The One Time I Try To Make a Plan

During a long four-day weekend off of classes in Buenos Aires, I decided to take advantage of the cheap flights to Santiago, Chile. This would be my first trip anywhere (let alone a new country) by myself as well as my first stay in a hostel. I booked my excursion with no plans besides my plane ticket and hostel reservation.

On Friday and Saturday, I had enjoyed simply wandering somewhat aimlessly about the city on my own during the day and then returning to the hostel at night for dinner and the (literally) daily fiesta. On Sunday morning, however, I wanted to do something more specific/planned, but less expensive than the tours most of my new hostel friends suggested. At breakfast, my new German friend Debbie told me about her plans to climb Cerro Pochoco, a “mini-mountain” accessible by Santiago public transit. This sounded perfectly accessible and affordable, so I did a little research while my phone recharged and then set off determined to climb a mountain.

After two hours navigating the Metro (subway) and colectivos (buses) to the outer limits of the city, I arrived at the end of my Google directions. Looking around, I did not see the parking lot and trailhead I had read about online. After wandering about for a bit and receiving confused, contradictory directions from two different locals (I did not have data to search the Internet for answers), I noticed a street sign labeled Calle Cerro Pochoco. I double-checked my phone and realized that Google Maps had directed me to a street named after Cerro Pochoco instead of the actual Cerro Pochoco. I was on the wrong side of the city.

A little dismayed, I began walking back towards the Metro station when lo and behold I ran into Debbie and her two friends. They had made the same mistake I had. Her friend Servi, who could use data on her phone, set a course for a new cerro to climb and invited me to come along. I agreed and we set off on the Metro together.

Through the train windows, the bright canopies of a féria caught my attention, so I left my new friends and hopped off the train at the next station. This féria was very different than those I had visited in Buenos Aires. The férias in Buenos Aires were full of artists and vendors selling crafts and homemade goods, whereas this was more like an open-air Walmart, with everything from fruits and vegetables to toilet paper, clothing and books to small electrical appliances. The best difference of all was that it was not intended for tourists. I was the only white person (and probably the only foreigner) there. Instead of tourists looking for souvenirs, I met Chileans doing their grocery shopping.

After walking about absorbing the authentic Chilean culture, I enjoyed a hearty lunch of whatever the amicable waitress recommended because I didn’t recognize anything on the menu. It was an excellent opportunity to talk to some more locals, eat affordably for the first time that weekend, and enjoy the sun and the heat after three weeks of cold in Buenos Aires.

I had noticed I small cerro in the distance and started walking off my lunch in that direction. I noticed some families and dogs climbing around and found the entrance to a rough trail. Once I reached the top, I realized just how far from downtown and how close to the Andes mountains I had wandered. Even from such a small cerro, the views were breathtaking. After catching my breath, soaking up the moment, and taking some obligatory selfies, I started heading back “home” to my hostel, completely satisfied with “lost” day.

The one time I tried to make a plan, it failed. But that mistake created my favorite day in Chile (and one of my favorites all summer) and provided an opportunity to experience a side of authentic Chilean culture far from the city center.

Amber Litteken is a freshman at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in Instrumental Music Education and minoring in Spanish Language and Literature. Amber will spend six weeks of the summer abroad with the UMKC Faculty-Led Spanish Language Summer in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a Gilman Scholar. Amber is from Breese, Illinois and plays bassoon.

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.

Unexpected Adventures

Farewell to my favorite girls.

So, here I was, sitting in the international terminal of Chicago O’Hare, hiding my tears from the two Italian men beside me.

Today was the day. The day I would leave the country for the very first time. The day I would set off on my first solo adventure before studying abroad in Scotland. In a mere six hours I was supposed to be on the Golden Circle, searching for the first breathtaking view I would paint in Iceland.

As the man at the baggage check counter handed me a torn piece of paper with a number scratched on it he simply said, “Sorry, this is all we can do for you”.  I dialed the number, explaining that I had missed my flight to Iceland due my previous plane’s delay. At the end of that phone call, I not only had 24 hours until my next flight, but the four day stopover I had been looking forward to the most had now been cut to a mere hour layover.  Instead of a window seat and nervous butterflies, I now had two Italian strangers and a broken heart.  Being that my little solo adventure was, in a way, an attempt to leave a broken heart behind, this was not a welcomed alternative.

Cutthroat games of Uno.


I quickly realized self-pity and tears were going to get me nowhere.  It was time to put on my big girl pants and find a solution. Though I hadn’t seen them in years, I had amazing family in Chicago.  After some searching, I found my aunt’s number and gave her a call. Within 45 minutes, a car full of family was at the curb of the international terminal embracing me.


Every girl needs an aunt with a background in law.


I did not get my four days in Iceland, but I got a day of laughter and love with people I had waited far too long to visit.  My lovely aunt, being the bold woman she is, called that number back and got me a whole two days in Iceland.  The next day, I was back en route for my adventure, full of love and without a lost day.




Serena Baker is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Chemistry with a minor in Entrepreneurship. Serena is spending the summer abroad with UMKC Honors Summer Program in Scotland. Taking full advantage of her trip abroad, Serena will make a stop-over in Iceland and visit Germany after the program to improve her language proficiency.

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.

Taking Time to Travel Pt. 2 & Things lost in translation

A beauty about being in France is that places to travel are so close, and it is reasonably inexpensive. My first solo voyage was using a Blablah Car. This similar to our Uber. It is like a really cheap taxi that you can use for longer trips. They call it a Blablah Car because people tend to ride in the cars and talk a lot. This method is by far the cheapest way to go. I only used this method twice to travel and at least one time was very pleasurable. This was my first time using it and I took a short trip from Lyon to Chambéry. In the car with me was the driver and two other people who had reserved a seat. They were all native French speakers, so I was a little terrified but ready to really put my French to the test. As we rode in the car I listened intently to understand the conversation. I was able to understand that our driver was a student studying at a university in Chambéry, the male in the passenger seat was a cook at a restaurant, and the girl sitting next to me was spending the summer traveling Europe. When they turned to me and spoke in English, they were quite surprised how much I was able to understand. I really wanted to give myself a pat on the back! The car ride was just 6€! To get back to Lyon after my weekend in Chambéry I took the train. It was just 19€.  This is a steal for an almost 2 hour train ride. Not to mention the view was absolutely stunning.

Chambéry mountainsMountain views Chambéry Square

The mountains views from Chambéry were amazing! In Kansas City, the mountains are a day’s drive and surely will cost you much more than I spent to reach.

Another personal trip I took was with a group of girls to Montpelier to celebrate my birthday. I heard the city was beautiful and close to the beach….and seeing the beaches of the Mediterranean was a must for me. We reserved our train tickets which was about 50€ and a BlahBlaCar back for the 4 of us at 19€ per person. Again the train was a beautiful trip and scenery was amazing. Sadly this trip on the BlahblaCar was not so pleasant. Our driver was a peculiar man who showed up very late and he spoke no English. The no English was not a problem so much, after all we spoke French. But when we tried to speak to him in French, he pretended to not understand what we were saying. The ride back should have been just under 3 hours, but due to traffic took over four. This made for a very awkward ride back.  

Montpelier was the most beautiful little city I saw in France. The city center was pedestrian only, and we found the best boutiques there. Unbeknownst to us, on the day of our arrival there was a large festival because the city was inaugurating  a new line to their tram system that day. So the city was very lively and the was a party in a square just a short walk from the hotel.     

On the day we wanted to see the beach…we did not all make it to the beach. At the hotel, we asked the concierge how to get there. In French she told us to take metro line 4 to a certain stop then take bus 31 to the beach. Simple enough right. Well we took metro line 4, which was a 35 minute ride to the bus stop. Once we arrived at the bus stop we did not see bus 31 on the map. My friend who is fluent in French thought she had heard the concierge say bus 32. This was on the map. So we took Bus 32. This bus ride took another 30 minutes, through another petite village and along the way, we never really saw water. Once we arrived to the stop for the beach, the driver told us, again in French, to cross the street and go to this small building to get a ticket to rent a bicycle that we would use to go to the beach. He then told us to come back to that stop to return to the city. As he drove away, we were all very confused of where the beach was and why the heck we needed to take a bike to reach it!

When we went to speak to the people at the little hut, they explained that it was a 15 minute walk and short bike ride to access the beach. But we would take the trail, cross a foot bridge, follow a path of a small train and then reach the bus!! We were confused and over it, but determined after all of this to see the beach. Even though it had been about 12 years since I rode a bike, I decided to give it a go. So three of us took the bikes and one decided to walk. 15 minutes later, we were not seeing any water!  It turned out to be a 3-4 km bike ride one direction to get to the beach. In this time we had to pass a lagoon with water black and bubbly as tar that smelled radioactive. This was not the short trip we were promised. Once we arrived to the beach, without the friend who was walking, the beach was terrible!  It was covered with rocks and not nearly what we were expecting.  

rocky beach

We we amazed that the hotel concierge had pointed us there and decided not to stay. After alerting our friend who was walking, we decided to head back to the bus stop and give back the bikes! On the way back, we were also going into the wind, further adding to our frustrations. 3 hours later, when we finally got back to the hotel, our concierge asked us how the beach was. I was borderline livid when explaining the experience to her but she was genuinely confused of why we took a bike because the bus should of taken us directly to the beach. After a bit of conversation we realized she told us Bus 131, I had heard 31, and my friend heard 32. These were definitely, things lost in translation.

The next day we decided to splurge and just hire a taxi to take us to and from the beach.  That was the best decision ever!

beautiful beach

Beaches of the Mediterranean
Beaches of the Mediterranean

What’s the Rat Pack?

So I haven’t posted much but I would like to catch you up on my 1st weekend trip.
My first week flew by and I headed to Edinburgh, Scotland. In the three days I was there I couldn’t believe how much I had gotten accomplished! After arriving late Thursday evening and meeting Sue, the lady we stayed with (our first airbnb experience), my travel buddy and I found a great fish & chips restaurant, then hit the hay.


































Friday: June 12, 2015

•We woke up fairly early to go hike Arthur’s Seat {the #1 thing to do on trip advisor in Scotland😊}

Just an FYI, it’s steep, bring water, sunscreen, and tennis shoes!

•Next we walked to The National Museum of Scotland, by far one of the largest museums I’ve been in (also it’s FREE) From space to animals this place has it all.

•We ate lunch at The World Famous Frankenstein Pub 1818, first off the food is to die for, and secondly, there is silent movies and a robot monster that does a little dance every 30ish minutes.

•After lunch we came across these underground tours, being the curious tourist that I am, I wanted to check it out. Ashley and I did the Ghostly Underground Catacomb tour of Scotland, we found out about the Burke and Hare murders

  • Burke and Hare were two men who in the beginning sold corpses to Dr. Robert Knox, then got carried away with the money and began killing people so they could sell those corpse for money.

We also found out Scotland basically had an underground city that is now supposedly “haunted”.

•Finally we finished the long day window shopping and eating dinner at Amarone, an amazing Italian “ristorante” on the Royal Mile.

Saturday: June 13, 2015

•Just like the day before, we woke up early and headed out, on this day is was half the temperature as the day before (it went 27 C to 15 C) and slightly misty. Our first stop was a place I had found on Pinterest called “Mary’s Milk Bar” they are world famous for their frozen hot chocolate. I sat inside the vintage pink & white striped shoppe and enjoyed the dark chocolate with sea salt hot chocolate with a big peanut & Carmel gelato. ({delizioso} that’s Italian for delicious)

   •Our next stop was the Edinburgh Castle, this stone wall castle looks over all of Edinburgh. We took a short tour and truly didn’t spend much time there due to the weather and loads of people. But I was able to snap a few photos and see The Crown Jewels.

•After leaving the castle we came across The Scottish Whisky Experience, we found out how whisky was made, tried whisky, and say the largest collection of whisky in the world.

  • Fun fact: Scottish spell their whisky without the “e”

•Directly across was Camera Obscura, a 6 story illusion museum. Each level has a different theme and you’re able to experience them all by using all of your senses. It’s very hands on and fun just to play like a child again! The best part is on the rooftop, you see breath taking views as well as close up views with large binoculars.

• Walking around the city we passed “The Elephant House” for any Harry Potter fan, this is the location J.K. Rowling enjoyed coffee/cake while writing Harry Potter.

•We finished the afternoon enjoying Patisserie Valerie Selva (Chocolate sponge layers filled with whipped cream, zabaglione custard and fresh fruits) and Strawberry Gateau (Layers of vanilla sponge filled with whipped cream and fresh strawberries)

•Deciding to go back to Sue’s we were walking to the public transport bus and saw a live music pub called “Rat Pack” we debated going in, but it was our last night in Scotland so we decided to go. The fellow was singing Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Tony Bennett.. The sound was beautiful. A few hours later, ears ringing, we were tired and ready to go back to Sue’s.
Sunday: June 14, 2015

•This morning we had a fairly early flight back to Dublin, Sue drove us to the airport and we were Ireland bound. Ashley and I had arrived back in Dublin around 9:15 thinking we had until 10:30 to catch our GoBe bus back to Cork. We slowly made our way to get breakfast, while I had gotten my bagel and Ashley was getting a full Irish breakfast, I doubled checked our bus time…. The bus was coming at 10:00am it was 9:50am!😖I yelled at Ashley from across the airport, she hurried over with her food and started shoving her food in ziplock bags. We ran through the terminal down the escalator and through all the different bus stops arriving at ours just before the bus was taking off (we made it)

This concluded my first weekend of traveling through Europe. Scotland treated me very well, I couldn’t have asked for a better first Airbnb experience, itinerary of things to do, and first experience using public transport (Edinburgh has a wonderful app for public transit called Transport for Edinburgh I recommend anyone traveling to Edinburgh download the app, it was a lifesaver)

Public Transportation

I come from a pretty small town. Public transportation doesn’t really exist. Moving to Kansas City for school was pretty interesting, I took the bus a few times to get to school and make my way around town but I’ve never been limited to the use of Public Transportation ever before in my life. Until now.

To get around in Lyon there’s the metro, the tram, a bike, or walking. I have seen many people riding push and electric scooters as well!! But having to plan most of my travels around public transportation has been tricky.

My advice for anyone who has to be dependent on public transportation is to: PAY ATTENTION!

For example, one night there was a movie in the park that many of the students were going to attend. My friend Lilly and I traveled there together, it was quite a ways on the metro but not a complicated route at all.

The movie ended at 12:10am and the last metro was at 12:30am. We rushed to the metro and got on. We started talking to one lady and she asked us where we were going, “Bellecoure” we answered. Then she gave us a worried look and said we were on the wrong metro going in the opposite direction of Bellecoure.

Lilly and I get off at the next stop, now further away from home. We ran to the other metro but by then it was 12:31 and the metro was over until 5 or 6am. So we decided to walk. It was about an hour walk to get home. And about a mile into the walk we had the brilliant idea to get bikes! We rented a bike and were able to get home by 1:10am!

Public transportation can be a pain and a life saver. Pay attention to details and always have a back up plan.

Public Transportation in Lyon

One of the more difficult things about living in France is trying to figure out how to get around the city. Unlike Kansas City, most people use public transportation. There is the metro, the bus, the tram and bikes.

The other day I got a bit lost. It took me two hours to get back to the university and it should have only taken 15-20 minutes. At 1:30 my friend and I decided to head back to the university. We waited at a bus stop for a while. According to the schedule it was supposed to come at 1:45 and 2:00, but it was 2:05 and the bus still hadn’t come. So I decided to go to a different stop. I walked to the next stop and got on the bus. After a few minutes I realized it was going in the wrong direction. I got off the bus and walked to a stop that had a bus going the right way. After waiting for a while, I finally got on the right bus. The bus I was on doesn’t go all the way to the university, so I got on a tram to take me the last few miles. After riding on the tram for a little bit, the driver informed us that we had to stop because there was a protest in the street. I walked the rest of the way and finally got to the university.

Now that I have thoroughly explored public transportation in Lyon, I will give some advice.

The bus. When taking the bus there are several important things to keep in mind. Firstly, you must make sure that you know which bus to take, and which direction you need to go. There is nothing worse than realizing that you’re going the wrong direction after riding the bus for ten minutes. Secondly, when waiting to get on a bus, you have to waive at the driver as the bus comes toward you. If you don’t the bus might not stop. Thirdly, you must know how to get off the bus. There are red buttons all around around the bus. In order for the bus to actually stop at the next stop, you have to push the red button. If no one presses the red button, and no one waives at the bus driver, the bus will just skip that stop.

The metro. Just like the bus, you must make sure you are going in the right direction. When the light flashes and the noise sounds, the train doors are going to close even if there is someone in the way. Hold on to the handles if you are standing, the ride is usually bumpy. If the train fills up, you should give your seat to a person who is older or pregnant or has kids. It’s not obligatory but it’s polite and most people do it. Also, if you get motion sickness, do not sit in the backward facing seats. Trust me, it makes it worse.

Vélo’v . There is a public bike renting company in Lyon called Vélo’v. Vélo is the French word for bike and the company name is a combination of the words Vélo and love ( Vélo’v is pronounced vay-love.) It is very easy to do and a great alternative to walking. The only thing that is a little bit difficult is getting the bike back into the station. The light around the button should turn green and it should beep twice. If you don’t put it back correctly, you may continue to be charged for using it. If someone else takes it you will have to pay 150 Euros for a new one.

All in all the public transportation in Lyon is quite useful…as long as you know how to use it.


This is the inside of a metro (subway) train
This is the inside of a metro (subway) train
The button you have to press to make the bus stop
The button you have to press to make the bus stop