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As of Monday, I have 8 days until I arrive in Europe.  I am kind of nervous so I sent out an email to my friends who have gone abroad, and this is the general consensus:

  • Dublin: my friend, Jenny, said I had to go because she “loved it there. It’s way more laid back then London, which you will need when you have been there for a bit.”  She also recommended going on the countryside bus ride because “it is so beautiful.” My other friend, Steph, said that Dublin was fun.  She heard Glasgow is cool and not so touristy, but she never got the chance to go.

  • Italy: Steph said, “If you’re going to go anywhere in Italy go to Rome, there is so much to see and do there.”  Sophie also suggested going to Rome, if anywhere in Italy.  She said she really enjoyed the history, and things to see there.

  • Greece: I have heard great things about the islands, but the mainland is “dirty” and “touristy.” Steph said, “Santorini and Mikonos (the Grecian islands)…is a far plane ride but it was the best trip I’ve EVER taken and I know you will love it! My friend, Brooke, says to avoid Greece.  She said that it was just too hard to get to, and you really don’t have enough time to enjoy it.  She said “save it for the honeymoon!”

  • Barcelona: This is the #1 place my friends said to visit.  Three of them said it was one of their favorite places in Europe.  Sophie said, “I’m not sure if I’m biased but my favorite city is Barcelona by far!” Steph said “It’s amazing and if you go, go to CHUPITOS.  It’s a shot bar and its unbelievable!” Read the rest of this entry »

I am leaving for Europe in less than a month and my packing list is still too big, but after hearing this story my mom told me, I will not be bringing shorts with me to Germany!

“I am an avid runner, and when I lived in Duusburg, Germany that didn’t change. The first few days of running I went alone. I ran along a path beside the river.  It was safe, and easy, and one direction one way, and then straight back.  What I found a bit weird, was the expressions of the men that were working on some sort of construction project along the path.  It was a very large project, and the workers were up very high on scaffolding.  Because of the extreme heights I could not really make out what they were saying, but I was pretty sure it was directed at me.  I just shrugged it off to bored construction guys that were being entertained by an older than average jogger.

“Well… the days went on, I continued to jog the same route.  Sometimes I would bring one of my grandson’s with, but the route remained the same. The comments from the construction guys seemed to become more frequent, and almost in a funny sort of way.  The day I figured it all out was a very busy one.  I wanted to get my run in, and my daughter-in-law had errands to tend to.  I told her I would take one of the grandson’s with me on my run.   We had a plan. We would meet up at the Kodak picture store in one hour.

“Off we went.  Me and my grandson on our run, and she to run her errands.  I had on the same clothes that I always ran in.  My nylon running shorts, my t-shirt, and a wind breaker if needed.  For some reason I felt a bit more adventuresome that day.  Maybe it was because it was such a beautiful sunny day.  I ventured off of my regular route and was loving it!  There were many more people on this route. Lots of people walking and shopping.  For some reason, I was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable. I thought that people were laughing at me.  I thought that maybe it was because I ran so slow, or because I was so old, or because I was running pushing a baby in a stroller.  I didn’t know what it was, but it was something!

“An hour later, I met up with my daughter-in-law at the Kodak store.  I mentioned to her that my run was good, but that I thought that people were laughing at me.  She shrugged it off, and we continued to walk to the Mcdonalds down the way.  As we continued on, she also noticed that people were laughing at me.  I started to check my self over, like you do when you think your zipper is down.  Everything seemed fine to me!  Well…..fine to me in America, is NOT FINE in Germany!  After several conversations with the locals, I came to understand that you don’t jog in shorts in Germany unless you are of the male species!!  You see….to them, it was like I was jogging in my UNDERWEAR!!!   Women do not wear shorts, much less nylon running shorts!!!  Joke was on me!!”

My friend Brooke, an architecture student, just got accepted into Syracuse University for graduate school—congrats Brooke! Last year she went to the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen. When she got back she filled me in on all the amazing things she did, but this story is amazing in a creepy crawly way.

I don’t know if it’s typical of architecture students, but I don’t know anyone who studies as late as Brooke. Even in a different time zone, she was up until 1:30 AM. “After brushing my teeth I went back into my room” she said, “only to find the hugest bug I have ever seen.”

It was “hanging on the lamp above my room, which actually hangs about even with my head.” I drew a picture of it as evidence because my camera was out of battery,” said Brooke, ever the architecture student. A few words here are worth a thousand pictures: “It had legs like a daddy-longlegs spider, a quad set of wings, a head the size of a pea with a Gonzo (the muppet) snout, 4 antennae sticking out of it’s head, and the body of a long, thick maggot—so, I about died.”

Unable to actually approach it, she considered her options. She could wake up Nina, her host mom, or call 122 (the Danish 911). The drawing was over. She turned off her right brain and turned on her left:

1) The bug would stay in place as long as the lamp was on.
2) I could not kill it, because I didn’t have a large enough shoe, and the lamp was an expensive Danish design that was all wavy with no flat surface to get a good hit.
3) It was only a few feet from my bed, and I didn’t want to be that near to it
4) There was no way I was sleeping in my room that night.

The next morning the “damned thing” was still there, but Nina finally came to her rescue. “Oh these things are in the garden, they won’t bite you!” Nina said. Brook wasn’t buying it:.“Ya, the thing could potentially have swallowed me whole.”

Despite their best efforts, the maggot-spider-Gonzo impersonator eluded them.” To this day, I have no idea what became of the bugger,” she said “I hope it died.”

Yesterday I went to my “study abroad in-person orientation.”  My program starts in London on May 19th! This was the last step in the process to prepare for study abroad; you can read about the online application in my first post.

The email that I received from the Learning Abroad Center said the meeting would go from 2:30-5:00, so I wasn’t really looking forward to it, but it actually was really beneficial.  Everyone there was also going to London in the summer.  Of course we started with a “get to know you” game, and as terrible as those usually are, at least we loosened up a little bit, and we got to know the people that we will be spending 2 months with in a foreign country.

We also took a “how much do you know about the UK” quiz, and apparently I don’t know anything about the it –their Prime Minister (Gordon Brown), their type of governmental system (constitutional monarchy), and that Eric Clapton is a citizen.

One thing that I was not excited to learn about was the packing restrictions.  Zach Mohs (the go-to guy for the London Study Abroad and Internship program) suggests 3 pairs of pants, 6 shirts, 2 sweaters, 1 nice outfit, 7 pairs of socks and underwear, 1 nice pair of shoes, 1 pair of comfortable walking shoes, 1 jacket + scarf, hat and gloves, and 1 swim suit/towel/beach sandals.  Odds that I will pack only those things: 0%.  Odds that I will not have enough room in my suitcase and will have to ship clothes home at the end of the trip: 98%.

Although I think their idea of what clothes to bring is a little skewed, I am definitely glad they told me that I will need a converter and adapter for the plug-ins.  That is something I just wouldn’t remember packing, and my hair would suffer the consequences.

I also didn’t realize all the things I get included in my trip.  I get one trip to Bath and Stonehenge, 40 pounds a week for food, and a rail pass to take me anywhere in the city I want to go!  This meeting only made me more excited and anxious for my trip.  Stay tuned for further updates and info!

The Euro must work for all of Europe right? Wrong. May countries will take the Euro along with their own local money, but if you plan on traveling to the United Kingdom you will need to switch to pounds, shillings, and pence.  Since 1971 the pound has been divided like the dollar: 100 pence=1 pound, and the exchange rate is 1 pound = 1.53 dollars.  Their coins are 1 penny, 2 pence, 5 pence, 20 pence, 50 pence, 1 pound, and 2 pounds.

Denmark, Norway, and Sweden all use forms of the krone. Sweden calls it a krona, and Norway calls it a kroner.  1 krone= 100 øre (“öre” in Sweden).  The exchange rate of 1 American dollar = 5.56 krone = 7.24 krona = 5.93 kroner.

Poland uses the złoty, which is divided into 100 groszy.  1 dollar = 2.88 złoty

Russia uses the rouble, which is divided into 100 kopecks. Our 1 dollar goes a long way in Russia; 1 dollar = 29.16 rouble.

Lastly, Switzerland uses the Swiss franc.  It is one of the world’s most stable currencies due to the countries political neutrality.  1 franc = 100 centimes and 1 dollar = 1.07 Swiss francs.

So if you plan on traveling all over Europe, use a currency calculator and make sure to change currency at the border!

Last week was spring break, and although I didn’t go anywhere, Goldy Gopher did.  Just to rub it in my face he sent me this picture with the caption “I just saw where Pablo Picasso grew up!”  Throughout the rest of the email he bragged about the awesome “football” match he saw, and the bullfighting ring that can hold up to 5,000 spectators.  I know where Goldy went, but do you?


I am going to London this summer, and I had to do the normal research to prepare: What should I do while I am there? Where are the best places to eat? What do people wear?  This question may not sound important to some, but to me, and hopefully a few more people, the answers are key to blending in.  It took me a little while, but I found a few websites that helped me answer those questions.  I went to The London Times style page and packed my rain boots. But if you aren’t going to London, don’t worry there are websites for you, too.  If you are going to Italy check out the Milan Daily Fashion Blog; it is full of pictures and it’s in English!  Going to Barcelona? Don’t worry, try on this street fashion website named Trendy Crew.  There are a lot of pictures to base your outfits off .   Oui, Francias? I found a French Elle Magazine website. Warning: it is in French, so not only are you learning how to dress, French style, but you also get to touch up on your French.  Come on, I can’t make it too easy on you.  If you are going to the way far East–Japan–bring your bright colors, according to a website called Japanese Streets.  And finally Australia.  This website named Perth Woman should help you with all your fashion needs.  Alright guys, I hope I made packing, or shopping, a little bit easier on you.

All of my friends who have studied abroad suggest one thing: travel.  Although I don’t leave for Europe until May, I have already started planning my To-Do list.  Here are a few of my must sees:

London: Oxford Street is known worldwide for its stores–think Rodeo Drive but cheaper, and more stores.  548 shops, 84 places to eat, and 15 places to stay.  This is the perfect location to buy those souvenirs, but be warned this is the busiest street in London!

Paris: Baz Luhrmann made this place famous again when he made a movie about it.  The Moulin Rouge is located in the Red Light District of Paris.  This cabaret is where the traditional French Can-Can originated, but back in the day this wasn’t a Can-Can you could phone home about.  Since then, it has evolved into a legitimate nightclub, and now, a tourist hot spot.

Pamplona, Spain. Dangerous? Check. An activity rich in culture? Check.  My friend Tommy went to Spain last summer and ran with the bulls.  I don’t think of him as an irrational person, but after looking at some of his pictures, he seems nuts.  If you are in Spain, and a little bit off your rocker, this is something you “have to do!”

I hate to say it, but this Facebook thing actually has some good.   And I don’t mean good as in I know now this guy I friended is a creeper, but actual potential for sharing stories.  With this handy little internet jem I got the chance to talk to a few of my friends about their time spent abroad.  My friend Lauren, a senior at the U of M, and I talked all about her experience when she studied in Spain.




What was the most fun thing you did while you were abroad?


I would probably have to say renting mopeds in San Sebastian, Spain and riding them for hours throughout the Pyrenees Mountains.


Did you spend most of your time with friends you met there or friends you knew before?


I spent almost all my time, literally hours every day, with Stephanie. We traveled with one girl named Elli we met there, but I was always with someone I knew from back home.


Did you plan to go abroad together, or did that just happen?


We met and became really good friends because we knew we were going to be in the same study abroad program.


Did you travel outside of Spain?


Yup! I traveled to Portugal, France, England, and Italy. I had been to all those places before on separate trips, except Portugal.


Which country was your favorite to visit?


I honestly couldn’t choose, they all had amazing experiences. I would probably say I liked France the least though.


Haha, why is that?


Well that was my third time there and I mean Paris is obviously amazing but the people are definitely not as friendly as other places. Also it was very touristy when we went, prime tourist season.


You said you have been to all these countries before, when and why did you visit them?


I had been to England before just for a vacation when I was in 5th grade. I went my junior high school spring break with my family to France and Italy. And my Freshman college spring break I went with Katie Mo to visit her brother studying abroad in Paris.


But it was your first time in Portugal right? What was your first experience like? Was it how you thought it would be?


It was amazing! Portugal had the friendliest people, the cleanest environment, and was the easiest to navigate because every one spoke English.


Was it difficult to decide if you wanted to study abroad and where?


No, because I live so close to the U. I knew that when I decided to go here I wanted to at least go far away for a semester and study abroad. I’m a global studies major too, so it’s required.


Were you financially worried?

Because it’s expensive right?


Yes, its super expensive but i planned ahead and saved up a lot and kind of had the “deal with later” attitude.

My friend Aly has been to England three times in the last three years.  That makes her much more of an expert in the ways of England than I am, which is why I decided to ask her a few questions.  If you are planning on studying in London and want to immerse yourself in the culture, Aly can give you a few tips on how to make that happen.


Where have you visited in Europe?




How many times have you visited there?


I have visited there three times in the past three years.


What were your reasons for visiting?


Sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Just kidding!


I visited my fiance’s family in Bristol, England and toured London.


I am a big fan of English culture so the food, beer, fashion, and the old buildings were my favorite parts. The highlight was probably going to the Manchester United soccer stadium or the open bus tour in London.  But mostly Blackthorn Cider changed my life.


What is Blackthorn Cider?

Read the rest of this entry »

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