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Spring Break Chronicles!

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on the blog. Please forgive me, I was on my spring break adventure and wanted to have one compiled post about all of the amazing and not-so-amazing experiences I’ve had while gone!

I have no idea how I am going to put all of my emotions and experiences into one blog post, but I’m about to take a stab at it.

So, for spring break, my friend Miranda and I traveled to 5 different places: Rome, Italy; Frankfurt, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; Budapest, Hungary; and Stockholm, Sweden.

In your head, you may be thinking that most of the places are pretty random. But let me tell you, these places are spectacular! I think that American media has done an excellent job at glamourizing big cities while downplaying and overlooking smaller cities and countries. But Europe has so many hidden jewels, and these places don’t need any approval to “shine bright like a diamond” (in the voice of Rihanna, the singer)—these places shine all by themselves and the fact that they are, indeed, hidden jewels is what makes them so incredibly amazing.

Stop 1: Rome, Italy:

The whole time in Rome I couldn’t stop singing the song from the Lizzie McGuire movie (one of childhood favorites)!

“Hey now, hey now. This is what dreams are made of!”

For those who aren’t hip to Liz, the movie was shot in Rome. And not even 24 hours after having the song stuck in my head I was walking down the Roman streets — the same ones that I only longed to watch as a little girl.

Studying abroad truly is what dreams are made of, and I am so blessed to have the opportunity!

Overall, Rome was beautiful, but the city felt very dreary and almost sad. The people weren’t the friendliest either. But during my time there, I had an encounter with a man who enhanced my time like I never thought! When we were at aIMG_0646 restaurant, an African man selling bracelets came to our table and gave us both free bracelets. When he left he said, “love and happiness” with a huge, bright smile. It made my entire time in Rome! I’m sure he had been selling bracelets and getting denied all day long. But he still decided to be generous and not force his sales on us.

What’s even better is later that day we saw him again and he gave us a High five while saying “happiness.” He then looked us straight in the eye and said, “I love you my sisters, happiness and blessings to you and your family.”It sounds a bit creepy when I type it, but I promise it wasn’t. It was authentic and from his heart.

I wish every one had as beautiful of a spirit as him — telling people they love them and meaning it! Not always trying to get over on people!

So that was my favorite Roman experience.

 

Stop 2: Frankfurt, Germany

It’s safe to say that I caught “The Germ” very quickly; I am in love with Frankfurt and of all the places I went it is among my favorite.

I’ll keep it short, but everything from the museums, to the people, to the beautiful river, to the hostel, to the fact that the city has a Chipotle (YUM) was absolutely amazing. Frankfurt also has a Communication Museum—which is so monumental for me because I’m a Communications Major. We also went to a play at the English Theatre! Much of the time I was a little home sick though, primarily because it reminded me so much of the States.

Obviously I didn’t have the chance to see every part of Germany or Frankfurt—but from what I have seen and experienced I would suggest it to anyone looking for a good place to travel. I would especially recommend it as a study abroad location because it has a very “at home” feel.

 

Stop 3: Prague, Czech Republic

This place is magical. If you ever wanted to star in a Disney princess film, just go to Prague and you’ll easily feel like you crossed that off of your bucket list. It’s filled with stunning castles. I felt like I was either in the movie Tangled, Shrek, or Cinderella (the one with the singer Brandy in it).

Not much to say outside of this—the pictures, I believe, speak for themselves!

 

 

Stop 4: Budapest, Hungary

I thought Hungary would fulfill my travel appetite. But after getting a taste of some of Hungary, I’m not so hungry anymore…

A lot of people I study with here in Malta LOVE Budapest— although it was nice, it wasn’t among my favorites….not even slightly. That could be because we were there much longer than the other places we visited, though.

But even with my slight disdain for Budapest, the bridges and scenery had moments of beauty. I also went to a contemporary dance show which made me feel like a local. Also, the Holocaust Museum was absolutely AMAZING. Here’s a fast fact: After World War 2 and the holocaust, most Hungarians were very poor, which is where Hungarian ingredients and signature dishes come from. Hungarian food is typically made with simple, inexpensive ingredients like hand-made bread and paprika because at the time that was all they were able to find and afford. Another fast fact, many of the buildings in Budapest still have bullet holes in them from the war.

   

Stop 5, Last Stop: Stockholm, Sweden

The very first observation I made when I got here is that in formal settings, people say hey instead of hello. It’s so interesting and I never really noticed how much I say “hello” instead of “hey” until I got to Stockholm.

Anyway, the city was stunning, and Stockholm is one of my favorites, right next to Frankfurt. It is the capitol of the Scandinavian countries and it is basically a bunch of islands connected by public transportation. I did not get many pictures there because we didn’t stay very long, but here they are. Their country’s animal is the Moose. I fell in complete love with the cute little moose souvenirs!

The ONLY negative I have is that it’s cold. But we live in the Midwest, we’re used to that right?

Sorry I don’t have many photos of the Stock.

Final thoughts and pieces of advice:

I’ve learned that when I’m traveling I don’t prefer to do sight-seeing, tourist activities. I prefer to explore the places no one goes to and discover hidden jewels of the city. I like to be either doing something, or learning something. I enjoy mountain hikes and museums…stuff like that. Even the Rome is…well, Rome… I enjoyed little ol Frankfurt more and I think it’s because we did more exploration and went to museums… We did things that stimulated our minds, rather than just looking at statues, monuments and cathedrals. Not saying that those things aren’t beautiful, but I wouldn’t want to spend my whole time doing that.

That’s me though. I say all of this to say that it is important to know your travel style so that you can plan your trips accordingly with things you like and want to do.

When I decided to study abroad, the only places that seemed appealing were the really popular, really common, really touristy places like Rome, Barcelona or Paris. But now I’m realizing that a person’s lack of knowledge, respect, admiration or media attention for a country or person does not stop its beauty from permeating, and it does not stop it from being a great place to visit or study abroad at!

The biggest piece of advice I have for people studying abroad is to NIKE…Just do it. Do it! Every place will have a unique experience to offer you with plenty of things to learn, so just go for it and you’re sure to learn something. Don’t look at the smaller cons like the weather (whether its warm or cold) or the population size— your experience will ultimately completely outweigh any of those tiny little factors!

Additionally, just because a place is common or well-known doesn’t mean you will enjoy it more. In fact, you might even enjoy it less because of the utopian idea you’ve developed of it; the media’s hype over major cities could cause you to set a fantasy standard that wouldn’t be met if you visited the place. Ultimately, larger cities like Paris and Rome thrive off of tourism—which is great! – but if you’re looking to go to a place where you can feel at home, welcomed, and truly like a local, then looking into less-talked-about-places should definitely be an option.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to want to visit larger and well-known cities… I’m just saying that you shouldn’t cross out other options just because you’ve never heard of it. My travel buddy and I both wrongly assumed that Frankfurt would be boring solely because nobody talked it up like they did other parts of Germany. But it ended up being one of our favorite places! Looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t choose London or Paris. Malta, in all of its tininess, is the PERFECT place for me, and I wouldn’t have chosen any other place to study abroad! I had fun during spring break, but I’m glad to be back in cozy little Malta.

 

 

There’s something fishy (but fantastic) going on…

It’s so relieving to finally feel halfway settled in. I took my first grocery store trip of less than an hour and I’ve gotta admit, it felt pretty great. I knew exactly where to get my food, and there’s not much of a better feeling than that.

When I first got here time felt like it was moving extremely slow. But now it’s almost been a month. Where has time gone?! I’m almost 20 percent done with my time in Malta! Me and my friends are going to go out for dinner to celebrate our one month anniversary here in Malta.

I’ll try to give a detailed overview of the past couple of weeks here. The Malta class system is very confusing, to say the least. It’s nothing like UMKC’s blackboard system. After going back and forth trying to figure out my schedule, I am just going to take an online class at UMKC because too many of the classes that I need have conflicting meeting times, and I don’t want to waste precious money and credit hours on classes I know I do not need.

Malta has a similar classroom setting as the States, despite some minor discrepancies. Classes are small like UMKC, but the teaching style is a bit different…less structured than what I am used to. Professors here don’t seem to create lectures around the idea that students will probably be note-taking. It’s more just conversational which, in my humble opinion, makes it more difficult to understand and take notes from. So it’s safe to say I haven’t actually taken notes, mainly just kind of listened. I don’t think that will be too huge of a deal though since I don’t have any assignments. Just one paper/project in each class at the end of the semester. That’s one thing that’s really different from the States….we don’t have assignments and papers due throughout the semester, just one at the end.

Next subject. My flatmate situation. I love them so, so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It seems like most other flats have some type of issues — either some people don’t get along or they’re just not close. But that’s not the case with my flat mates. We all love eachother. We sit in the kitchen (the only place to sit collectively) and talk for hours but everything. Joking, laughing, debating and, most importantly, learning about eachother. It’s a beautiful thing. We’re all diverse people with widely different views (trust me on this), but we are all still open-minded and love one another. I think that’s how the world should be.

When I first got here I was a bit…..bored?….when it came to people. I felt like I never had anything to talk about with anyone and I just didn’t vibe with a lot of people. Now, I think it’s just because I was hanging around all Americans. Now, conversations are constantly stirring, bonds are constantly forming. A beautiful and amazing thing happens when you finally decide to step outside of your comfort zone and not just hang or associate with who or what is familiar. You begin to form a bond, friendship and love for people that isn’t rooted in you guys’ similarities…but in your differences… in the fact that, despite those differences, you can still be authentically open and loving to one another. U.N.I.T.Y.

Last week basically all of my flat mates cooked a dish from different cultures/countries and we all had one big unified and fun feast. Homeade rice krispy treats, curry from scratch, crepes, German soup, parmesan-garlic biscuits, spaghetti and sooo many other food items.  I literally fell in love with every single dish and am absolutely ecstatic to give them a taste of my fried chicken in the coming weeks.

In the past few weeks, I’ve gone to Valletta to see a movie and get ice cream with my flat mates and Mdina (the capitol of Malta). I love both places because they are unique. My favorite restaurant in Mdina has uhhhmazing, huge carrot cake and gives you a glimpse into Malta’s rolling fields and farms where you can see the sea in the distance.

My flat mate and two other friends went to St. Pauls Bay. We found a spot next to the water and laid there for quite some time with our feet dangling in the water just looking at the sky. So peaceful.

 

The past few weeks, I also went to Malta’s Sunday outdoor market. It’s called Marsashlocks (that’s not actually how you spell it,  just how I say it). It was wayyyyyyyy bigger than expected; it stretched all across the whole coast. They sold everything there. Fresh fish, fresh squid, fresh candy, fresh fruits and veggies, souvenirs, honey straight from the beehive….everything! Plus stuff is way cheaper here. I really enjoyed it, I also LOVED being able to see the traditional Maltese boats that are so colorful and adorable!! The fresh fish were a bit too stinky and overwhelming for me. I came here intending on getting some salmon (because, surprisingly, it’s difficult to find and very expensive in grocery stores), but there were so many types of unlabeled fish with eyes that I just couldn’t take it. I finally did come across a lady who had a piece of salmon already filleted….so I grabbed that and scurried my way out of the fish section.

 

 

It’s sad that I didn’t realize it before — but the United States truly is weaved into the fabric of Europe, and it into us. I am in shock to see how much American stuff people know about and partake in here. People know all about our politics, our history, our art, our music, our celebrities, our food, our customs, our catch phrases. And a lot of the music that gets played on the radio is from American artists like Drake and Justin Bieber. Even in my advertising class, my professor always gives examples of American advertising campaigns rather than European. It’s also pretty awkward because every time he references these American things he looks me dead in the eye or asks me whether I agree (as if I’m the teacher). It’s just….different.

 

There are a million observations I could give but I’ll have to stop now to do my spring break planning. Ciao.