Let’s Go To Lyon!

14 Hours, 42 Minutes, 35 Seconds

As of my writing this post, that is the amount of time until I get on the first plane to start my Journey to Lyon France!

This trip will be a trip of a lot of firsts for me, first time flying alone, first time leaving the country, first being away from Kansas/Missouri for more than a week, and I am beyond excited for that, and yet none of it feels quite real yet. I think that it doesn’t really feel like I’m leaving yet because I don’t know what to expect.

So far to prepare for this trip I have made multiple packing lists, packed and repacked my bags at least twice, triple checked that I have everything I need,  and met up with friends and family in my hometown before coming back to Kansas City. Despite all of this preparation, and the amount of time I have spent thinking about this trip, I still can’t believe that it is actually happening. I have wanted to study abroad for as long as I can remember, and I never thought I would actually get the opportunity, and I am beyond grateful that I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to study in another country, especially a country as beautiful as France.

Two quotes that I have been thinking about a lot lately are:

To have another language is to possess a second soul.


❝Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.❞‒Neale Donald Walsch

Having just finished my first year in college, I know that I have changed a lot in the last year, I have been trying my best to ensure that that is a positive change, working to make myself better in anyway I can, and a part of doing that has been challenging myself to go outside of my comfort zone. I think that Growth as well as Life begins at the end of one’s comfort zone. It is hard, maybe impossible, to grow as a person, to create better habits, to learn, and to be the best person you can be if you always stay with in your comfort zone, I know that this trip will push me out of my comfort zone, I will be flying alone to another country to stay with a host family in a country where English is not the primary language, I know I will not be able to prepare for and expect everything that I will experience, thats about as far outside of my comfort zone as I can  think to get! Not only will I be traveling to a foreign country alone for the first time, I will also be working to improve my language skills. I will be learning and practicing French in the best way possible; Immersion. This trip will give me a chance to grow my “second soul”, to improve my French, and to learn to connect with new people in a way I never have before; In another language.

Sydney Serrano is a freshman studying Psychology and French at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Sydney will spend the summer abroad with the UMKC French Summer Program in Lyon, France. Sydney is a member of Alternative Spring Break and Pride Alliance at the University of Missouri Kansas.

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.

To Stay In Iceland, Or To Go?

Iceland’s midnight sunsets

How does anyone bring themselves to leave this beautiful country?  How was I driving away from Hermann’s farm at 1am to make the four hour journey to a plane that was going to take me away?  It could be due to not having slept more than seven hours in the past two days, but this was a very challenging moment.  Iceland had been filled with so much adventure and I was very aware of the mere fraction I had seen.

Of my favorite experiences, I had made a friend. Marta, from Poland, was working for my airbnb host for the summer.  On top of Hermann’s home constantly being booked through airbnb, he guides tours on his Icelandic ponies, and is a butter and cheese maker in town.  Being the only one manning his home, he found it was very hard to keep up with his frequent guests.  So, he found Marta, and I’m so glad he did!  She’s on her way to becoming the very best tour guide, and this summer job in Iceland was a great way to get some experience under her belt (as well as a fabulous excuse to live in Iceland for a summer).  When I arrived my first evening, she immediately took me under her wing.  I could not have asked for a better spontaneous travel partner.


Melting in a pot of Germans, Icelanders, Americans, and Polish.
It was the crazy Americans who convinced us to hop in the neighboring waterfall.


Night One:

Over the dirt roads and through the pastures, to hot pools and waterfalls we went!





Castle of Elves in Dimmuborgir!
Caught in awe at Godafoss

Day Two:

I discovered that Icelandic people do, in fact, believe in elves!  We refer to them as gnomes back in the states.  Many construction catastrophes or setbacks in Iceland can be due to building on land elves inhabit.  It’s best to respect their territory and build somewhere else 😉



Eyes on the prize at Hverir.

It seemed like Marta and I shared a similar passion for beauty and adventure.  So much, in fact, that when we saw an opportunity to climb the mountain at the geothermal site, we went went for it!  Half way up this lone mountain, we realized rain had eroded the path up. Usually, this wouldn’t be a big deal.  A little rough terrain ain’t no thang… but the sediment that made up this mountain was like soggy chalk.  To make matters worse, I chose to wear my rain boots for the day’s adventures.  I wanted to make it to the views at the top so bad, but I quickly realized there was no hope in gaining a foothold.  This made sliding all the way down the slope a very real possibility.



The smart decision would have been to go down, but we could see a couple who had made it to the top.  This provided enough evidence to convince Marta, (the more sensible of the two of us) that we could do it too! We happened to be a mere 5 feet away from the only boulder in sight, if we could get to it, we figured there may be clearer path up.  After a lot of strategizing and teamwork, we both made it to the boulder. Sadly, the way up only became more daunting.  By the time we gathered ourselves, we saw the lovebirds making their way back down.  This was perfect! Now, we could trace their steps to the top.  This, too, was a bust.  Their way down was the way we agreed not to go up.  They quickly passed us at the boulder, and descended safely down the mountain.

Deciding we wanted to leave the geothermal site intact and in time to see more of Iceland, we decided to let dreams of the summit go.  Getting down was even harder, but working together, I’m proud to say we made it!

After one last stop, we ended our eventful day listening to the beautiful sounds of a choir. We wandered up to the Akureyri Church just as a women’s choir was performing “Hallelujah”.  And oh, did this day deserve a hallelujah. I was leaving Iceland, but I was leaving with a full heart. I had been humbled by beauty, blessed with a new friend, and encouraged having survived my first solo adventure abroad.  Next stop, Scotland.

Cheers to adventure and new friends.

See you soon, Iceland.


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.

Adventure Awaits

Hello all! My name is Megan Schwindler and I’ll be studying abroad in Granada, Spain this summer.  I leave tomorrow morning and have been spending the past two days doing some last minute shopping and packing for the trip.

My (kind of) organized suitcase

My suitcase is pretty organized for someone as messy as myself, but I’m still worried I forgot something! I just got back from a week-long vacation in Florida two days ago so this weekend has been quite chaotic. Essentially, I just dumped all the clothes I took to Florida into the washing machine and threw carefully packed them into my suitcase. All in all, it wasn’t too terrible but two days didn’t feel like enough time.

This was taken on my last day in Florida

My toughest decision was what books I wanted to bring (I’m a nerd, I know). I decided that four books would be the limit. I’m currently reading the last book of Game of Thrones so of course I’ll be bringing that. And then I decided I ought to bring milk and honey by Rupi Kaur because well, it’s amazing. I’m also bringing the first Lord of the Rings because I’ve never read it or watched the movie (I know, I’m so weird) but I heard it’s somewhat adventurous and I’m hoping it will motivate me to explore.  And finally, I’m bringing Women Who Run with the Wolves. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend doing so. It was the book that motivated me to study abroad in the first place!

An excerpt from “Women Who Run with the Wolves”

As far as packing tips go, I would say to pack what you’ll wear. I constantly go on trips and pack cute dresses or wedges that I think I’ll wear but usually don’t even make it out of the suitcase. Birks are an essential item in my suitcase, I wear them with leggings, cute dresses, and even to the beach. I’m also bringing a pair of tennis shoes and a cheap pair of sandals just in case! A lot of my friends and family have asked if I’m nervous or freaking out yet. Surprisingly, I’m not. For me, this is the easy part. I enjoy the packing, planning, organizing, and shopping that a trip as long as this one entails. But once I step off that 14-hour flight in Madrid, I’m probably going to freak out. But who knows?

That’s all I have for now, follow my adventure on wordpress and instagram. And to everyone who is studying abroad this summer, good luck!

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.