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Goodbye Spain!

Currently, I’m sitting in a very uncomfortable chair in the Madrid Airport waiting for my plane to arrive. I’m going home ya’ll! As amazing as this trip to Spain was, I am so ready to be home and eat chipotle in air conditioning. I feel like living in a different country should have been tougher than it was, but I think I had such a good support group in both my host family and friends that I never really got too homesick. And thanks to Facetime I could talk to my boyfriend whenever I wanted! As far as my Spanish goes, I would say that I definitely understand better and I can get by in conversations with a few key phrases. Personally, I think I learned more at my host family’s house and walking around Granada than I did at school. In class everything is structured and organized, but when you’re having dinner with your family there is no outline or slideshow. You jump around and make jokes. The dinner table was where my Spanish was tested the most.

I finished off my month and a half stay with a trip to Valencia with some friends. We took the overnight bus on the last day of classes and stayed for the past 4 days. There, we visited 2 vineyards, went to the beach, and walked around downtown. It was a perfect way to end the summer!

I would 100% recommend that everyone study abroad in college. Is there any other time in your future that you think you could live in a foreign country for a semester long? Eventually, we’re all going to get “real” jobs and only be able to travel for a week or 2 at a time. So pick up a few extra shifts, cut back on the Starbucks, make it work, and take the leap. No one ever regrets the adventures they take. I sure don’t.


Megan Schwindler is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying English Literature and Spanish. Megan is spending the summer abroad with the UMKC Spanish Program in Granada, Spain.

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.

UP….UP…. AND YOU ARE IN THE HIGHLANDS

The ocean

Want to know the most beautiful place on planet earth? It is the Highlands of Scotland! Greenery surrounds you almost everywhere you look and the water is restless, but stunning.

Just a small glimpse into the beautiful Highlands

There is always a hanging mist in the Highlands in Scotland and I admit it is really cold here, but if you bundle up and brave the cold it is a sight worth seeing. We took a boat into the Highlands and I have never been on a cruise ship, but that is what I imagined it would look like. It was huge and luxurious with a cafe. I was able to relax for a little bit and enjoy the ocean. On this trip to the highlands we are visiting the Isle of Lewis and the Isle of Harris. There are many monuments here and the start of our journey in the highlands we went to the Butt of Lewis. You read that right. I said the Butt of Lewis (don’t google or you may get some weird images). It is the end of the Island of Lewis and there are cliffs high up that we got to look off and stare at the ocean. I stared at the sea gulls circle around trying to get the fish and there was a seal popping his head out of the water daring the sea gulls to come closer. The water crashed into the rocks angrily and the vastness of the ocean is enough to make the largest person feel small.

There was a lighthouse behind the cliffs and it was everything I imagined it would be. I felt at home here and never wanted to leave. But we made our way back to our Hostel for the night where nine of the girls in my class here all stay in a hostel room together. It was so much fun, it felt like a slumber party! The next morning we had class things to clear up, so we gave our speeches in the hostel. This trip has taught us all how to be flexible and roll with the punches! It has been a very fun experience seeing what our journey will bring us next. The second day we made our way to the Isle of Harris where we stopped at an old town where we learned how tweed blankets and scarves are made. It was interesting to watch and the people there were very kind. A nice man explained everything to us and left nothing but happy feelings in my heart. I will definitely be visiting that town again.

The mighty and powerful stones

Next, we made our way to the Calanais stones which were tall, mighty, and mysterious. These stones are mysterious and no one knows exactly why there are there. After the stones we made our way to the beach and at the beach I got to see a HIGHLAND COW (pronounced coo). If you have been following my blogs you know I am a farm girl and all I wanted this whole trip was to see a Highland cow and get a picture with it! I finally got it and my dreams have been fulfilled.

My baby Highland cow. I FINALLY GOT A PICTURE!!

We then made our way back to the hostel and all in all. The highlands were pretty amazing. As always, may adventure find you… even if it is so far north that it doesn’t get dark at night.


Kylie Wilson is a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Nursing. She is spending the summer term abroad with the UMKC Honors Program in Scotland. Kylie is from small town Helena, Missouri and hopes to be a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit nurse in the future. She has a pet cow named Betsy whom she loves dearly.

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.

Eat Up

This was one of the streets in Newport. On the left is one of the Scottish museums and on the right (which you can’t see) is a bunch of shops. The streets are all made of cobblestone, which you will find throughout all of Edinburgh.

I set aside the homework for the day and went out to go shopping with some friends in my study abroad group. After a few hours we all had worked up an appetite from all the money we had spent and the miles of walking probably had something to do with it too.

We found ourselves in a part of Scotland called Newtown, which had more expensive shops and glamorously dressed people. We stopped at this vegetarian place called Hendersons. It was a cafe, salad bar, and restaurant all wrapped into one. We decided to do some fine dining that night and sat in the restaurant portion of the building. This was the first sit down restaurant any of us had been to while in Scotland.

The restaurant had a kitschy, homey feeling about it. It was dimly lighted with a flame candle in the center of each table. There were also fresh daisies in a vase along with a silver bucket full of silverware. On the far edge of the table was a little wooden square that held the drink and dessert menu. The tables and chairs were wooden, some painted a soft, baby blue color and others left with its natural pine, wood color. On the wall across from where I was sitting, was a painting of people out on the farm. Overall, the restaurant had a warm, cozy feeling to it that allowed me to relax and forget about time.

Once my eyes adjusted to the dimmer lighting, I looked at the menu. It was short and sweet. I was skeptical at first of going to a vegetarian restaurant as I tend to associate vegetarians with eating weird vegetables. And from looking at the menu there were a lot of things I couldn’t pronounce or even knew what they were. One of the items on the menu was Hasselback Aubergines. We all looked at each other like, “what’s an aubergine?” We googled it and it turns out it’s just eggplant.

This was the entire food menu at Hendersons. There weren’t many options to choose from.

One of my friends was daring and ordered the Hasselback Aubergines and the waitress asked us if we knew what it was. We told her “eggplant! We googled it.” She laughed and thought it was funny and explained that a lot of people come in asking what it is.

I decided on the Lasagna of the Day (which was vegetable lasagne) with potato wedges and green salad. I was starving and it was the only item on the menu I could fully pronounce and sounded safe, so I went for it.

This was my vegetable lasagna, salad, and potato wedges. So far I have found that Scotland’s salads don’t have dressing on them nor offer a dressing.

When the food arrived my mouth was watering. My plate was full of delicious looking food. A fresh, crisp salad on one side. Two giant potato wedges on the other. And a nice, big rectangular piece of lasagne. I dove in and took a big bite of my vegetable lasagne and boy was it good. I couldn’t tell you exactly what was in it since I couldn’t see much in the dim lighting, nor did I want to look close enough because if I saw a weird looking vegetable I would freak myself out.  So I blissfully and blindly ate my enormous plate of delicious food until I couldn’t eat anymore.

When everyone’s plate was clear the waitress came back and asked us all if we would like dessert. We all eagerly nodded our heads yes. The dessert in Scotland, I’m finding, is just too good to pass up. I got their blackberry pie and it was yummy. It was just the right amount of sweetness and the crust was soft, just how I like it.

This pie was deliciously sweet! The strawberry jam on the side was out of this world.

When we were done we got up from the table and went into the salad bar portion of the building where we had to pay. It was right next to the restaurant, just up a few small steps. There the waitress split up the check by asking us what items we would like to pay for and that was it.

There were quite a few differences I noticed in Scotland’s sit down restaurant than in the United States’. First, the atmosphere was calming and there wasn’t the feeling of being rushed to get us our food and get us out and on our merry way. I felt like I could have sat down there forever and no one would have minded. There was no rush or hurry in the service either. It was like everything was at a slower pace so you could enjoy your time in peace. Also, the waitress didn’t come to the table every five minutes checking to see if we needed anything else. The only times we saw her was when ordering drinks, to order food, once to see how everything was (when we all had finished), and ask about dessert.

If I was in the States eating at this restaurant, most would consider it poor service. The waitress hardly came by, the water wasn’t refilled and so on. Being a waitress myself, I know what Americans expect when eating out, and this was not it. We tend to always want the waitress in sight, glasses filled to the top, prompt delivery, etc. However, it was nice to not have the waitress around so often.  I got lost in time just talking, hanging out with friends, and enjoying great food. There was no rush and expectations from the waitress and it was refreshing.

Also, paying was at our own leisure. When we were ready, we got up to go pay instead of waiting for the checks to be delivered, swiped and returned. There also wasn’t any spot for a tip nor was a tip “required.” By the cash register, there was a small vase for tips that looked like would go to everyone and not just that one waitress you had. I felt like nothing was expected, you could enjoy your time and everyone was very kind.

I thoroughly enjoyed my dining experience at Hendersons and it is one of my favorite places I have eaten so far; I would definitely go back. Likewise, I loved how the service wasn’t rushed as I felt I enjoyed my time dining out much better.

I encourage you to go to a sit-down restaurant and try a new food you would never have tried before. Happy eating!

-Nicole Wilhelm


Nicole Wilhelm is a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Nursing. Nicole is spending the month of July in many different cities in Scotland with the UMKC Honors College Program in Scotland. Nicole is involved in UMKC’s Campus Ambassadors, Swim and Dive Club, BHS Society, and Student Nursing Association.

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 mighty and powerful…. Ocean!

I am a little ol’ farm girl as I have said before. I had never been anywhere before this trip and that includes the ocean unfortunately. But I finally got to see the Ocean last week!!! Let me tell you I have never seen anything more beautiful and powerful.

The beautiful ocean!

I was immediately captivated and in love with the ocean. It was cold out and the water was dark, but I was still in love and I have made myself a promise to save all of my money and go to a warmer beach next summer! My classmates and I walked around the beach collecting rocks, shells, and memories. We laughed as many of us had to climb or rocks to get close to the ocean and quite a few of us fell a few times (I may or may not be the person who fell repeatedly, but we won’t talk about that). One of my classmates found a dead jellyfish on the beach that must have gotten stuck when the tide rose up and couldn’t escape when the tide went back down.

The poor jellyfish we found.

We were also had the most perfect view of a castle ruin in the background of our ocean adventure and what made the ocean experience even more fun was the people I was experiencing it with. My classmates are so supportive and sweet. They make every adventure fun and worth it.

The castle ruins.

I am very grateful I get to experience some of these amazing “firsts” of my life with them. A few of us sat on a rock for a while and just enjoyed the amazing view of the ocean in front of us. The air was a little crisp, but we didn’t care. We watched the amazing power of ocean waves crashing into the rocks and felt how truly small we are and how beautiful the world is. If you are in need of a humbling experience go to the ocean and just stare at how large it is. It makes you feels so small and your troubles even smaller. I hope all of you get to see the ocean someday and get to adventure the world with some amazing people like I do. Good luck and may adventure find you… and may it help you find yourself.


Kylie Wilson is a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Nursing. She is spending the summer term abroad with the UMKC Honors Program in Scotland. Kylie is from small town Helena, Missouri and hopes to be a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit nurse in the future. She has a pet cow named Betsy whom she loves dearly.

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 Guide to Scottish Food

The best breakfast I have ever had.

Hearty. That is the best word I can come up with to describe Scottish cuisine. I love the food here so much. I would stay in Scotland forever just for the food. The breads are all fresh. The fruits are all sweet and the deserts are out of this world. Don’t even get me started on how good their jams are. I am not a fan of their meats, but I don’t really like to eat meat back in the United States either. I am going to give you a guide today on what you MUST try if you are ever in Scotland and some great foods to try if you are a vegetarian! First, eat the scones. They are phenomenal. I have had a scone everyday for the past week because the are so good. You can put butter on it or eat it plain. But I think they are best with the raspberry jam here. The raspberry Jam is so good I could just eat that without the scone! Next, you must eat some pie while you are in Scotland. The fruits here are so good and fresh in the summer months, so a fresh slice of pie with a cup of coffee is a great way to spend an afternoon in Scotland.

My lovely pie and coffee.

It is a bit colder here in Scotland even in the summer months, so a nice cup of steaming hot coffee is nice on crisp breezy mornings. Make sure you find yourself in one of the many coffee shops around Scotland to enjoy a nice cup of coffee and the view of scenery around you. Another must have is Scottish shortbread cookies.

My half eaten Scottish Shortbread cookie! It was too good to wait to take a picture!

They are delicious with some of that raspberry jam I keep going on and on about or you can have them by themselves they are still just as great! The cheese here for sandwiches or Mac’ and cheese is amazing as well. It is very rich and worth a try. The vegetarian Lasagna here was not my forte, but my friends who are vegetarian loved it and the Risotto as well. Scottish scrambled eggs are also a must try. I ate all of my eggs up and I am going to have eggs again (and again, and again) before I leave Scotland! But to warn you, they do not refrigerate their eggs here… I went to the grocery store and the eggs are just sitting in a random food isle. I tried them though and they were still very tasty and I am still alive, so I promise you it will be okay!  Another Scottish staple that you must have is of course the famous Haggis. If you do not know what Haggis let me explain. It is diced up and seasoned sheep INSIDE of a sheep’s stomach. Now here me out, it is their national dish and it isn’t as bad as it sounds. Also if you are a vegetarian there is vegetarian haggis that you can try that is pretty tasty as well. These are just some of my favorites since I have been here, but feel free to branch out and try something new and different. You never know a new dish may become one of your favorites, or if not you may get a funny story out of it. Good luck and may cuisine adventure find you.


Kylie Wilson is a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Nursing. She is spending the summer term abroad with the UMKC Honors Program in Scotland. Kylie is from small town Helena, Missouri and hopes to be a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit nurse in the future. She has a pet cow named Betsy whom she loves dearly.

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.

Travel is fun but rest, food, and homesick cures are important!

Last weekend my classmates and I went to Český Krumlov, Czech Republic.  At that point I’d been in Prague for a little over a week and had been busy every day since (including an 8 mile hike the weekend before).  I was excited for our trip and optimistic about my energy level for the adventure.  Oh how naive I was. Now, don’t get me wrong.  The trip was beautiful.  Some examples of the beauty.

We hiked up to these castle ruins directly from the train station.
Then we hiked from the ruins to Český Krumlov. Beautiful, right?! (SO tired by this point.)

My classmate Val and I had a mission.  Must find fried cheese.  Fried cheese is a Czech thing.  You HAVE to get fried cheese if and or when you visit.  We HAD to find it.  Our mission began around 8.  We left our beautiful bed and breakfast and headed toward the many restaurants we passed on our way to the hotel.

Our bed and breakfast is the adorable yellow building between the two adorable blue buildings.
The view from outside our hotel.  Love!

We made our way back over the bridge into the middle of the town.  I thought to myself,”This is the Europe I signed up for.”  I was overcome with excitement that I was exactly where I wanted to be! (forgetting that all I had to eat that day was two almond bars, yogurt, and a bag of chips…)

The town center. Complete with a phone booth!!

 

Phone booth! (I was way too excited about this.)

Eventually we remembered how hungry we were and how far we’d wandered from the hotel not finding fried cheese!

I’m so hungry-excited!

So, my classmate Val, messages our professor who recommended a place.  Where was this place, you ask?  Here…

Recognize these view?

Yes.  There was fried cheese in the restaurant below our room.  At this point it was about 9:30 and I was feeling the lack of food setting in.  I hoped that my experience with slow service in Prague did not translate to Český Krumlov.  I was wrong.  Just after the sunset Val and I got our fried cheese!

Victory is ours!!

We ate, laughed, shared stories about our lives, and awkwardly interacted with our server.

After dinner, around 10:30, I was fading fast and needed to sleep.  I didn’t quite feel like my usual self, but I thought all I needed was a good night’s sleep.  I happily made it through the first part of the day, seeing art and old telescopes at an old monastery. (I am an astrophysics major.)

Telescope used to look at the sun!

Fun, right?  For a while on this early 7AM day I enjoyed the art, the history, and the physics relics.  After another hike back down to Český Krumlov and up to another castle (twice) I hit an emotional wall.  I needed a break.  I needed to be alone.  I needed to do nothing.  So, I broke from the group, quietly sobbed, and found a calm little cafe.  Through my tears I timidly ordered an espresso and a tiramisu from a barista with an extremely uncomfortable look on her face.

The remains of my sorrowful but delicious snack.

We eventually got on a bus to return to Prague.  I cried half of the way there, missing home, and messaging my friends and my boyfriend.  After words of love and support from the people I love the most I felt a bit better.  New mission: Rest when I need rest!  Now, 4 days later, I feel back to normal.  Plans for this weekend?  I will take it easy and stay in Prague.

Also, when you’re home sick, find a Starbucks.

Homesickness cure.

Lauren Higgins is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, studying Physics with emphasis in Astronomy.  Lauren is spending the summer abroad at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.

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.

My first week in Prague I got lost…and so should you!

Oh my how time flies.  I’ve been in Prague for one week to the day!  It feels like I’ve been here just a moment and a month at the same time.  I’m exhausted, excited, and humbled.  I’ve seen the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and so much more!  So far my favorite outing was getting lost looking for Charles Bridge after venturing out into the city on my own.  I was nervous to go out alone but I did it anyway and reaped the benefits of getting lost in a new city.  I thought I knew exactly where I was headed.  I rode the underground public transportation enough to know my way around, or so I thought.  Now, a few pictures for a frame of reference for you all.  Here is Charles Bridge:

The REAL Charles Bridge.

Apparently more than one building as a roof like this….

The Not Charles Bridge.

If you look closely at the photo below you can see the Not Charles Bridge off in the distance.

Just over the rooftops on the left is where I was headed.

After reading signs in Czech that I barely understood I realized that the sun was in the wrong part of the sky for where I thought I should be.  Fortunately I was in an area filled with tourist information stands.  A very nice Czech man drew lines on my map so that I could find my way to Charles Bridge.  “Hooray!” I thought.  “I’ll surely find it now.”  Not quite.

The streets in Prague are not on a grid and many of the streets in the tourist areas do not have street signs like I’m used to seeing in the states.  Their streets look like this.

Confusing, right?!

It just looks like big mess to me.  So, I got lost again but this time I paid attention to the sun and I looked for the tram lines that run through the city on tracks of which I was familiar.  Within a few minutes I found a land mark I knew and eventually found my way to the REAL Charles Bridge!  I spent the rest of the day with my friends and with a new sense of self accomplishment that I wouldn’t have found if I didn’t get lost. (Mental note: Pay attention to the placement of the sun in the sky.) I wonder what lessons week two will have in store for me!


Lauren Higgins is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, studying Physics with emphasis in Astronomy.  Lauren is spending the summer abroad at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.

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.

Kate (the Great) Date

My roommate, Kate, and I get along very well. We love the television and book series Outlander, are are enamored with Downton Abbey, and are major art history nerds. That being said, we are in an art history class together on Thursdays at 9:00 am. Our courses are 2.5 hours long, but only occur once a week. In these classes, we learn about various works and then go on-site to see them firsthand. Last week, for example, we went to the Bargello museum and viewed some of Michelangelo’s early sculptures we discussed not thirty minutes previous.

After class is over, Kate and I are both hungry. A shared look passes between us and we know that we’re about to hunt for something good. Two or three weeks ago, we ventured across the Arno river, about thirty minutes away, to get legendary American bagels. I feel so un-Italian when I admit that I get American food once a week, but then I remember the variety available back in the States. It isn’t uncommon to eat Mexican food one night for dinner, but feast on Chinese food the next. This fact makes me feel better, and also a little spoiled in the way we get such a mish-mash of cultures at home. Anyway, we chose different bagel sandwiches and cried a little inside.

Last week, we went to another American place and got ourselves some brunch at a local cafe specializing in American breakfast foods. Although it is American food, Italians frequent here, too. Our waiter, therefore, knew both Italian and English. Most shops in Florence employ people who know basic English as this city is filled with tourists and study abroad students. English is generally the common language for transactions, unless, of course, you are Italian. It is nice to be in a restaurant where Italian is the predominant language, and this little cafe is just like that. It is called La Vespa and is charming and quaint; similar to local brunch places in Kansas City. I had a breakfast burrito and Kate had a traditional egg, bacon, and toast combination platter. Again, we cried inside at the taste of home. It was absolutely delicious.

Afterwards, we went to a cafe called La Menagere. Again, this place is frequented by many locals and visitors alike. It is a cafe, bistrot, restaurant, flower shop, and even has a space for live music. Needless to say, it is large and beautiful. It faintly reminds me of Anthropologie from home. There are colorful couches interspersed with real tables and chairs for seating, and there is a lower level in addition to an heated patio outside. Although laptops and homework set us apart as Americans, we brought both to cross some schoolwork off our agendas. At normal bars (in Italy, a cafe/coffeeshop is a bar), one goes to the front to order and generally takes the espresso or drink there, if by yourself, but this cafe has waitresses milling around to take your order. We both ordered cappuccinos and settled in to work on our assignments.

That’s just a taste of what my Thursdays are like with Kate. She’s a marvelous lady, enjoys alone time just as much as I do, and is one of the kindest, most understanding humans I’ve ever met. Abby and Kate Dates on Thursdays are something I look forward to every week. Making friends in Florence was something I was nervous about, but having a roommate turn into a dear friend is a relief. I am grateful for this experience and for Kate!

toodles peanut butter…hello nutella!

In two days I will be on a private jet to Paris. And by private jet, I mean a plane with 376 seats. I’m not a huge fan of sitting for 8+ hours so I made sure to get a seat by the aisle so I can take frequent walks to the bathroom. I also have a small bladder:P But that’s enough about me… let’s get to the important stuff, such as why the name of my blog (slash soon-to-be novel on The New York Times best seller list) is “nutella abroad.
 
First question I’m sure you’re all wondering: “Are you like totally obsessed with Nutella?
 
Nooooooo……….. I’m just very, very fond of it. 
 
Yes, I am aware that the wonderful land of America has Nutella. I am also aware that Costco sells jars almost as big as my head! BUT, there is something about the Nutella in Europe that makes me giddy. It’s just better. Like the Coke. 
 
Accept my words and book a flight there so you can experience the best thing since sliced bread for yourself. 
(It goes great on sliced bread, by the way.)
 
For those Nutella virgins who have never tasted the mixture of hazelnut, skim milk, cocoa and many other ingredients I don’t have memorized, do you live under a rock with Patrick the Starfish? Probably.
 
Anyway, second question you’re probably wondering: “Are you really flying all the way to Paris just for Nutella?”
 
Great question, thanks for asking!
Kanye West flies to Belgium for wood so why can’t I fly to Europe for Nutella? Just kidding, I swear on my dead fish’s grave that I am going to get an education too!
 
RIP Henry.
Nutella and knowledge…what could be better? Nothing.
 
Aside from eating NutellaI am spending two days in Paris with my fabulous pal Isabel and then we are taking a two hour-long train ride to Lyon, France. We will spend six weeks in Lyon where we will live with a host family and study French. After the program, I will be backpacking around town with some friends. We will start in Paris and make our way to Amsterdam, Croatia, and Italy. In other words, wherever the wind takes us… as long as the wind follows our semi-tight itinerary since we already bought train tickets 😛 
 
My fellow backpackers, Isabel, Jake, Rebecca, and I have decided that our trip motto is #wingingit. I’d like to think we are the perfect combination of spontaneity and being overly prepared.
Example: Rebecca is bringing anti-wrinkle spray; I’m bringing a first-aid kit and oatmeal; Jake is bringing his MacBook; and I’m betting my right arm that Isabel is bringing cleaning supplies, shower shoes, and a mini vacuum.
Yet, we have found ourselves saying “oh,yeah…we’ll figure that out when we get there.”
hence…#wingingit.   
 
Well, I’m sorry to leave on such short notice but I just remembered that I have to go get a cavity filled (thanks Nutella). Stay tuned for (mostly appropriate) shenanigans, Nutella-utopia, and my French-y experiences. 
Peace. Love. Nutella.
 
Au revoir!
 P.S., if anyone knows where the French male models hang out, let me know. 

6 Things I Learned Studying Abroad in Morocco

I have been in America for about three days now, and I am still trying to process my experience and push through the jet lag. If I can say anything about the past three and a half months, it would be that it was a learning experience. So here is a list of lessons I took from Morocco and some representative anecdotes to accompany.

1) How to eat bananas:

I have always been a picky eater, so I knew that studying abroad would push me right out of that comfort zone. There are obviously bananas in America, but I have just chosen not to eat them and opt for the abundance of other fruits. In Morocco, for whatever reason, they became my snack of choice and at times I ended up eating up to three a day.

But bananas are not the only cuisine that expanded my palate. Morocco is famous for it’s couscous, served every Friday. It was my favorite meal by far, and honestly the couscous alone is worth the 8 hour plane ride (remember, I am a picky eater. This is saying a lot).

The final food I fell in love with in Morocco is falafel. Falafel is a Middle Eastern food, but I think the Arabic traditions crossed the sea quite nicely.

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2) How to read a simple sentence in Arabic

Before starting beginning Arabic with Professor Driss, I didn’t know that Arabic was read from right to left. I can now read a simple paragraph. I was amazed at my progress throughout the course – from learning the alphabet (all 28 letters and short vowels!) to being able to sound out words, and then being able to read and memorize words. The process was like being in kindergarten again, and it was really the most special kind of learning. By November, I was able to order food and items from vendors, introduce myself and make friends with people on the street!

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3) How to haggle (NOT)

So the interesting thing about stores in Morocco is that there is almost never a price tag. This doesn’t mean that the item is free (usually) – it means that the price is at the discretion of the vendor, and is dependent on your ability to bargain. Unfortunately, I never mastered this skill and found myself paying 490 dirhams (equivalent of about $60) for spices.

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4) The importance of others

Moroccan culture is very social. It places a lot of importance on greetings and meals. I am by nature an introvert, but during my time studying abroad, I feel as though that tendency was challenged. I had to rely heavily on my roommates and directors just to orient myself in the new environment of Meknes, and to cope with challenges that presented themselves (which were daily. Things I take for granted like finding transportation or taking myself to the doctor were not immediately apparent or available). This extremely social and generous atmosphere, as opposed to the extremely individualistic nature of American society is one of the most immediately striking differences.

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5) Insha’alla/ God willing/ إن شاء الله

This is perhaps the first and most important Arabic phrase one learns when studying abroad in Morocco. I talked about it a bit in my last post – the “pace of life” that we were all warned about but didn’t realize until fully immersed. Yes, it is common knowledge that Morocco is an Islamic country. Looking out over Meknes from my roof, there is no view that lacks the towers of mosques, and the daily call to prayer is heard every day, five times a day, and women do wear hijab. But more than that, the theme “insha’alla” or “God willing” is always guiding everyday life. There is no rush, no worry, and little planning and organization. There is always time to stop and greet someone on the street.  Daily coffees and meals are social events. Things happen in their own time – as God wills it.

6) Travel, and what it is like to non western countries

I am no stranger to travel. I have traveled alone, internationally, and for long periods of time. However, I have not traveled outside of western countries or what is classified as traditional study abroad locations. Before going to North Africa, I thought I would immediately fit right in, adapt, and have a seamless and joyful transition from American culture to Moroccan culture. In fact, I thought that I would be able to fit in anywhere in the world I desired to travel. Living in Morocco taught me that this idea was naive. I learned that it’s OK to not necessarily feel like I belong in a country. I came to the conclusion that countries are like people – some people become friends, some people become lovers, others I’ll live with, and some people are best in brief encounters.

I love Morocco, and if given the chance, I would return. This semester has been one of the most transformative of my life; my experiences were memorable, exciting, and challenging. I am also now curious if how I would enjoy travel to the Middle East or Asia

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