems from, although part of it is simply embedded in the German language itself as as far as I understand, if one is referring to a group of people or objects, they receive the pronoun “his/him”. In English you can express the same idea with using ‘they/them/their(s)’- a non-gendered determiner. This also wiggles it’s way into nouns, as a man can only wear ein Hemd, and women are supposed to wear something else (the word escapes me because for all my years of learning German I thought Hemd was all I’d ever need- how the truth stings). Let people where what they want says I. For a visual, please compare these two mugs that I found at a pirate themed rest stop:
One of these definitely looks more fun than the other…
- The concept of sharing a dorm room with a stranger is foreign and unsettling to many Germans, so if you come from the United States chances are you’ll get the nicest dorm room you’ve ever had- and all to yourself.
As to the goals that I set out for myself at the beginning of the program, I believe most of them have been met:
- 1. Although I am not fluent in German yet, I am drastically better and well on the way to being so. After our intensive language course at the beginning of the program, my language teacher said that if I was able to sort out a few things with my German (verb positioning and tense, articles, etc) that my German language level would be C1! That’s the highest level of fluency. I’m still not quite there, but talking to my relatives regularly has definitely helped.
- 2. I have learned much more about my relatives than I did before, and much more about Gisela, my Oma’s corespondent within the German side of our family. Unfortunately, Gisela recently died due to kidney failure. I feel very lucky to have been able to meet and talk to her in person, and be able to represent Oma’s side of their beautiful friendship at her funeral. I’m sure both Oma and Gisela are drinking coffee somewhere together like they did so many years ago, and which they’ve wanted to do again for so long. While her death marks the end of the loving voice I’ve heard about through Oma and her correspondence since I was a child, I’m glad that she’s in a better place now and I hope to continue the correspondence between the different sides of our family with my other relatives.
- 3. Not only have I taken pictures of the Blue Danube for Auntie, I’ve taken notes in my travel journal about what it actually felt to be there, and catch some of the details my camera couldn’t. I look forward to sharing them all with her soon~
- 4: Adrian is actually doing better than when he came here!:
– He is more awake and alert during the day, appears better able to self motivate himself to work on projects, and has started working on programing an engine for himself again.
– Whereas he used to be overcautious, now he”s finally giving himself the space to relax when possible. If no one is wandering around in the common areas and he’s in the bathroom, he no longer feels the need to lock his dorm room door. If I’m traveling for a day with a friend, he doesn’t feel the need to force himself to come with us to reassure himself we won’t be kidnapped. And if he asks me if he’s locked his door and I say he has, he takes my answer the first time and doesn’t second guess either of us more.
-Thanks to his wonderful and enthusiastic German A2 teacher Stephan, his German and speaking confidence has dramatically improved. I believe that now if he chooses to peruse his study of the language, he will have the foundation needed to understand it and become semi-fluent.
– During our first week of school, we decided to ally ourselves with another student here named Elizabeth. Not only was she in his language class, but she has proven to be a valuable friend and comrade. I doubt that this will be the last we hear or see of her, and I believe her friendship with Adrian is helping him in ways even he can not yet see.
- 5. I too have befriended Elizabeth, and hopefully we can write to each other after our program ends~
- 6. While I have put a Taurus in a gym and caught both a Mr. Mime and a dratini, Mutti has done neither. Hopefully a Mr. Mime will chose to locate itself in one of our hotel rooms when she comes in December to pick us up.
- 7. We have all had many adventures, and I am sure even more will come our way before the month is through~ Here are a handful of them, which I hope to write about here later:
-getting scarlet fever
– visiting the castle of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau
– Walking a piece of the Philosophers Way in Heidelberg
-Celebrating Thanksgiving with Adrian and Elizabeth
-visiting the Roman baths in Baden-Baden
-Seeing the tradesman’s house and the Night watchman’s tour in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
-Summer Ludge rides
-visiting Marburgs Dunkelcafé
-visiting my relatives
-and perhaps most importantly, studying in Marburg~
“Life as a person from Lyon”
I have officially been living in Lyon for 55 days, and I can’t help but wonder where all the time has gone? It seems like just yesterday I was getting lost in the public transit or getting locked out of my apartment. (Although I still stand by the fact that the doors here are way less user friendly than at home!)
In these 55 days Lyon has truly become a second home for me, and I’m not looking forward to the day that I have to leave this all behind. I will miss stepping outside of my building and being immediately greeted by the glistening waves of the Saône River, and my walk to class when I pass by at least four boulangeries where the warm scent of fresh baking bread greets me. I’ll miss the swarms of pigeons and the quick bobbing of their heads when I walk to close and they rush out of my way.
Each day holds something new in store for me, and it’s been a welcome change from my days at home that sometimes start to seem robotic. Of course I still have my routines here though too, just on a smaller scale. There’s this café called, “Comme à la maison” (like home) where you can find my friends and I whenever we have free time between class. We’re there so often that the employees all know us and our orders, although we do tend to change it up on them from time to time. We’ve discovered many nooks and crannies of our city, and what’s so thrilling is that there’s still so much more to discover, every day we try to go somewhere new or try something new. A new bar one night, a new store another. “Let’s check out this place I heard about,” or “let’s wander around until we find something that sounds good.”
I’m honestly not sure what I expected studying abroad to be like. This always seemed like a faraway dream that others got to do, and that no one really knew how to describe. That still holds true for me, everyday I still think to myself, I’m in France right now, I’m walking around in France. While I don’t really know what I had expected studying abroad to be like, I know that this is beyond anything I had thought. The amount of information I’m learning about the world is still amazing to me. In my class alone we have students from eleven different countries; the US, Taiwan, Ukraine, Columbia, South Korea, Russia, China, Norway, Venezuela, Syria, and Mexico. I didn’t expect to learn so much about the world and myself from this trip honestly, and I’m so glad that I decided to take this chance.
Lyon, while it’s the second largest city in France, is surprisingly not a huge tourist destination, and I’m incredibly thankful for that. The main aspect of the tourism here is Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) which is a little bit more out of the main metropolitan area. Not having a huge tourist destination has made it a lot better for my french skills because not everyone speaks English, so I can’t take the easy way out. Also, it just makes it a lot easier to become a part of the city. I feel like I’ve begun to integrate a lot into the day to day life here, and I can make my way through the city on foot or on the metro without any incidents. I feel like I belong, and it’s weird to think that in just a couple months I will be leaving again.
If you’re thinking about studying abroad. Do it. Do your research of course, and choose your country/city carefully, but don’t overthink it. I was so close to overthinking my decision to study abroad this semester, and I’m so thankful I didn’t. You’ll discover so much about yourself you would have never dreamed of before, and get to know the world just a little bit better.