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Spain, you have stolen my heart

Part of the city of Arts and Sciences. I live 5 minutes on bike from here and it is breathtaking.

Wow, it has been 2 weeks since I embarked on a journey of a lifetime. You guys want to know a secret??? Spain is AMAZING!!! I know… it is hard to believe. I am walking/biking about 6-10 miles a day in Spain, yes…most of the time I feel disgusting and sweaty, but so does everyone else so who cares?! The driving here is horrible, gas is $8 per gallon or more, traffic is a nightmare, and there is not a lot of available parking so most people walk, bike, bus, or scooter. My roommate and I chose biking to get some exercise and burn off the calories from all the delicious foods we are eating! Plus, there is a bike system built into the roadways called Valenbici so you’re never too far away from transportation.

Café and a delicious pastry = always a great day!

Want to know another secret?? Coffee in the United States sucks. Did I think that 2 weeks ago? Lol, no. But, Spain is known for having amazing coffee along with the rest of Europe, and that is no lie. It’s pretty funny because everyone in Spain, including my host family laughs at how Americans make coffee; (lots of water and very little café so they say). Here it’s about 3-5oz, super concentrated, and VERY strong. While it is a very different taste than what I am used to, it is a very delicious one.

I am loving my new host mom and dad (we had to get re-homed after our first 4 days in Valencia because we were being “neglected”… yikes, I know, but that’s a story for a later date). My current host family is a very sweet couple without any kids of their own, and my roommate and I are the first adults they have ever hosted and for the longest amount of time. They usually host 13-14 year old French students for 4-5 days at a time, but made an exception for us due to our previous situation and we couldn’t be happier that they did. I have been to Madrid, Toledo, Valencia, and Barcelona so far in Spain and I have to say… my host mom makes food better than anything I have had in a restaurant in any of those places thus far. My host mom is also Colombian so we get a mix of Spanish and Colombian foods and it’s always fresh and made from scratch. Did I tell you she is an amazing???

I will never get tired of the views here.

Even though I may be eating a lot here (is it really that much when you’re burning them all? I think not). I feel healthier because a lot of “things” in foods at home are not legal here. The fruit is the sweetest and freshest I’ve ever tasted (pineapple here is out of this world), the meat is very different and always fresh, and I will never look at a “tortilla” the same again. I put the word tortilla in quotes because the tortillas here are made with eggs and potatoes (and other things depending on the type) and are about an inch thick. No, you can’t wrap it like a burrito or make it into a quesadilla, it’s like a side dish. When we told our professor what a tortilla was back home she said it sounded disgusting. After having these I think so too!

A view from “El Castillo” a castle in Peñiscola, Spain. Fun fact, Game of Thrones used this castle to film the city of Meereen!

There are some things I’m missing from home…like water. Calm down, I am staying hydrated, but it is nowhere near as accessible in Valencia as it is at home. There are no water fountains (except a few in the park for runners), and everyone buys giant things of plastic water bottles for their homes because there is no faucet connected to the fridge. Ice is also almost non-existent, but, with all that being said, it’s only one pitfall of being here and I’ve found some pretty creative ways to stay hydrated and get water, so, I’ll survive.

With everything I have experienced in Valencia so far, I think my favorite is going to the beach. There are so many cool things about the city and places to explore, but living in the Midwest, where beaches don’t exist, I love being able to just go put my toes in the sand and hang out. It is usually peaceful and empty during the week and I love going in-between my classes to lay in the sun, listen to the waves, journal, and just fully enjoy and soak up my life right now. The ocean is still pretty chilly though (June is the start of their hotter months) but after laying out or playing sand volleyball for a while it is nice and refreshing to get in.

One view from the top of the castle in Peñiscola. Absolutely gorgeous.

I have met so many amazing friends in my program and they are all wonderful people. This country/program has brought together 28 students from all over the United States and after a short 24 hours together, most of us felt like we had been friends for years. Everyone in our group is at different levels in their Spanish journeys which I think kind of makes this trip more fun; learning from those above you and then teaching those who are aren’t as strong yet in their Spanish abilities. Nevertheless, we all mess up and struggle with things and that is just part of learning.

I still have so much I want to share with you about my journey thus far. I am not trying to write a novel for you to read so you will just have to stay tuned for another update and probably some crazy stories.

¡Hasta luego, mis amigos!

¡One happy chica!

 


Madison Keller is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. She is on the pre-medicine track, triple majoring in Spanish, chemistry, and psychology. Madison will spend the summer abroad with the ISA Valencia, Spain Hispanic Studies Program. Madison’s career goals are to attend medical school and incorporate Spanish into all aspects of her life and career.

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.

Sad to Say Goodbye

As I pack my bags to leave tomorrow, I am thinking about everything I have done during my month in Prague. At first it seemed like time went on forever. I would wake up for class super early every day and not go to sleep for what seemed like forever.

I remember being so nervous about meeting people I didn’t know, and if I would make friends, thinking back to that as a sit next to now some of my closest friends is amazing.

I was so terrified of the culture shock that I was going to experience coming to a whole new place. Instead, I experienced something amazing, that although I was shocked by things, I tried to take everything in and be thankful that I was here.

Although I am sad to leave, I am trying to think about my time here and not about leaving, so here are a few tips about studying abroad in Prague.

  1. Smile less

I am half kidding. I am a VERY smiley person and was told that when I get to central Europe people do not smile at you on the streets like we do in the Mid-West. This is true. I got a lot of weird looks from people on the streets for smiling. So if you come here, don’t be offended no one is smiling at you, it’s just not their thing.

  1. Talk softly in public

More than a few times I stopped and realized that my group of friends and I were the loudest people in the restaurant/café/tram/etc. This can pretty embarrassing. I am loud anyway, so this was a hard one for me. Just be aware of your surroundings and be respectful.

  1. Splitting your bill

This is not common here. We always had a large group with us. So be aware that you may have to figure the bill out on the fly. Venmo was our best friend throughout this trip.

  1. BE OPEN TO NEW EXPERIENCES

Although these first three tips are important, this is my biggest point to make. I was not used to going out of my comfort zone and was unsure of a lot of things I was doing. However, being with a group of people that became my close friends made it way easier. I experienced so many new things that I would have never done without this program.

Prague will always have a special place in my heart. I plan to come back one day and see everything again. This has been an experience of a lifetime, I have made wonderful friends, experienced some amazing things and learned so much. I recommend Prague to anyone who wants to study abroad, but also encourage you to study abroad regardless of where you go. This has been life changing and I believe everyone should experience this!

Until next time Praha, Ahoj!


Isabelle Pekarsky is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City studying political science. Her hometown is KCMO. Isabelle is spending the summer abroad with the Developing Dynamics of Democracy Program in Prague, Czech Republic. Isabelle’s goals are to attend law school after graduating in May 2020 and possibly pursue work in international relations. She believes her experiences studying abroad will help her learn more about democracies in other countries.

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.

In Awe of Prague and Beyond

When I first got to Prague a few weeks ago I was in awe; taking everything in and seeing what seemed like a whole new world. Thinking back to then, it is hard to believe I only have a week and a half left. I have become so familiar with this place, the people I have met, and my new routine. It is going to be hard to leave this, but I am so thankful for the experiences I have already had and the people I have met!

The first week of class was mainly introductions and getting to know the other people on the program as well as the area. I was surprised that jet-lag didn’t have much of an effect on me, although it did to my roommate and a lot of other people on the trip. Our first weekend was a “free” weekend that we were allowed to go where we wanted. A group of about six of us decided to all go to Austria (Vienna and Salzburg) together. Although I would do this all over again, it was a very interesting adjustment to stay and travel with people I had really just met. In Vienna, we went to the St. Stephens Cathedral, Parliament and Belvedere Castle (that has the original Napoleon painting)!

St. Stephens Cathedral
Vienna Parliament

The next day we got on a train and went to Salzburg, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most beautiful places I had ever been. A group of three girls and I went on a Sound of Music Tour and got to see a lot of the scenes from the movie. When we finally came home we were exhausted and probably pretty tired of each other already, but through this weekend trip I became close with a few people, and those relationships are so important in situations like this.

Sound of Music Tour

In looking back at the first part of my trip I am surprised at how well I have actually adjusted to life in Prague. I was really nervous about the cultural and language barriers, but it has been a relatively easy transition overall.

My favorite thing in Prague so far has been the ease of getting around. Public transportation has been so nice and is everywhere. Even easier, walking from one side of the city to the other is easy and the view isn’t too bad either. I am looking forward to the next week and a half of studying abroad and can’t believe it is coming to an end so soon!


Isabelle Pekarsky is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City studying political science. Her hometown is KCMO. Isabelle is spending the summer abroad with the Developing Dynamics of Democracy Program in Prague, Czech Republic. Isabelle’s goals are to attend law school after graduating in May 2020 and possibly pursue work in international relations. She believes her experiences studying abroad will help her learn more about democracies in other countries.

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 Bizarre Pairing of Dreams and Fears

All week I have been anxiously awaiting Saturday, June 1st, the day that marks the beginning of my study abroad adventure in
Lyon with a 14 hour and 50-minute journey into another hemisphere. Although, I have spent the majority of my short life daydreaming about what it would be like to live in France, the food I would eat, the people I would meet, and all the adventures I would have, the majority of my thoughts leading up to my departure have been rooted in a mixture of fear and anxiety with a small sprinkling of excitement that easily disappears within my nervousness. My apprehensive and ever restless mind races through all the possible pitfalls I could encounter during my once excitedly anticipated adventure that my thoughts have now crafted into a somewhat unwelcome nightmare. From losing all my luggage to getting robbed in the subway and being left penniless, without any form of ID in a foreign country, my mind imagines and brings to life with a startling sense of realness all the bad things that could conceivably befall a naïve and doe-eyed girl such as myself.

This persistent state of worry that has entangled my brain is made worse by my mom’s boundless paranoia. If I’m being completely honest, I had not even considered any of the dangers that come with traveling abroad until my mom started sharing news stories of people who were kidnapped and sold into human trafficking rings with me. Extreme? Yes, but that’s my mom and deep down I know that she does it out of concern for me as she knows that I have a tendency to jump into things head first without really considering all the consequences. Like I said before, I can be a bit naïve. In spite of this self-awareness, just like every other time she’s tried to scare me into taking my head out of the clouds and bring me back to reality, I brush it off and tell her not to be so paranoid. Yet, we’re both aware that her words stick. Acting like a light switch, they turn on all my anxiety and put my brain into an anxious overdrive, forcing me to face a pessimistic reality that I had been suppressing while jolting all my nervous energy back to life.

However, as I sit on an old rickety chair in the crappy basement of the expensive, but yet dilapidated apartment building that I call home with tornado sirens blaring all around me, I’m hit with a sense of calm as I realize that this Saturday I get to escape my reality and finally live within my daydream. Despite the fact that no real harm has reached me, the calm demeanor that encompasses my mind and actions during this extremely intense situation assures me that no matter the problems that might await me while abroad, I will be able to take them on with the same calm and sound mind. The sprinkle of excitement for my upcoming trip returns and multiples, growing stronger by the minute, as I come to the realization that fear precedes every exciting and novel adventure that a person takes in life. While our fear serves a purpose of keeping us alert and prepared, it is important to not let it overwhelm us, since in the end, some of our most anticipated fears turn into our most cherished memories or at the very least funny stories that we can use to make ourselves seem more interesting than we really are.

 


Hannah-Kaye Carter is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City double majoring in chemistry and psychology with minors in French and biology. She is spending her summer abroad with the Faculty-Led UMKC French Language Summer in Lyon, France. Hannah-Kaye was born in Kingston, Jamaica, where she lived until she immigrated to the United States at 9 years old. Her hope is to someday go to medical school, become a doctor, and eventually become a member of Doctors without Borders.

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.

5 Tips for Midwesterners in Prague

As I’m writing this, I’m closing in on my first week in Prague, Czech Republic. So far, I’ve hiked the Bohemian Paradise trail, explored Prague Castle and the St. Vitus Cathedral, and wandered the streets of Old Town. I’m blown away by how gorgeous this city and country is, and I can’t wait to explore more of it.

View of Hrubá Skála from the Bohemian Paradise trails.
The Astronomical Clock in Prague’s Old Town.

Although I’ve already seen some beautiful sights and learned a lot in my class (titled “Imperial Nations and Subject Peoples: Czechs in the Austrian Empire”), the most interesting thing to me has been how different the Czech culture is as opposed to American culture — specifically American Midwestern culture.

I’ve lived in the middle of America for my entire life. As it turns out, the things that I thought were common are not common at all here! The Czechs are very reserved in a way that Midwesterners in the United States are not. So, from what I’ve learned about Czech culture in my first week here, I thought I’d make a very brief Midwestern Guide to Czech Culture.

  • Smiling at strangers is a common Midwestern phenomenon, but it is not so common in the Czech Republic. People will think you are strange!
  • You shouldn’t just make small talk with strangers in lines, on trams or trains, etc. They will wonder why you are talking to them.
  • You shouldn’t expect that your cashier or server will engage in friendly conversation with you. Most often, they will simply do their intended job and cut out all the unnecessary bits. They’re not being rude – the culture here is just that people don’t feel a need to be overly interactive with strangers.
  • If you’re a ranch lover, you’ll need to find a way to wean out your ranch addiction before you get to Prague.
  • You don’t need to be so excessively polite. You of course should not be rude – but you don’t need to keep the “Midwestern nice” label on you for your entire trip.

So, there you have it! There’s 5 tips for the Midwesterner who wants to travel to Prague. The culture change has been a shock, but I’m learning more about how to fit in with each day that goes by. I can’t wait to find out more about this beautiful country and its reserved culture.

 

The sun setting over the Czech countryside as I rode on the train from the Bohemian Paradise back to Prague. The view reminded me of the Midwest. 

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.

All Packed for Prague

It’s the day before I leave for Prague, Czech Republic for my study abroad program. It has been a busy day and it has gone by quickly. I have packed a lot into the day (literally and figuratively).

I pretty much put everything off until today, from packing, to gathering documentation and of course, goodbyes. I got up today with ambition, ready to get everything ready, but this was hard to say the least. Fitting a month’s worth of my life into one suitcase was one of the hardest. This is only my second time leaving the country, and my first time in Europe, and I was not sure what to pack or what I would need. Finally, I got everything packed (Vacuum bags are a lifesaver when it comes to saving space in your luggage).

Halfway through the day my family came over for a farewell lunch. It was a lot of fun to tell them my plans and have them be so excited for me! My aunt brought me a shirt from “Planet Hollywood Praha”, from when she went to Prague around 20 years ago. I got to hear stories about where I am going from someone who has been there first hand, which was a good experience.

Each one of my family members wrote me a letter to take with me to Prague. This is going to be something that I think will really help me when I am feeling homesick. Instead of writing that they will miss me, they decided to write me words of encouragement, which is something I appreciate when I’m feeling down.

Overall, I am so excited to leave tomorrow. I’m excited for the experiences and learning opportunities, the people I am going to meet, and all the places I am going to see. All of this being said, I am anxious. I have never been away from my family and friends for this long, so this is going to be hard. I know I am going to have hard days where I am sad and miss home, but I look forward to the days that I am exploring and am able to remember that I will be home soon, so I have to enjoy the moments I have in Prague!

Even-though today has been a long, crazy day, at least I’m packed!

I look forward to sharing my study abroad journey with all of you and can’t wait to write again when I get to Prague. Until then, Ahoj (Goodbye)!

Isabelle Pekarsky is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City studying political science. Her hometown is KCMO. Isabelle is spending the summer abroad with the Developing Dynamics of Democracy Program in Prague, Czech Republic. Isabelle’s goals are to attend law school after graduating in May 2020 and possibly pursue work in international relations. She believes her experiences studying abroad will help her learn more about democracies in other countries.

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.