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“You´re 25 and you´ve never seen the ocean???”

I’m 25 years old, and I have only just now experienced the ocean, which luckily was during my study abroad trip in Costa Rica. Guys, this place is absolutely gorgeous.

I am elated to say that I have now seen 9 beaches here, three which are on the list of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches. I also got to see a beach in Panama.

I’m referencing this article if you´re interested! (P.S., I´ve been to numbers 1, 2, and 4!)

I’m going to make this blog post about my absolute favorite beaches, and the remarkable experiences I had there.

The first area we went to was Playa Manuel Antonio, listed as the 2nd most beautiful beach. In that area, I saw 4 separate beach areas. My first experience was marvelous, there were monkeys playing on the beach (and on the lookout for things to steal from the beach goers). Here´s a link to UMKC study abroad´s insta if you´re interested in seeing a bit of that cuteness.

Playa Manuel Antonio

The next weekend, we headed to the Guanacaste province to check out Playa Tamarindo, listed as the 4th most beautiful beach. This place was gorgeous.

Playa Tamarindo

There were even howler monkeys outside of our Airbnb, while we were in the pool!

Howler monkey

Sunday, before we left Tamarindo, two of my friends and I got up really early in the morning. Our mission was to see the number one most beautiful beach in Costa Rica: Playa Conchal. Notice how the word Conchal looks like conch? As in the shells? Perfect, because that´s what this beach is all about. Playa Conchal has a large part of it’s beach area where instead of sand, you see itty bitty broken pieces of polished shell. This place is honestly the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life, my little Kansas mind absolutely could not handle it!!!

Playa Conchal: Bonita!

How could I tell you it is the most beautiful place I have ever seen if I didn’t provide proof? Well, that would almost be……shellfish of me!!!

Clear waters of Play Conchal

Can you believe how clear this water is??? Even the waves are clear and completely gorgeous.

Even the waves were crystal clear!

When I tell you I’m ready to go back…that’s no joke! The last weekend I stayed in Cahuita. I took a short drive south to see Playa Negra in Pureto Viejo.

I can’t decide if Playa Conchal or Playa Negra in Puerto Viejo, where we went on my last weekend were my favorite.

I could not get enough of how cool this was!!!  I’m not quite sure why there was a random barge there…but it was super cool!

Playa Negra.

I love this picture because of the contrast between the white waves and black sand.

White waves on Playa Negra.

I don´t think I could have picked a better study abroad program. This program was awesome because it has so many places to visit, so much wildlife, and so many amazing beaches. Not only that, my Spanish improved dramatically! Now that all of my degree requirements have been met, I’ll take that Spanish degree now.

You better believe that my mind was blown during the entire program, and that I absolutely will be returning one day.

Sarah Schleicher is a senior at the University of Missouri – Kansas City majoring in Spanish and minoring in Latinx Studies. She will be taking the last two required classes for her B.A. this summer in Heredia, Costa Rica. She is currently a Pre-K teacher and Enrichment Coordinator, and she would eventually like to work supporting Spanish speaking children.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Děkuji, Praha

My Intercultural Studies at Charles University program has ended and the most overwhelming feeling that I’m left with is gratitude. I’m so thankful that I got to spend a summer learning and living in Prague. I’m thankful for the new knowledge, the new experiences, the new friends, and the new sights I was able to see. Prague, and the 3 cities I visited as side trips — Berlin, Budapest, and Vienna — all taught me so many things, so I think I owe them each a brief thank you. I’ll save the main one — Prague — for last.

Danke, Berlin

Thank you for empowering me to be independent. 

I went with a group to Berlin, but on our last day, we kind of had differing opinions about what our final stops should be. So, I made a scary decision: I would go see things by myself. This ended up being amazing. I went to a local flea market, ate Berlin’s most popular street food (the Döner Kebab), stumbled upon the Karneval der Kulturen (a multicultural celebration), saw the beautiful Charlottenburg Palace, and then ended the day with a walk through the Kaiser-Wilhem-Gedächtnis-Kirche. Although I love the group I traveled with, it was so nice that I had a day where the itinerary was 100% mine. Berlin empowered me to be independent and pursue the itinerary that I wanted. It was such an empowering feeling to know that I navigated getting around a mega-city, that I’ve never been to, by myself! Berlin gave me a major confidence boost, and for that, I’m forever grateful.

Thank you for the friends. 

I met some really great people in Berlin. Some people go to Berlin just for the nightlife, and whether or not that’s your thing, try it anyway. The Berliners are so, so cool, and so fun to talk to — in German or in English!

      The reconstructed Kaiser Wilhem Kirche. Each blue             glass panel has a different stained glass picture.

Köszönöm, Budapest

Thank you for the lesson about choosing carefully.  

The first time I tried to go to Budapest, my bus ticket was denied. Check out my last blog post for the story on that… From that experience, though, I really learned an important life lesson: do your research before buying anything. Check if the product or service you’re buying is reliable and has good reviews. If it doesn’t, rethink! Just because something is cheap does not mean it should be purchased…

Thank you for your kindness. 

I was blown away by how kind the people in Budapest were. Of course, I wasn’t expecting that they’d all be evil, but I also wasn’t expecting that they’d all be so nice! Shamefully, I didn’t know much about the Magyar culture before going to Hungary, but I left wanting to know more. Each server, cashier, and local on the street made me regret that I didn’t know more about them.

             Budapest at night is so amazingly gorgeous.

Danke, Wien

Thank you for teaching me to do the tourist things.

I know it’s cliche to go on a city’s big Ferris wheel, so I almost resisted going to the Wiener Riesenrad, but I am so glad that I didn’t skip out on this. The view was beautiful. Thank you, Vienna, for teaching me that things that are tourist-heavy are usually that way for a reason.

…But thank you for also teaching me to go where the locals go. 

I also ended up at a city music festival in Vienna. The streets were flooded with people listening and dancing to live music. I had so much fun! Surrounded by Austrians, I stood and listened to live music for quite a while.

         The crowded streets for Vienna’s music fest.

Děkuji, Praha

Thank you for challenging me.

The classes I took at Charles University were not for the faint of heart. They taught me lessons in studiousness. My class about Czech history and politics — a subject I knew virtually nothing about — was so hard, but ended up being so meaningful to me. It really enriched my experience in Prague, because it helped me understand the culture I was visiting.

Thank you for the paddle boat rides.

My classroom was located on the street right in front of the Vltava River. Right across from my school building’s door was a paddle boat dock. Those after class paddle boat rides were so relaxing. I loved getting the view of Prague Castle from the water and soaking up the sun with my friends.

        Prague Castle as seen by paddle boat on the                                        Vltava River!

Thank you for teaching me how to use public transit.

I had no idea how to read anything public-transit related before I went abroad. I suppose living in the Midwest made me that way. Prague is where I first learned how to get around on my own. After I figured out how to get around and use the city’s trams, buses, subways, and trains, it felt like the city had become mine to explore.

Thank you for the confidence.

Before I left for my study abroad trip, I worried that 6 weeks in a new country, whose language I didn’t speak, and with people I didn’t know, would be too hard. I second-guessed myself a lot. But everything ended up being okay. In fact, it was more than okay; it was amazing. Prague showed me that I can conquer my fears. Prague reminded me that I’m young, strong, and deserve to see the world and meet its people.

Thank you for the friends.

My program was small. There were only 6 students. I feared that we wouldn’t get along or that things would be awkward. My fears, it turned out, were unfounded. Now, I have a bond with 5 other people, and we will always be able to share our memories of Prague.

Thank you for the food. 

Oh man. The food. Both the traditional Czech food and other types of foreign cuisine in Prague were so good. I might end up coming back someday just for Svíčková (a traditional Czech beef dish) and Burrito Loco (a Mexican food chain in Prague).

Thank you for your beauty.

From the sights in Prague to the views on the Bohemian Paradise trail, Czech Republic has so much beauty to offer. I’m so glad I was able to see it.

Thank you for everything.

   Vrtba Garden is one of the most beautiful places in                                               Prague.

There’s so much more to thank Prague for, but it’d end up being a book if I tried to write all of it down. I am so grateful for my study abroad experience. If you’re reading this and haven’t made any study abroad plans yet, it’s time to make the leap. You, too, will end up with so much to be grateful about.

So with, that, a final thank you: thank you UMKC for inspiring students like me to study abroad.


Helene Slinker is a rising senior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. Helene is spending her summer studying in Prague, Czech Republic through the Charles University Intercultural Studies program, taking classes that contribute to her political science major and women’s and gender studies minor. Helene is eager to learn more about Central and Eastern European politics through this program and explore the Czech Republic.


Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Time Flies When it Never Gets Dark

June 30th, 2019

As I prepare to leave the wonderful city of Copenhagen this week, a place that I have begun to affectionately call Cope, I am astonished at how quickly this incredible summer has passed me by. You think that summer break flies by at home? Wait until you spend a summer in Denmark! Copenhagen is truly a city that never sleeps; the sun rises at four 0’clock in the morning and doesn’t set until nearly eleven o’clock at night, and even then there is a beautiful glow preventing the sky from becoming completely dark. As I reflect on my time studying in Denmark, I thought it was important to share a few main takeaways, advice that I wish I could have been given just six short weeks ago when I arrived:

 

1. It’s okay to get lost

I’ll be honest, this was probably the most stressful thing about my entire experience here in Copenhagen. My class was about 30 minutes away from where I lived, and the daily commute consisted of a mix of walking and taking the metro. The metro system here in Copenhagen is incredibly efficient: the trains come every 2-4 minutes and are almost always on time. This also means, however, that it is incredibly easy to take the wrong train, something that I have done countless times and usually when I was running late. Oh, and did I mention the whole not knowing a lot of Danish thing? I’ve got some key words and phrases under my belt now, but I probably looked like a lost puppy for the first several days I was in the city! But you know what? I survived! Every wrong train was an opportunity to experience a new place. Every misread Danish street sign was an opportunity to practice my abhorrent Danish pronunciation. Who knows, you might even find a cool windmill like this one.

2. It’s okay to be a tourist

Once I got to Denmark, I discovered this stigma among students who were studying here: whatever you do, don’t act like a tourist. It was a rule that I followed for a couple of weeks, until I realized that I was missing out! I wanted to see the city, to learn about the history, and of course, to take some beautiful pictures. I decided that I would sign up for that walking tour, I would spend an afternoon in the natural history museum, and I would buy some things in the tourist shops. I may be a student here, but who knows when I’ll be able to come back?! My advice? Take the picture. Try the food. Enjoy the city. Below is a picture I took when I stumbled across some in-ground trampolines at the canals, and you can bet that this touristy picture is one of my favorites.

3. It’s okay to step out of your comfort zone

I’ve talked a lot in my previous blogs about how Copenhagen as pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone to its limits. I’ve grown in ways that I couldn’t even have imagines a month ago. If I could travel back six weeks, I would tell myself, “You’re in a new place, it’s okay to try new things!” It wasn’t until a few weeks in to my stay that I began to say “yes” to the curious food, the spontaneous day trips with local Danes, and even the free swing dancing class offered every Thursday night (now THAT was an experience). Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about saying “no,” wanting to stay in, or simply wanting to take it easy. It’s okay to be scared or nervous. There have been days where the only thing that I’ve needed is a good nap. I’ve learned to remind myself, however, that I rarely regret trying something new, but I almost always regret not trying it in the first place.

 

My time in Copenhagen has truly changed me as both a student and as a person. My independence has been tested, my worldview has expanded, and I simply can’t believe that it’s almost over. When you study abroad, remember that every moment is fleeting. Don’t be afraid get lost in a beautiful city, to look like a silly tourist trying to take the perfect picture, or to eat that new street food you’re scared to try. One summer simply isn’t enough, but it’s one that I will remember long after I return home.

-Jacob


Jacob Furry is a sophomore Trustee’s Scholar at the University of Missouri- Kansas City majoring in music education along with a psychology minor. Jacob will spend the summer abroad as a Gilman Scholar in Copenhagen, Denmark with the DIS Copenhagen program studying multicultural and special education.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Tranquilidad, a Costa Rican way of life

Tranquila.

If you don’t speak Spanish, it’s a word that describes calm, a general free from worry, and most importantly, the laid back attitude of Costa Rica.

It’s also one of the most common phrases or expressions you’ll hear, especially if you’re an American with an anxiety disorder who worries about literally everything. Typically, this word is used as an adjective in Spanish, but in Costa Rican Spanish, they’ve adapted this word into a command, and a way of life.

Before I left, I had read about this, and noted that it was best to remain calm in all situations here, because Costa Ricans value peace over everything.

My first real experience with this expression was during an Uber ride home…after dark. It gets dark around 6:00 P.M. here, so even if you´re not out super late, it feels like you are.

Also a fun side note, in Costa Rica, addresses are a bit…different, to say the least. The way they navigate through a city is by using a focal point (we use the local mall), then describing how far you have to walk in a direction from that focal point…then describing what the house looks like.

There are street signs, people have tried to modernize the address system, but the old ways have stuck. Which means if you’re not a local, you could be stuck scratching your head while you’re trying to ask for help from strangers.

Back to the Uber ride.

Because addresses are different here, Uber only let me put in the beginning of the address, which luckily was the name of the area. It won’t exactly take the driver to your home stay, but it’ll land you somewhat near there. I also have a picture of the front of the house so that I remember what it looks like.

Nuestra Casa Costarricense, Our Costa Rican House

So the Uber driver stops where we’re apparently supposed to get out, but my roommate and I aren’t quite familiar with the area yet and its also dark…so my anxiety starts to set in.

I nervously tell the driver in Spanish that we don’t know where we are, and that we are new here. He genuinely tries to help us, but it’s hard because Spanish isn’t our first language, and we don’t exactly know what to do in this situation.

I remembered that our host mom had written down the ‘address’ on a piece of paper and gave it to us, so I gave this to the driver and also pulled open Google Maps so that I could try to get a sense of where we were in the area. I vaguely remember a bit more and tell the driver, but he completely passes the area and gets back on the main road.

And then, the anxiety started to creep in even more.

While my roommate and I have gotten a bit more of a sense as to where we were, my nerves got the best of me and I tell him too excitedly that he passed it, and that we have to go back.

“Tranquila.”

This was the word he uttered to me as he turned around and attempted to get back to where we needed to be.

My roommate described this to me later because I didn’t see it, but I guess he gave me a look, like he was genuinely concerned for me and also not sure why I was so on edge.

Of course, we made it home, and we thanked him a million times. One of my Costa Rican friends told me that people here will genuinely try to help you, and he technically did not have to go so out of his way to make sure we made it just to the house, because the Uber application told us we had reached our destination that we put in. I made sure to tip him well.

So with one week down, I’m remembering to keep my head together and stay calm in a foreign country. And remember my friends,

“Tranquila.”

Everything will be all right.


Sarah Schleicher is a senior at the University of Missouri – Kansas City majoring in Spanish and minoring in Latinx Studies. She will be taking the last two required classes for her B.A. this summer in Heredia, Costa Rica. She is currently a Pre-K teacher and Enrichment Coordinator, and she would eventually like to work supporting Spanish speaking children.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Summertime Celebrations

June 26th, 2019


I’m nearing the end of my incredible month and a half in Denmark, and have had some unforgettable experiences here in Copenhagen. One of the most memorable experiences I’ve had took place this past Sunday, June 23rd. It was the Sankt Hans Aften, otherwise known as the Summer Solstice. It celebrates the night of the 23rd as the shortest night of the entire year, meaning that Sunday I enjoyed almost 19 hours of sunlight! I’ve gotten used to the sun shining through my window and waking me up at 4:30 in the morning, and Sunday was no different. The Summer Solstice here in Denmark is heavily celebrated, so as students in Copenhagen, we decided to participate as well!

Our day started early when we decided to take a boat on the beautiful canals of Copenhagen. Denmark is incredibly trusting of its residents, so after we paid for the boat, the dock workers simply told us to enjoy our sailing and be back when we felt like it! To say the least, it’s definitely a culture that I could get used to.

Pictured below is a view from our boat. The canals here in Copenhagen are an incredible tourist attraction, but we were proud to feel like locals as we casually cruised down the water of inner Copenhagen. We brought snacks on board and played our favorite music for what seemed like hours. It was during this experience that realized how much I’ll really miss this beautiful city after I leave in just one short week. 

After our lovely sail through Copenhagen, I spent the day relaxing and working on homework from my classes. As the last week quickly approaches, I have a few final papers due, but our excursion into the canals was just the motivation I needed to get things done!

I mentioned before that the Summer Solstice is celebrated far and wide across Copenhagen, and this occurs as a city wide gathering to officially mark the end of the longest day of the year. On Sunday night, my Danish flatmates and I all walked to Frederiksberg Garden, a large park area just outside of Copenhagen’s center. To be honest, I expected a celebration a bit like our Fourth of July parties…but boy was I wrong! There was music, dancing, and food for what seemed like miles. I had never seen so many people in one place, each wearing a huge smile. Below is an image I shot from where I was camped out on the grass, and you can see just a glimpse of how many people were there to celebrate the solstice.

My favorite part about this experience, and the memory of it that I’ll hold with me long after I leave, is how it allowed me to feel a part of this community. Denmark has such a rich and interesting history, full of unique traditions like this one. At this gathering for the Summer Solstice, I didn’t feel like a tourist or a foreigner. Sitting there talking, laughing, and singing with local Danes as well as other American students made me feel a sense of belonging. I was incredibly worried at the beginning of this study abroad experience that I wouldn’t find a place where I fit in. It’s a scary feeling, especially in a new country, but I can proudly say that I haven’t felt it while I’ve been in Denmark. It’s definitely felt like home, which will make it that much harder to leave.

-Jacob


Jacob Furry is a sophomore Trustee’s Scholar at the University of Missouri- Kansas City majoring in music education along with a psychology minor. Jacob will spend the summer abroad as a Gilman Scholar in Copenhagen, Denmark with the DIS Copenhagen program studying multicultural and special education.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

A Failed Weekend Trip is Not a Failed Weekend

As I’m writing this, I’m on a regional train from Prague to Budapest. I’m looking forward to a weekend trip to Budapest, where I plan to visit the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, make my way to Buda Castle, and even take a night-time cruise on the Danube. An exciting part about studying abroad in Central Europe is that it’s relatively easy to find trains or buses that connect you with other major cities in different countries in the area.

I shouldn’t overstate how easy it is to get from place to place, though. Last weekend was when I was originally going to board a regional bus from Prague to Budapest. I arrived at Prague’s central station almost an hour early for my bus. The transit company that I booked with had offered ticket-holders the opportunity to get text updates about delays. I kept getting various updates that my bus was delayed in arriving. Finally, I got a text that my bus was here, so I presented my ticket and passport to the ticket checker… who promptly denied my entry. As it turned out, there was a glitch in the company’s text updates, and it had been sending me updates for the wrong bus. Devastated and confused, I went to the ticket-counter to see if there were any other opportunities to get to Budapest for the weekend. Everything was booked.

I was heartbroken. Because of the last-minute missed bus, I had to cancel my lodging in Budapest on a whim and didn’t get a refund. It wasn’t just the lost money that I was upset about, though; it was the lost opportunity. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it to Budapest and worried that I was going to have a boring weekend in Prague, since I hadn’t planned out what I wanted to do.

My weekend in Prague, though, was anything but boring. In fact, it was amazing. On Saturday, I got brunch with friends, visited an amazing pop-up photography exhibition, took a boat ride on the Vltava river (where I could see Prague Castle from the water!), wandered around the Lesser Town, and got to visit a street festival. The street festival was incredible, and honestly, if it weren’t for the missed bus, I wouldn’t have been able to go.

The view of St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle from the boat ride on the Vltava River.
We had to take a ferry to cross the Vltava River to get to the street festival on the other side. We didn’t even realize that our student public transit cards covered this!

On Sunday, I enjoyed a relaxing morning and then bought tickets to see a ballet at the Národní Divadlo (National Theater) on a whim. The student-discounted tickets to see an original Kafka-inspired ballet at a world-class theater were only SIX DOLLARS! The ballet was beautiful and was such a unique Prague-exclusive experience.

The beautiful theater where I saw a ballet rendition of Franz Kafka’s “The Trial.”

I guess the lesson here is this: a failed weekend-trip isn’t a failed weekend. I had an expectation that if I wasn’t constantly traveling to different places on the weekends, I was “wasting” my opportunity to go and visit more of Europe. There’s nothing wrong, though, with “staying home” in Prague (or wherever you may be). There just might be a one-time street festival or an original ballet waiting for you. Budapest, or wherever your desired weekend trip is, will always be there. Your time as a study abroad student in Prague won’t, so don’t be afraid to spend your free time in your “home” city, soaking up as much as you can.


Helene Slinker is a rising senior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. Helene is spending her summer studying in Prague, Czech Republic through the Charles University Intercultural Studies program, taking classes that contribute to her political science major and women’s and gender studies minor. Helene is eager to learn more about Central and Eastern European politics through this program and explore the Czech Republic.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Homesickness and Hygge

June 11, 2019

As I’m writing this post, I’m sitting on the docks of Nyhavn here in Copenhagen, Denmark on a beautiful sunny day. I’ve been here three whole weeks (WOW!), and as much as I hate to say it, I think that I’m getting a little homesick. This was expected – I’ve never been out of the United States before and this trip is most definitely testing my independence (as in it is forcing me to have some) – but I still feel a bit guilty. “I’m surely enjoying myself,” I say, “why am I even a little homesick?!”

Docks of Nyhavn, my absolute favorite place in Copenhagen!

For anyone who reads this, I want you to know: becoming homesick is completely normal. There is nothing to feel guilty about! This study abroad experience has put me so far out of my comfort zone that I can’t even see it anymore, and while I miss my dog, my family, and definitely my own bed, it’s amazing to see how much I’ve grown in such a short amount of time.

One thing that has kept me grounded is how friendly and hospitable everyone here in Copenhagen is. Sure, customs can be different and there is often that ever-dreaded language barrier, but I can proudly say that I have yet to feel isolated. Just this morning, as I stumbled through a greeting and a thank you in Danish at our local grocery store, the cashier simply smiled and helped me to correct my pronunciation. In trying to buy a bus pass to explore some more of this city, I was having difficulty figuring out the ticket machine. An incredibly friendly station employee (who probably could spot me as an American from a mile away) walked over and graciously helped me get to where I needed to go. Little things like these cause me to reflect and realize how incredibly lucky I am to be here in this fantastic city.

The Danish have a word here that reflects a concept they try to live by: hygge. It’s difficult to fully explain in English (believe me, many have tried), but the closest I can get is that it’s a feeling of being comfortable and content. Many might say it’s enjoying the simple things in life. It’s a concept that English doesn’t have a single, holistic word for, but the Danish might be on to something, as they’re often quoted as the happiest country in the world!

Those little moments that I mentioned earlier put a smile on my face and gave me relief in my seemingly constant nervousness and anxiety about being so far away from home for so long. Since first coming to Denmark, I’ve learned to sit back, relax, and appreciate and enjoy every moment that I can, even those that make me uncomfortable. To illustrate this, I’ll tell you a story:

Every morning, I take the metro to class. Earlier this week, I got on the wrong train…and it was raining…and I was convinced I would be late for lecture. Pre-study abroad Jacob would have panicked in ways you might not even begin to imagine. I was by myself, without wifi, and was reminded at every turn that I still do not speak Danish. After spending a moment to take in my surroundings, I realized: what better learning experience is there than this? I was suddenly in a part of the city that I had never been to before, and guess what? It was unique and beautiful. As the rain began to slow, I looked up and saw this gorgeous building…

I snapped a picture, took it all in, and confidently asked the nearest Dane for directions to Nørreport, the neighborhood where my classes were located. Much to my relief, she spoke English, and much to my surprise, I was right on time to class. If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that my independence can always be stretched, and only good things can come from that. I may miss home, but the experiences that I’m having here cannot be replicated back in the United States.

Everyone will be pushed out of their comfort zones sooner or later, but Denmark has taught me that those experiences need to be embraced and appreciated just as much as the comfortable ones. Feel the rain, look at the beautiful buildings, and strive to be content in discomfort. That’s hygge.

My advice? Take a page out of the Danes’ book and bring more hygge into your life, you might be surprised at the ways you grow.


Jacob Furry is a sophomore Trustee’s Scholar at the University of Missouri- Kansas City majoring in music education along with a psychology minor. Jacob will spend the summer abroad as a Gilman Scholar in Copenhagen, Denmark with the DIS Copenhagen program studying multicultural and special education.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

It’s Okay to Sleep

If you know someone who studied abroad, and they only told you about the good parts of their experience, they’ve told you a half-truth. The truth is that study abroad, while amazing in so many aspects, can be really hard – and sometimes exhausting.

When I first got to Prague, I was quite the opposite of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, since I hadn’t slept at all on my incoming flight. In my taxi from the airport to my dorm building, I kept looking outside the windows at the scenery. After trying to decipher Czech billboards, the realization came that I was going to be functionally illiterate here for the next 7 weeks. Then, I got to the dorm, had a strange check-in experience, and then got to see my room, which was… not entirely what I was expecting. I was unsure of how my time here would go.

I soon snapped out of that initial panic once I settled in and thought: I AM IN PRAGUE! An overwhelming excitement took over me. Who cares what my dorm looked like?! There were things to see! There were things to do! I then spent my first 3 weeks going to place after place after place, trying desperately to soak up the time that I had here. I explored Prague, the town of Český Krumlov, and even Berlin, Germany on a weekend trip. A busy class schedule combined with my own Type-A desire to not waste any time and see as much as possible meant that I was always on the go.

Stopped to take a photo when leaving the castle at Český Krumlov!

 

Český Krumlov is even more beautiful at night.

Everything I saw was wonderful. There was only one problem: I was exhausted. My excitement to see new places began to wear off simply because I was tired. Despite my exhaustion, I continued to push forward and jam-pack my schedule. I was doing this out of fear; I felt like allowing myself to rest was allowing myself to miss out on an opportunity. I had some serious FOMO (fear of missing out).

The reality, though, is this: it’s okay to sleep. Really.

While studying abroad gives you a unique opportunity to experience new cultures at an exciting time of life, the regular parts of life still are there. That means that sleeping, eating, and breathing are all still necessary. Not only is it not possible for you to allow yourself to skip out on these things, but it also makes your sightseeing less enjoyable when you skimp on them. For example, you might enjoy seeing a museum a lot more if you work in some time to relax before jumping from site to site. If you’re at the point where you’re not enjoying the museum at all because you’re so tired, there’s a chance you’re overbooking yourself and you need to back away for a little bit.

Speaking of museums… The East Side Gallery in Berlin (while not literally a museum) is fantastic. I loved this painting of the car breaking through the Berlin Wall.

Your physical and mental wellbeing still matters while you are abroad. Health is still important. Study abroad is a beautiful time to see the world and get lost and find yourself. You can’t do that, though, without taking care of yourself along the ride. So in case you need to hear it again: it’s okay to sleep.


Helene Slinker is a rising senior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. Helene is spending her summer studying in Prague, Czech Republic through the Charles University Intercultural Studies program, taking classes that contribute to her political science major and women’s and gender studies minor. Helene is eager to learn more about Central and Eastern European politics through this program and explore the Czech Republic.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Trip to Switzerland

From the start of my study abroad, I had a list of top places I wanted to visit while here in Europe. Switzerland was close to the top of my list. Everyone here warned me about how expensive Switzerland is and I quickly became discouraged, thinking I wouldn’t be able to make it to the cute little towns my friends back home told me all about. Luckily, I was able to find a cheap flight and inexpensive accommodation, making Switzerland a reality! So I hopped on my tiny plane to Zurich and stepped into the unknown of Switzerland. Zurich was pretty far away from where I was planning to stay in Interlaken so I had to figure out a way to get from here to there without it costing me an arm and a leg. Coming across a train ticket window, I ended up asking a man what the heck I should do to get where I needed to be. Luckily, he was amazingly helpful, he helped me buy a train ticket to Interlaken, converted some of my euros to Swiss francs, and gave me a free bar of Swiss chocolate. Off to find my train platform, I headed down the escalator and realized I had already gone the wrong direction, awesome. Back up the escalator I went, hoping the train ticket guy didn’t catch my moment of immediate disorientation. Finally finding the correct platform, I must have looked like I belonged or had some sense of what I was doing even though I surely didn’t, because a pair of old English gentlemen came up to me, showed me their tickets and asked if they were in the right place. This was a blind leading the blind moment when I told them “yes, you’re in the right place”… “If I’m in the right place”, I’m thinking to myself. On the 2 hour train ride to Interlaken, I realized my phone wasn’t working. Normally I use my Slovenian sim card on all the trips I go on, but the catch is it only works in EU countries, of which Switzerland is not a part of. So here I am, arrived in Interlaken with no clue how to get to my hostel, no matter, it’s just a minor roadblock. Bought a Swiss sim card after a small struggle to find an English speaker and now I was ready to still get lost on my way to my hostel. Eventually, I made it to my hostel, checked in, and walked up three flights to my shared room. So far, I’ve never stayed in a hostel, but the accommodation in Switzerland was much more expensive and it was all I could afford. The hostel didn’t seem so bad the first night because my six bunk room was empty and I had it all to myself, that would soon change.

Today, I had plans to go to Jungfraujoch or “The Top of Europe”. The ticket for the several trains to the top of the mountain were quite expensive, but I was already on the train so there was no turning back now. Getting to the top of Jungfraujoch was worth the trip. DSC_4798ReMiles and miles of mountains and clouds to the point where the two were indistinguishable. Next, I made my way down to the ice palace. Elsa would have been impressed. There were ice sculptures and ice tunnels, it was pretty cool(pun intended). Desperately trying to keep my fingers from falling off, I kept rubbing my hands together. IMG_1756Re Perfectly enough, one of the stops on my way back was a town called Lauterbrunnen in which my best friends back home informed me it was their absolute favorite place they had visited on a trip in high school. Lauterbrunnen was a charming little town situated in a valley between two mountains with a stunning waterfall in the center, streaming down from great heights. Living here must be a dream everyday. With the setting sun, I had to take the train back to Interlaken. Walking up the three flights of stairs, I mentally prepared myself to actually have roommates tonight even though I prayed for continued vacancy. Slowly, I opened the door and found four guys who had made their homes in the bunk beds of my room, well our room now I guess. Two of the guys were my age, from Louisiana, and studying in Madrid. They were nice enough but left late to go party and made a terrible drunken ruckus when they came back at 2:30 in the morning when the rest of us were snoozing. After they had left to do whatever it is they did, a girl came in and took the very last bunk right above me. I was relieved there was another girl in the room, but I’m not sure it was worth her annoying phone buzzing against the wood irregularly, keeping me awake. Turns out it was also bothering one of the men at the other end of the room as he audibly sighed in exasperation after every annoying buzz. Obviously much more confrontational than I, he got up, came over and woke up the girl to tell her to turn off her phone. She seemed pretty upset, but the buzzing ceased. Sometimes it’s nice to let someone else fight your battle. Once the confrontational guy fell asleep after the lack of phone buzzing, he was own problem with his resounding snores. Yay, staying in a hostel!

Started my day by dropping my favorite earring in the sink. Frustrated with myself, I went downstairs to eat my free breakfast of toast and yogurt then spilled my coffee all over the place. Off to a great start. Choosing an empty seat, I sat down next to a girl who I found out was in Switzerland to go skydiving. So cool, I definitely have skydiving on my bucket list, maybe not this weekend though. Interlaken is situated between two beautiful lakes and surrounded by mountains and I wanted to explore both while I was here. After breakfast, I got on a bus to the train station to spend a day at Lake Brienz and explore some waterfalls. DSC_5062ReGiessbach waterfall ended up being really beautiful and there were barely any people there which made it so much better. Looking out from behind the waterfall, I could see the lake, mountains, and hotel Giessbach which was probably crazy expensive, but beautiful. Feeling like I didn’t get the full waterfall experience, I headed down to the bottom of the waterfall and ended up climbing over a few rocks and walking around.Turns out I had too much fun at the waterfall because I missed the bus back to the main train station and had an impromptu hour hike around the lake. It was a long walk, but it kind of turned out great because it was the most beautiful walk through hills and right by the the bright blue lake. I can’t describe how beautiful it is so I’ll just upload photos instead.

 


My next day in Switzerland was my favorite of all my days abroad because I went paragliding! I met with my paragliding instructor/partner then we hopped in a van with other paragliders and made our way up the mountain. They asked if I wanted the lower or higher jumping point and I chose higher so we kept on driving further up the mountain. Everything happened so quickly, there was no time to build up anxiety or fear. I stepped into my harness, he set out the parachute, and we were all set to go. Defying all logic, we began running toward the edge of the mountain, took two final large steps, felt the wind catch the parachute, and then I was paragliding! It was an incredible feeling, there was no fear whatsoever. I was expecting to feel some sense of panic or uneasiness but there was nothing but pure joy and excitement. Now I know what it feels like to be a bird! Glorious feelings of freedom and wonder as I looked down and out across the stunning Swiss alps and beautiful Interlaken. Honestly there was some point when I felt as though I must be dreaming. There was no way I could be paragliding in Switzerland, it was beyond belief. I’m so grateful for my study abroad experiences, they are once in a lifetime!


Katrena Smith is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying psychology. Katrena, a Gilman Scholarship recipient, will spend her spring semester in Ljubljana, Slovenia as part of the UMKC exchange with the University of Ljubljana. There, she will be complete her Sociology minor, adding to her education in pursuit of becoming a Child Life Specialist.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

STUDY ABROAD TIPS

Who ME?

As a first-generation college student, I never thought college was possible. I did not think I could afford to study abroad. However, I have a few tips that have helped me get to this point.

Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri

Start EARLY!

As soon as I transferred to UMKC I emailed Study Abroad and Global Engagement. Within my first meetings with SAGE, they helped me create a list of deadlines to complete and resources on campus that can help me along the way.

Choose a Program That Works for YOU

As a Health Science Major, it was hard for me to find an appropriate program that worked with my degree and would not push back my graduation. The staff at SAGE mentioned to me a Summer Faculty-Led Program would work great for me since it is in the summer and it will provide 9 college credit hours towards a Spanish Language minor and/or major.

Apply to SCHOLARSHIPS

When I saw the total cost of how much it was to study abroad, I almost gave up and said: “there is no way I can afford that”. However, there are various ways to pay for study abroad programs with scholarships. One great scholarship called The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program is open to U.S. Citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant. This scholarship has two scholarship cycles for the summer term. The summer “early” application is due in October and the summer “regular” application in March. I am grateful to have received a significant Gilman Scholarship. Study Abroad and Global Engagement provides scholarships to students as well.

Use Campus RESOURCES

There are resources on campus that can help you with the scholarship process. At the beginning of my career at UMKC, I did not know we had the Writing Studio who can proofread your paper for organization, content, and grammar. This is a great resource to use if you are applying to the Gilman Scholarship or a SAGE scholarship. Another set of eyes is always good to make sure your paper is well written.

Start Saving MONEY

Setting a small reasonable amount can be helpful when things you didn’t even think of can come up. For example, an outlet converter/adaptor, travel size hygiene products and even a checked bag fee. Things can come up and having some spare money to be able to make purchases like this can really come in handy.

As the days count down, it just goes to show how fast time goes by. My first year at UMKC went by so quickly! There were many obstacles along the way. I stuck through them and everything worked out. In just a few weeks I will be leaving my hometown, Kansas City to immerse myself into a different environment for 6 weeks in Malaga, Spain to continue finding my passion and learning more about myself.


Brian Ramirez is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City and a Kansas City native. He is studying health science and Spanish. Brian is spending the summer abroad as a Gilman Scholar with the Faculty-Led UMKC Spanish Language Summer in Malaga, Spain.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.