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Hacks to Navigating Italy

 

A weekend day trip to Verona, Italy.

As a first time European traveler when I moved to Italy in January, public transportation was a whole new concept for me. I had to learn the hard way how to navigate it. When I first arrived in Bologna, I attempted to navigate the 30-minute commute into the city from my hotel. This seemingly simple journey may or may not have started with me standing by a sign that I thought was a bus stop for longer than I would like to admit until I finally built up the courage to ask someone for directions. I may be a bit more seasoned of a traveler now since I first got here in January, but that is not without the help of several great apps and the patience of many locals. Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to include a few of my favorites and why I liked them!

Related image1) Moovit was a game-changer for my intracity everyday commutes! This app was perfect for navigating the local buses. I really liked how the app would give me step by step directions during my trip and it would even remind me when my stops were approaching if I had locked my phone and zoned out to my music!

Related image

2) Omio (previously known as GoEuro) is the best app for Intercity commutes! This App searches flights, trains, and buses all at once so you can easily compare the best way to get there for you! An additional bonus is that you can adjust the currency in which you pay for things. It saved me a lot of money on those pesky conversion rates and penalties from my bank.

3) Trenitalia is specific to traveling in Italy, but this app allowed me to purchase my train tickets directly from here. I am notorious for losing things and when you buy the train ticket directly at the train station you must keep track of this little piece of paper and remember to validate it. This app took out both of those steps and was conveniently located in the app. An added bonus was that your ticket could be added to your Apple Wallet for even more convenience.

4) Last but definitely not least, this app was also useful for intercity travels! If I had a weekend trip in mind and I had planned it well in advance, booking my train tickets from Italo saved me a lot of money. These trains travel at high-velocity making trips quick and convenient. However, the catch is that the longer you wait to buy your ticket, the more expensive it is. Fun fact: this company is actually American owned!

 

I hope some of this information helps you all from learning the hard way as I did! Until then, Buon Viaggio!

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Olivia Weaver is a junior at the University of Missouri–Kansas City pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry, a minor in Psychology on a Pre-Dental track. Olivia will be studying in Bologna, Italy for her spring 2019 semester through the University of Bologna Exchange program. Olivia is excited for the opportunity to experience and appreciate different customs and traditions of those across the globe.

 

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.

 

Check out these other study abroad blogs for ideas and inspiration:

·         ISA Student Blog – https://isastudentblog.wordpress.com/

·         Gilman Global Experience – https://gilmanprogram.wordpress.com/

Small City Dreams

Ye gods but Oxford is beautiful. I’ve been here for one whole hour and I am already in love. I’m staying in the dorms in Magdalen College; it’s the one with its own deer park. Can you imagine UMKC having a deer park in the middle of Kansas City? That would be wild. Don’t get me wrong, I love our quad, but there’s a distinct lack of deer. 

London’s West End has some great shows!

It is SO much quieter here than in central London. I had to stay at a hotel near Tottenham Court Road for the first couple days, just to get situated with my IFSA program. London is BUSY BUSY BUSY GO GO GO!!! There’s a constant flow and irregular heartbeat to the city that was very new to me. I can completely understand why people choose to make it their home. The tall buildings and narrow winding streets hid treasures around every corner. We took a VERY long walking tour and I got to see things I’d only read about in Dumas books. But, as I’ve lived in Kansas City for most of my life, it was a bit too much close quarters for me. I’m VERY glad to have learned that about myself before I committed to living in London or a similar big city. 

The deer get right up close to my window!

Oxford, on the other hand, is so far exactly what I wanted it to be. The buildings are shorter, the birds are louder, and there is grass to lay in. Also, some castles and the Hogwarts dining hall. But, I’m really ready to just settle into school here. The tutorial system of education is new to me and I am greatly looking forward to experiencing it. I have also brought a half empty suitcase that I’m looking forward to filling with books!

 

 


Ashley Silver is a senior at the University of Missouri — Kansas City studying English Literature. Ashley will spend the summer semester abroad with the IFSA-Butler program in Oxford, England.

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.

What Even is Time?

I have no idea how long a month is. I mean, I know how long a month is. But I don’t know how long a month is. Time is weird and it doesn’t make sense to me. There are only three times: right now, the far off future, and never. Hence why I’m sitting in the airport writing this blog post like I should’ve done a week ago. My friends keep telling me a month is a really long time, that I’ll have SO much time to see EVERYTHING in England. I just keep telling them I have homework. Because, again, time is hard and I do not have a good grasp on how long a month is. Also, I’m taking 11 credits in one month, which genuinely seems like a lot. 

I know we are supposed to talk about our plane trips, but… ok so from MCI to Georgia was like, an hour and a half? And that’s how far my cousin’s house in Iowa is. So Georgia is a close as Iowa. The flight to England is 8hrs and that’s how far Colorado was, so England is like going to Estes Park for me. 

I guess what I’m getting at is: if you have a study abroad trip, don’t worry about how long you’ll be there or how far away from home it is. Time and distance are completely meaningless and incomprehensible. 


Ashley Silver is a senior at the University of Missouri — Kansas City studying English Literature. Ashley will spend the summer semester abroad with the IFSA-Butler program in Oxford, England.

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.

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.

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.

Dear Future Globetrotter

Flamenco show in Granada, Spain

Spain is amazing. Traveling is such an adventure. Studying abroad is a gift. I truly cherish the months that I have had the privilege of living in this beautiful country and all that it has taught me. As the semester comes to an end, a handful of consejos (advice) come to mind that I think are important for anyone about to embark on their own journey abroad. These are some things I have learned (in no particular order) during my time in Granada, Spain. Everyone is unique and has their own story, struggles, and journey abroad, so they may not apply to every person out there. But, I do think what I have observed and learned is very useful and I hope you find it to be as well.

1. Make every effort to get out of the American bubble. You are going to make new friends in your program and in your classes, and that is wonderful! But odds are most, if not all, of those people will be from the United States, which means you will mostly be speaking English and it will be more difficult to meet locals. This happened to me, and while I love the friends I’ve made, I didn’t meet many locals. It was a lot more challenging than I expected. I spoke English more than I imagined I would when at the start of the semester I really believed the majority of the language I used would be Spanish. All I’m saying is to find a balance and be intentional about meeting the locals in your city.

2. Don’t wait until you have the perfect friend(s)/group to do something you are interested in… Similarly, don’t be afraid to do things alone. The biggest example of this for me was when I took a solo trip to Manchester, England. I went for the sole purpose of visiting the Chatsworth House, which is Mr. Darcy’s home in the newest movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. I really hadn’t found anyone that was interested in going there, so I went alone. It was a very challenging experience but one I really cherish. I’m the type of person that loves to share experiences with others, so at times during the trip, I felt very alone. However, this also meant I got to learn even more about myself: what I like, what I don’t like, how I travel without outside influence, and so much more. It’s okay to do things alone and you’ll even grow from it!

3. If you’re abroad to learn and practice a new language, don’t shy away from continuing to speak in that language if the person you’re talking to responds in English. This happened to me far more often that I would’ve liked. It’s usually in situations where the person I’m speaking with is in a hurry and I’m taking too long to get my point across (like ordering food at a restaurant). It sometimes made me question my Spanish abilities. Were they switching to English because I wasn’t speaking Spanish well enough? I was there to learn so I wouldn’t let that stop me from speaking. Who knows? Maybe they want an opportunity to practice their English. Just keep practicing! You’re there to learn.

4. If you see something potentially interesting or are curious about something around a corner, through an archway, up/down stairs, go explore! You won’t regret taking those few extra steps and seconds to check it out. Even if it doesn’t end up being that noteworthy, you won’t leave the country wondering what could’ve been. Plus, you just never know what you will find!

5. Learn how to use public transportation systems; it’s a great feeling when you get it down. I still struggle with it at times, but Google Maps is a lifesaver. Keep in mind, some countries are easier to navigate than others with this mode of transport, but you’ll get the hang of it.

6. Front load the time you’re living in the country by doing a lot of activities, exploring, eating new foods, meeting locals and new friends. Time really does fly when you study abroad and you don’t want finals week to suddenly be upon you and you still have so much on the table. It’s not fun to be studying for finals and still trying to cram a few more activities in. It just it makes it hard to enjoy it all. I was a victim of this… the procrastinator in me really revealed itself this semester. Don’t wait!!

7. Just take it all in! Enjoy every second and find special moments in each day. I know this is very general, but there is so much to discover and take in. Make the most of your time!

Thank you for joining me this semester and for taking the time to read about my adventures! I hope that those who are planning to study abroad have a wonderful experience. And if you are still on the fence about whether you should go or not, I have one piece of advice for you: do it! You won’t regret it.

The Alcázar in Segovia, Spain

 

Picos de Europa, northern Spain

 


Camille Meeks is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Psychology and Languages & Literature with an emphasis in Spanish. Camille will spend the Fall semester studying in Granada, Spain through International Studies Abroad as a Truman Good Neighbor Scholar.

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.

The final flight home

After hopping on flight after flight, both domestic and international, I could have sworn that I had this airport thing down to a science.

Unfortunately, I have discovered that TSA agents and a bag search can distract even the experienced traveler. It was quick and painless, with only a second look at the dozens of euro coins in a little bag.

It was, however, enough to make me completely forget what I’d been doing and therefore cheerfully walk away from security — and my laptop.

If reading that makes you cringe, don’t worry. This story gets better. I patiently waited outside the gate for my flight, which I had arrived two hours early. I made friends with a young couple and their adorable child, and eventually was chatting with a whole line of people boarding the plane about the age at which children become unreasonably sassy.

Halfway through the walkway towards my plane, I had a sudden epiphany about why my backpack felt oddly lighter. I quickly bid farewell to my line buddies, and headed towards the desk attendant in hopes of a miracle.

As I’m sure you can guess, I was not, in fact, important enough to hold the plane for as I raced to security to get my laptop.

The bright side is that they immediately re-booked me for a later flight without charge.

The dark side is that I had to wait seven more hours for said flight.

Never again will I leave security without double-checking that I grabbed all of my belongings, no matter how intensely the TSA agents scrutinize my bag.


Bridget McSorley is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City double majoring in Business Administration and Languages and Literature. Bridget spent the academic year abroad with the University of Lyon 2 exchange program in France.

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.

One way to be a tourist

I’d like to take this moment to come out to the world as a proponent of bus tours.

Now, I’ve heard three main takes on how you’re supposed to explore a new city: There is the ultra-tourist, who is signed up for a guided tour of the entire city, with fast pass tickets and a fancy walky-talky headphone set-looking thing to keep in constant contact with the tour guide.

Then there’s the tired tourist, who follows all the big crowds of people and stands in every three-hour line he or she can find.

Finally, there’s the free spirit, who hoofs it around the city in a day and will tell you that they’ve connected with it on a personal level.

I’m not here to say that any of these is right or wrong; I’ve done a bit of each and enjoyed them all.

But I would like to say that if anyone tells you that bus tours are a waste of time, they might be doing the bus tour wrong.

Let me walk you through it. Step one, you find a bus stop with a bunch of brightly colored double decker vehicles zooming in and out, with a couple people passing out pamphlets and selling tickets.

You buy your little ticket, hop on the bus, and either pick up a set of headphones to listen to the recording, or go to the upper deck to listen to the live speaker.

Now, your tour guide is almost always going to be a sassy middle-aged man who has very loose respect for the things he’s not actually supposed to mention on the tour, so you’re going to learn a lot of interesting tidbits about the city that you’d have to comb the internet to find.

For the most part, the tour will be two to three hours, if not less. By the end, you’ll have seen most of the main tourist attractions, heard some interesting stories, and gotten a look at where all the good shopping is.

Now, depending on which kind of ticket you’ve bought, you can either hop off the bus and explore each place before catching your next ride, or you can go back to your lodging and map out a plan for which places you’d like to see in more detail, and which ones were not as interesting as you had hoped.

Bus tours may not be for everyone, but so far they have served as a nice introduction to a new city for me, and I recommend that any new traveler give it a chance.


Bridget McSorley is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City double majoring in Business Administration and Languages and Literature. Bridget spent the academic year abroad with the University of Lyon 2 exchange program in France.

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.

Go Solo

I’ve just completed five weeks of traveling on my own. Navigating transportation, staying in hostels, and, of course, seeing the sites. It was a crazy adventure and I’m telling you to do it; but not because it was all fun and laughter. Sure, there was some, but I grew the most from the moments I felt the worst.

I traveled from Glasgow to Alnwick, Durham, Stratford-Upon-Avon, London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallinn, Helsinki, and Oslo. I saw so many wonderful things and had some incredible experiences, but it was also a lot harder than I thought it would be. I am a bit of a loner usually, I don’t mind being on my own. The first thing I learned about myself was sometimes, I need someone else to make a few decisions for me. I got extremely tired of deciding where I would eat in the evenings. But now I’m a lot closer to knowing where the line is for me between being alone and having a companion.

The second thing I learned is that I really need a routine. Waking up every day and having to plan what I would do, where I would eat, etc etc etc, was fun the first two weeks but got super exhausting.

Feeling depressed and tired but still being able to go see all the things I wanted to was a really big win for me. I learned a lot in my time on my own and I’m grateful that I had the experience; though I don’t think I will do another five week solo trip.

My hostel in Stockholm, when I was really starting to feel it, had a sign in the bathroom with the quote:

“An easy life doesn’t teach us anything. In the end it’s the learning that matters; what we have learned and how we have grown.” ~Richard Bach “One”


Claire Davis graduated from University of Missouri-Kansas City studied Liberal Arts with minors in Theatre and Environmental Sustainability. Claire spent Summer 2017 finishing her degree with the UMKC Honors Summer Program in Scotland.

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.