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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


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.

“þetta reddast!”

“It will all turn out okay!” – as the Icelanders always say. So it did, despite my late arrival and early leave, my two days in Iceland were unbelievable.  Stepping into the Keflavik airport set the tone for my entire stopover.  In chatting with two other Americans in line for customs, we all agreed the entire airport had a soothing sense of serenity to it.  Everyone was calm and quiet, the people were kind and there was no rushing about.  I had left the Chicago airport at 7:30 PM on a flight that lasted six hours. I found sleep almost impossible, but it was dawn in Iceland, meaning I had a full day ahead of me.

Highway N1 views

It took me nearly two hours to find the center of the capital, Reykjavik.  The GPS I was given had been set to English, but every location had Icelandic titles, making my supposed 30 minute drive a fun game of trial and error.  My interesting detours did lead me to the infamous Icelandic gas station hot dog, for which I have no regrets!

Upon finally arriving in the city, I grabbed the first spot available to park.  After a bit of exploring, caffeinating, and finding food that wasn’t given to me by a flight attendant; it was time to start the drive to my airbnb four hours North.  This is where the fun began.  My convenient parking spot just so happened to be on a hill… facing up…and I was driving a manual for the first time in years. I quickly realized not hitting the car behind me was going to be yet another challenge.

Just me, Icelandic sheep sweater, and the Golden Circle

 

Up to this point of pulling out of my parking spot, I had driven a manual for a grand total of 2.5 hours in the last three years.  After some pep talking, I took a deep breath and started releasing the break.  In fear of revving the engine and making a scene, I didn’t give it enough gas and rolled closer to the car behind me.  I gave this a go two more times before I gave up, deciding I was far too close to my neighbor’s car.  What was I supposed to do?!  I was in a car that did not belong to me and in a country that wasn’t my own.  Today was not the day I would dip into my emergency fund.

 

It seemed everyone here drove a manual, so I decided to seek help. The first potential candidates were two construction workers, but after taking some time to muster up the courage to ask, I decided they were too busy.  I started walking up the residential street and came across an older man smoking in his doorway. He seemed nice enough, so I approached him and began to explain my dilemma. He listened intently, but when I was done speaking, he made motions and mumbles signaling me to stay put.  He disappeared into the doorway, yelling something up the stairs. A younger woman came down and they exchanged a few words in Icelandic.  She turned to me, asking for more explanation and I recited my whole situation again.  With a look of relief and annoyance, she translated my woes to the old man.

Simple beginnings

 

His eyebrows lifted and he threw his hands up in a way I assumed meant, “Okay, I can fix this! Show me your car!”  In relief, I lead him over to the sight of my predicament.  Putting his cigarette out on the wheel of my back tire, he took a minute to assess the situation. I tried to hand him my keys, but he motioned for me to get in my car instead.  This was not my plan, but the language barrier prevented me from insisting otherwise.  So, I dutifully got in my car and started the engine.  Hesitating, I looked back at him, but he didn’t need words to urge me to continue.  Next, he simply said “Okay!” instructing me to start moving forward.  I turned the wheel the correct way, squeezed my eyes shut and shifted my foot from the break to the gas a quickly as I could.  … I was out!  This may have been the best thing I had done all day!  I looked back at him, almost laughing, and thanked him with the most grateful smile I was capable of.

Waterfall 1: Painting 1

 

I guess all I needed was emotional support from a grumpy Icelandic grandpa.  As I drove away, more confident that ever, I couldn’t help but be thankful for his persistence and encouragement.   The rest of my day went on without a hitch!  I constantly found myself fighting the urge to stop and capture each breathtaking view upon rounding a new corner.  I had come to Iceland to paint, but I could tell it was going to be nearly impossible to sit in one place when I knew the entire continent was a masterpiece I hadn’t discovered.

Until the next adventure,

Serena

 

 


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.

Dealing with Becoming Homesick

Sunrise view from my front porch at my farm

I know, how could I possibly get homesick? I have been visiting some of the most beautiful places in the world, I am having so much fun, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I should not be wasting it thinking about the small town I call home. Unfortunately, the human mind does not work this way and no matter how exciting and adventurous the world is when I go to bed at night I can’t help but feel homesick. I miss my family. I miss my pets.

Kittens from my farm back home

I miss being in a familiar place. I miss the farm. I miss home. I am having so much fun do not get me wrong, but it is not home. So how do you deal with this and still have fun? Cry it out. You read that right. Cry it out. Because you have to get it out some way. It’s okay to cry. It helps so much. Cry it out and then talk it out. This helps give you a new perspective. Once I cried it out and began to talk about it, it was an easier thing to tackle. It was also comforting to discover some of my friends were experiencing homesickness as well. Next, take a night of being adventurous off (just ONE night) and do something “normal”. Do something you do at home every evening like watch Netflix or scroll through social media or read a book. Take one night to spend on your to allow you to catch up and feel comfortable again. Next, sleep. Really, you have got to sleep. I know it’s hard with the time differences but one REALLY good nights sleep will make the worlds difference in your mood and your experiences. While exploring the world is something you only get to do once you need to take time for you and allow yourself to catch up and your body to catch a break. I know I needed it and it has helped me so much since then. I have been doing so many amazing things while abroad and catching up with myself and allowing myself adjust has made my experiences so much more enjoyable and allowed me to get past being homesick.

Castle of Edinburgh in Edinburgh

I have now seen Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, and the castle of Edinburgh. I would not trade those experiences for anything. I am now so grateful I traveled out in the world and am getting to experience some of the amazing things the world has to offer. I am not going to let homesickness stop me. I hope adventure finds you and your homesickness will pass.

Big Ben in London 
Eiffel Tower in Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 


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.

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.

The Build-Up

Window seats are the best.

Welcome to “The One Where Natalie Goes to Spain”; a blog about my experience studying abroad for 6 weeks. I started this blog because it’s a requirement for a scholarship, but it will also be used for family and friends to receive updates on my adventures. I have never blogged before, and I am not a super open person so this could be quite interesting. Let’s do this…

Today’s topic is the build-up, meaning my pre-trip  and flight adventures.

Anybody that knows me knows that I procrastinate, which isn’t always a good thing. The trip was no exception. My flight leaves today (June 18) and just yesterday I bought my suitcase and began packing. Despite my love of procrastination, some things can’t be put off like getting a passport or booking a flight. I did those things months ago when the trip still seemed like a distant thought. Now I’m sitting in the airport waiting to board my first flight, and wow this trip feels so real. I am going to Spain…

FullSizeRender

Today was Father’s Day so this morning we drove to Omaha, had a delicious meal (pictured to the left) to celebrate, and then drove to the airport. I said goodbye to my family and proceeded to the security checkpoint…. And never in my life have I been so nervous. I’m not hiding anything or carrying anything illegal, but something about all those TSA agents breeds fear. They pulled my carry-on aside to manually searched it, and my heart stopped. Again, I don’t know why I was so nervous because nothing I have is illegal or dangerous. After waiting around for a bit, we boarded and my first flight was underway. The trip finally became real and I’ve never been more excited in my life. More to come later in the week.

Natalie Rediger


Natalie Rediger is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Criminal Justice and Criminology. Natalie is spending six weeks of the summer studying 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.

Trains, Planes, and Scotland. OH MY!

Currently, I am staring at my complete mess on the floor of my bedroom. I am beginning to pack for my trip to Scotland, and I am struggling with the issue of “Do I really need to pack seven pairs of shoes when I know I will only wear two?” The answer is no, but my heart keeps telling me yes. I can’t help but chuckle at myself because I know that my shoes will not matter once I am there. I have never traveled before and when I say that I am not being dramatic. I have never been on a plane or a train before in my entire life. I have seldom ventured outside of my small town and I am about to embark on my first journey across the ocean.

Am I crazy!? I think the answer to that is a definite yes.  By the end of my five weeks I will have taken seven trains, two planes, and countless taxis. The stress I feel is incredible; I have never done this before. What made me think I can do this for the first time in another country!? However, with this stress comes excitement as I am finally exploring the world! I will see countless places such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Iverness just to name a few! I guess I am writing this to show everyone if I can study abroad, anyone can. I come from a small town of 424 people, so when I came to Kansas City I felt overwhelmed and shocked. Now, I am about to go to another country and experience all that it has to offer and then some. It is okay to be fearful and hesitant to travel abroad. It is not okay to allow those fears to keep you from experiencing everything the world has to offer you. The packing alone is enough to drive you crazy and call it quits (but don’t let it!).

What do you need and are considered the essentials? Coming from a girl who has never traveled here is my advice: less is more. Do not drag yourself down by over packing and worrying what outfits to bring. I am sure once you get there the main thing you will be worried about is exploring new places, trying new food, basically just doing anything new and exciting. But with that being said, exploring means a lot of walking. So be sure to pack comfortable shoes that you can walk around all day in (and I know you’re thinking about bringing your cutest, but least comfortable shoes, but seriously leave them at home!) Also, bring versatile things like a pair of pants that will match several shirts. Or a shirt that can be dressy with a necklace or dressed down with some leggings. Try to be realistic on your packing and the climate where you are going. For instance, I do not need to pack several pairs of shorts because where I am going it is cool almost every day. I hope you pack the right things, but if you don’t or forget something the beauty in going abroad is spontaneity. They have stores where you can buy this stuff and get a souvenir or a funny story out of it too. I hope that everyone takes the chance to go abroad as it really is a once in a lifetime experience. If a girl from a town that has more cows than people can do it, you can too. Good luck and may 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.

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.

Post-Graduation International Opportunities Workshop

The Post-Graduation International Opportunities workshop focuses on volunteering, teaching, Peace Corps and other options available after graduation. These types of opportunities are a productive way to start post-college life while gaining professional experience and traveling.

Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship Workshop

The Benjamin Gilman Scholarship awards up to $5,000 to Pell Grant recipients to fund their study abroad.  This workshop will cover the scholarships requirements and strategies for applying. Please contact International Academic Programs at international@umkc.edu for more information.

Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship Workshop

The Benjamin Gilman Scholarship awards up to $5,000 to Pell Grant recipients to fund their study abroad. This workshop will cover the scholarships requirements and strategies for applying. Please contact International Academic Programs at international@umkc.edu for more information.