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Europe

Fall Break and other Travels
I’ve officially been here in Florence for two months and my program is over halfway over. This is crazy to think about. Time has been going so fast. My weeks typically consist of going to class, running around getting things done and exploring Florence, while my weekends are sometimes still adventuring in Florence or traveling around Europe. Fall break just finished and we go back to class on Monday. Italy/Florence:
  • Cafes: Cafe Rosano and La Milkeria
  • Uffizi Gallery – One of the most popular museums in Florence
  • Piazzle Michelangelo – Panoramic  view of Florence
  • Day trip to Pisa – Leaning Tower of Pisa

My roommates Julianne, Emily and myself at the Leaning Tower in Pisa

 

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Weekend Trips: During the weekend, I’m usually either traveling or exploring things in Florence. There are several travel agencies in Florence where you can book trips with them and they will take care all of the details and are still cheap for students. This way, all you really have to do is show up. This is how I’ve done most of my trips because it’s so convenient. My trips to the Amalfi Coast and Croatia, I was able to book with them. Amalfi Coast Highlights
  • Boat Tour around Capri
  • Positano
  • Downtown Sorrento
  • Tour of Pompei

Positano

 

Capri

Croatia Highlihgts
  • Krka National Park
  • White Water Rafting
  • Downtown Split
  • Croatia Island Cruise

Krka National Park

Fall Break: From October 19th through the 28th was our fall break and we didn’t have classes. I was lucky enough for my parents to come visit and to be able to spend the week with them. We traveled to a few different parts of Europe. I met them in Barcelona, then Lugano, Switzerland, and finally Venice before we went our separate ways. We visited three totally different cities. Barcelona Highlights
  • Sagrada Familia
  • Park Guel
  • Tibidabo
  • Catalonia Square
  • Tapas
  • Beach

Sagrada Familia

Tibidabo

Lugano, Switzerland Highlights
  • Olive Trail
  • Mounte San Salvatore
  • Swiss Chocolate
  • Water front on Lake Lugano

Walking the Olive Trail

Mounte San Salvatore

My parents and myself up on Mounte San Salvatore

Venice Highlights
  • Walking Tour of St. Mark’s Square and Doge’s Palace
  • Gondola Ride
  • Parents trying gelato

Walking Tour

Gondola with my parents

My parents trying gelato for the first time

My favorite place was Lugano, Switzerland. It is a small town that is surrounded by lakes and mountains and is right on Lake Lugano. When walking around, everywhere you went was gorgeous. However, the best part of Fall Break was just being able to experience traveling with my parents. Fall break was the best week that I’ve had! Overall: This experience has been so incredible so far! I can’t believe it’s already halfway over. I’m excited to see what the next month and a half will be like.  I was also able to celebrate my birthday earlier this month. I celebrated with friends and gelato. It is cool to be abroad on your birthday because it seems much longer than one day.

Celebrating my birthday with gelato and friends

I’ve learned so much about the culture, some of the language and myself. Tourist season is finally starting to die down, so this next month and a half should be easier to explore more of Florence. Ciao, Kacie

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Salamanca, Spain
The Start:  It has been almost a full month since I have now arrived in Spain and what a journey it has already been. My program started off with a 4 day orientation in Madrid. Madrid, I believe is a wonderful place to start off and understand what the Spanish culture is like. Being the capital of the country it is always packed with people so there is always things to do. We had a few tours to get our bounds around the city. The API program really provided for us, with a nice hotel, and a few meals included in our orientation. They gave us information on how the semester would go on to be, certain rules, regulations, that whole gist. Madrid was perfect because it established relationships with faces we will keep seeing until December. Language: Qué Lo Qué? A semester in Spain has begun. The beauty of Spain is how different places in Spain can be, I’ve previously visited Barcelona before I even thought about studying abroad in Spain. I figured it would be similar but there are so many aspects that differ. The most apparent one is the language. Yes, it is known that Spanish has many different tones and slight changes depending on what country the native Spanish speaker is from. However, the biggest difference in Spain is from the land of Catuluna and the Basque country to basically anywhere else in the country. I have a decent understanding of Spanish but everyday I learn a new slang word or phrase that is used in everyday chats. Many Spaniards do not speak English which is oddly refreshing and at the same time frustrating for many people. It forces you out of a comfort zone that you will never get out of unless you put yourself out there. Salamanca:  The place that will be considered my home for the next 3 months or so. It is a small city with many different things to do since it is highly populated with students from across the world. We meet knew people almost everyday if we have made it out of the house. There are so many pubs, bars, coffee shops, and other places to just sit down and have a drink with someone to chat. The architecture around here is incredible, the school itself is one of the oldest universities in all of Europe but it is well kept. There is a friendly environment that makes it easy to have a good time, most of the people on the street are experiencing the same sort of adventure in one way or another. Whether it be locals meeting people from other countries or vice versa. The nice part about being here is that you get to be as interactive as you want to be. There is no pressure to go out and do things, if you want to stay in bed all day and take a magical siesta that the Spanish do so well you can do so. Spain so far has been an absolute blast meeting new people and travelling to places that we all want to go and experiencing the culture together.

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Firenze
I arrived in Florence, Italy on Tuesday, August 28th. I was nervous, excited and filled with all sorts of emotions, but it was so incredible to start taking everything in. Going into this journey, I felt like I somewhat knew what to expect but at the same time I felt like I wasn’t really all that prepared for everything. The culture shock, hasn’t really been that huge for me. Although, the main language here in Italy is Italian, most people can speak English. I try to speak as much as I can in Italian, but I don’t know much yet. The language difference has been the biggest “culture shock” that I’ve noticed. Other than that I really haven’t had much culture shock moments. I’ve now been here just over a month and everything I have done has been so incredible. Of course, there has been ups and downs throughout this first month, especially with homesickness and being away from friends and family but it’s a lot better now. I’m much more adjusted and know what to expect on a day to day basis. I’m studying abroad with a program called ASA (Academic Studies Abroad). We all attend Florence University of the Arts (FUA) and the program has 3 excursions, 2 overnights and 1 day trip included in the total cost. We have already had both of the overnights and ended up going to Cinque Terre and Rome. The very first weekend I was here (so Labor Day weekend) our program went to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre translates to 5 towns or villages. We ended up staying in Monterosso when we were there. One of the activities we did was a hike along a few of the towns. We took a train back to Corniglia and hiked our way to Vernazza and then back to Monterosso. The hike was extremely hard but had incredible views that were so worth it. We then ended up staying at the beach for the afternoon and then next day.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

I started classes at FUA on Monday (labor day). Not all classes, but a lot of the classes through FUA are much longer than I am used to. All of my classes only meet once a week but they are 2.5 hour long. This has been an adjustment to be able to sit still and have an attention span for that long. It’s something that I’ve had to adjust to and is different. Another difference between school with FUA and CSP is that the classrooms at FUA aren’t necessarily classrooms. Some of them have sofas for you instead of chairs and most of the classrooms don’t have desks. I only have one class that actually has a desk but it’s a very small desk. Nothing like CSP with the big tables. It’s just different. One last difference is that FUA doesn’t really have what you would say on-campus buildings. The buildings are spread throughout the city of Florence. The closest one to me is probably around a 5-minute walk and the furthest is around a 20-25-minute walk. ASA puts us all in shared apartments with other students in ASA within walking distance of the school. I’m living in a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom with a living/kitchen area. It’s a somewhat nice apartment that has some character. It is actually a lot bigger than I anticipated. Our second overnight excursion with ASA was to Rome. This was also a really cool excursion. We did all the basic touristy items in Rome such as, the Vatican City and museums, the water fountains, the Roman forum and the Colosseum. It was really interesting and cool to see so many of the famous landmarks that you see in movies.

All members of our program including our site director Chiara!

After Rome, I have a much greater appreciation for Florence. Rome is a big city and is very populated and has lots of tourists. In Florence, it feels like home. I enjoy, that I don’t have to rely on public transportation and that I can walk everywhere. I enjoy that although there are tourists, it’s not as many and it will die down. I am so happy I decided to study in Florence. Florence feels like my home away from home!

Home away from home

  That’s all I have for now. Until next time. -Kacie :)

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Semester in Galway, Ireland - Closing Thoughts
As my semester at the National University of Ireland, Galway comes to a close, here are some thoughts and encouragement for students considering a semester abroad … The Adventure Begins Before You Leave —Read what locals and visitors have written about the country and university where you will be studying. This information will help you feel connected even before you get there. — Research the weather patterns of the country. This will help you determine the type of clothing you will need to bring with you. For winter in Ireland, I was glad that I packed my rain boots and lined raincoat. — Spend time researching the visitor documentation requirements of the country where you will be studying. Find out if you will need to register with the immigration office or apply for a visa. If you do, what types of documentation will you need to make sure to take with you? — Know that it is not unusual to feel stressed or overwhelmed in the months prior to your departure. Packing, planning and saying goodbye to family and friends for several months can be difficult. Remember that this journey is a pathway to meeting new friends. You will be amazed at the new connections you will make with people around the world. — Reach out to students who have traveled to your study abroad country. They can share valuable advice about the country, and their stories will help you maintain excitement and enthusiasm about your semester ahead. Freshman Feelings — Your first few weeks at your study abroad university may bring back feelings of being a freshman as you select classes, search for classrooms, make new friends, and learn the academic system of the school. Give yourself time. You will soon figure it all out. — The campus may seem large and overwhelming at first, yet over the course of the semester you will become acquainted with all the buildings and study areas. — Consider becoming involved with at least one extra curricular opportunity. I chose to get involved with the youth chapel on campus. Not only was I introduced to many Irish students, I was able to connect with individuals who shared my ideas and values, and it gave me a sense of belonging that made me feel at home at NUI. Ask for Help — It is almost inevitable that you will need to ask for help. The first week on campus I got disorientated many times. On a few occasions, individuals asked me if I needed help finding my way. Other times, I would politely ask for directions. Everyone was very kind and willing to help. The Irish community is especially kind to visitors and never hesitates to stop what they are doing to help you find your way. — Professors, advisors, and fellow students are excellent resources as you become accustomed to your new campus. By the end of your semester you will have the entire campus memorized and feel like a pro. Maintain an Open Mind — One of the reasons that entering a new country can feel overwhelming is the country’s striking differences from home. Although the changes seem major at first, over the course of the semester you will realize that your home country and your study abroad county are not that different. — Some things that are helpful to know: electrical outlets may be a different shape, the grading system may be different from your home university, and as I found out the water heater may be complicated to figure out at first! After a short while, things will seem normal again. — Keep in mind that the aspects of your study abroad country are not better or worse than home, just different. Differences are wonderful learning opportunities! Stay Connected — The time difference between your study abroad country and home may present challenges. It will take time to establish a rhythm of communication, but simultaneously conversing with old and new friends is a very rewarding aspect of studying abroad. — As your adventure unfolds during your semester abroad, it may be challenging to keep in touch with family and friends back home. Remember, that everyone back home is excited for you and wants to know how you are doing. Volunteer — Volunteering while abroad gives you a sense of purpose in a foreign country and is another a great way to meet a variety of new people. — It is a fantastic way to become acquainted with the local community. My time at a local elementary after-school homework club offered insights to the daily lives of children in Ireland and proved to provide some of my fondest memories of my semester abroad. Pace Yourself — You may feel obligated to take advantage of every study abroad moment. While this mindset is good, it is also important to have down time between your adventures. — Pacing yourself between adventures will ensure you stay healthy and rested and you will enjoy traveling days that much more! Your Fears Are Your Limits — I give the study abroad experience the highest recommendation. Not only has it enhanced my college education, it has allowed me to grow as a person in ways that I would not have if I had remained at home. — Not all aspects of studying abroad are easy, but the challenges you face are more than worth the amazing things you will experience and the wonderful people you will meet. — When you return home, you will be a changed person. For me, I think I will see the world differently. I can’t think of a better way to learn about yourself and grow as an individual than to live in another country for a semester. When you reach the little house, the place your journey started, You will recognize it, although it will seem much smaller than you remember. Walk up the path, and through the garden gate you never saw before but once. And then go home. Or make a home. -Neil Gaiman

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Coming to a Close
Even if you’re not traveling the world, I dare to say April is the busiest month of the year for students because the school year comes to a close. This April was no exception, however, the busyness was full of exciting things and memories that will last a lifetime. Aril 1st: After getting back from spring break, it was Easter! My family is very involved in the Easter events at our church back home, so for the first time since I set off in January, I truly missed home. To combat this, I tried going to a service at the International Church of Barcelona. It was really cool to see people from all nations coming together to celebrate the same Christ who died for our sins halfway across the world. April 3rd: I turned 20! It was strange not being with my family and friends on my birthday – the first time in my now 20 years of life, but I did go out for some Italian food with some of my new ASA buds. (Sadly, there was no birthday discount) Another plus, due to the 7 hour time difference, my birthday seemed to last 7 hours longer! April 4th – 11th My mom came to visit me!! This was VERY exciting, and I enjoyed sharing my new city with her. I kept her incredibly busy as we went to see all the hot spots Barcelona has to offer – Parc Guell, the beach, Sagrada Familia, the Magic Fountain show, the bunkers, etc. And of course we enjoyed some delicious typical food – patatas bravas, colçots, pan con tomate, paella, crema catalana, etc. She was even able to join me and my program in a spanish cooking workshop! We had a blast together and I am so fortunate that she was able to come experience a slice of Spain with me. April 12th – 14th Back in January, my friend Claire and I had bought a trip through Bus2Alps to go to Croatia. I was told Croatia is BEAUTIFUL, and it is true, it is. Sadly, I didn’t get to stay long because plane tickets to and from Split/Barcelona are not super cheap which made us have less time there than we would have liked. However, I did spend a magical day floating down the Cetina River in a raft and having the time of my life. WOW, it was GORGEOUS! and we were able to jump off cliffs and swim, and I met some other lovely ladies traveling around who joined me on my raft. This was a peaceful weekend stop. April 15th – April 25th Then it was preparing for the end. I had a lot of finals and projects to complete, including a stressful marketing group assignment, but I made it through and out the other side! I made a conscious effort to embrace the beauty of Barcelona because I knew I wouldn’t be seeing it much longer. Saying goodbye to my classmates and professors was sad, as we are now scattered across the world never to all unite again. My program had a farewell dinner, so we could all get together one last time, which was lovely. I don’t think it has really hit me yet that my program is done. There have been so many times we have all hopped on airplanes to travel for a week, but we always returned. I don’t think it will sink in that we aren’t all returning until I am back home in MN for a few weeks. (BEWARE the reverse culture shock) That being said, this has been an incredible experience that I can’t even put it all into words. I have learned so much – not just academically or culturally but about myself. I strongly encourage everyone to get outside their comfort zone and travel! Before my return, I have one more bout of traveling ahead of me – London, Paris, and Rome. Then I will fly back to Barcelona to pick up my bags and return home to the USA.

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Adventures in Scotland and Ireland
One of the advantages of studying abroad in Europe is the amazing potential for travel during school breaks. While visiting London, my friend and I were in relative close proximity to Scotland, so we continued our spring break travels in the vibrant city of Edinburgh. A scenic train ride from London to Edinburgh treated us to gorgeous views of rolling green hills and grazing sheep while warm sunshine through the window blanketed us on our journey. We had reserved beds at Edinburgh Backpackers, a hostel that offered a central location on a street directly off the Royal Mile. Our first evening in Edinburgh was quiet as we enjoyed dinner and a walk around the cobblestone streets as the sun set behind the historic buildings. The next morning, we woke up to the joyful Scottish sound of bagpipes resonating from the streets below. We explored the historic city with a walking tour of the Royal Mile and St. Giles’ Cathedral, and then as two Harry Potter fans, we could hardly resist finishing the day with a delicious dinner at the Elephant House café where J. K. Rowling wrote a few of her books. The following day, we visited the National Museum of Scotland where I was impressed with the variety of exhibits for all ages. As it was Good Friday, we attended a beautiful service at St. Giles’ Cathedral around noon and then joined a walking tour called The Potter Trail, which took us to sites such as Grey Friars Cemetery with gravestones known to have inspired the names of some of J. K Rowling’s Harry Potter characters, and Victoria Street, which is the avenue which inspired J. K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley. Edinburgh is a wonderful city and as our time there progressed, it became evident why Rowling was inspired by this very magical place. Meeting new people is one of the many rewarding opportunities of studying abroad. Not only do you meet people at your new university through classes and activities, sometimes you make connections between friends or friends of friends. As this was the case with my travel partner, we decided to take a day trip to meet a friend of a friend who is a native of Glasgow and a student at the University of Glasgow. He generously offered to meet us for hot chocolate and give us a personal tour of Glasgow and his university. The University of Glasgow is known for its resemblance to Hogwarts, the magical school in Harry Potter and the beautiful architecture of the school did indeed bear a striking resemblance. We were blessed with a beautiful day of sunshine so we continued on to explore Kelvingrove Park, which took us down a walking path next to a river. The flowers were beginning to bloom and many birds were flying about in the trees above us. The following day, we attended a beautiful Easter morning service at St. Giles’ Cathedral. The acoustics were incredible as the choir sang joyful praises of the Lord’s resurrection. We then enjoyed a lovely brunch of waffles at St. Giles’ Café followed by shopping at the Royal Mile Market where we found a variety of crafts, jewelry, clothing, and antique vendors. We completed the day with a tour of Edinburgh Castle, which sits at the top of the Royal Mile and offers a beautiful view of the entire city. Although it was a bit cold that day, we couldn’t resist sampling a handmade Scottish ice cream cone at the end of the tour. On Easter Monday we departed from Edinburgh on a flight to Shannon, Ireland. After a series of long bus rides, we were greeted in Dingle by breathtaking views of rolling hills with intense shades of green, sheep and cattle gracefully grazing within stone walled pastures, and the beautiful sight of Dingle Bay at the bottom of the valley. I kept repeating over and over in my head that this is the most beautiful place in the world. After numerous nights of sharing rooms with other travelers at hostels, we treated ourselves with a couple nights at Murphy’s Bed and Breakfast, which is a few minutes’ walk from Dingle Bay. Our hosts were very kind and we enjoyed delicious breakfasts of bacon, eggs, fruit, and homemade brown bread both mornings. After the busyness of London and Scotland, we soaked in the relaxed atmosphere of Dingle as we explored the shops and visited a huge pasture of grazing sheep where young lambs played with one another. As I have been missing my three cats at home, I was excited to find a few wondering among the shops. One friendly kitty was willing to let me shower it with love. We finished the lovely day at John Benny’s Pub on Dingle Bay listening to live Irish music. I could not help but fall in love with the quaint and friendly town that seemed made especially for me. On our last days in Dingle, we took a coastline bus tour of the Dingle Peninsula, which included magnificent views of sparkling blue waves and rolling green hills, and a two-hour horseback ride through the hills. Although it was a cold and extremely windy day, we had wonderful horses. The views at the top of the hill displayed the entirety of Dingle with its ships in the bay and lovely homes. Sore and cold, we ended our day at the Dingle Pub to warm up and have a delicious meal. Of all the places I have visited on my travels so far, Dingle is definitely my favorite location. The final days of our spring break were spent in Cork. My favorite location, about an hour outside of Cork, is the Blarney Castle and Gardens. We climbed the narrow, winding stone steps to the top of the castle and were rewarded with a wonderful view of the surrounding gardens and green fields. Unfortunately, during the final days of our break, I felt under the weather and needed to stay at our hostel to rest. The next day it was wonderful to return to Galway. It truly feels like home now and it was a comforting feeling to return to a place so welcoming and familiar. Already my classes are coming to an end and I am beginning my preparations for final exams. I look forward to some quiet and relaxing weeks in Galway to study and read before I will be excitingly welcoming some visitors!

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Adventures in Galway and London
I am blessed to have experienced so much in the past month! It has been an amazing adventure to explore the places I once only dreamed of visiting.
 
A recent highlight was attending the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway. Because of our heritage, my family has always celebrated March 17 so it was a surreal experience to witness the celebration in Ireland. In the parade, some of the children from the school where I help at homework club waved and played instruments. It was fun to recognize familiar faces and it helped me feel at home in Galway.
 
My classes continue to be enjoyable as I have read interesting books and presented on interesting topics. It has been a wonderful break from my courses at home to engage in elective classes. The workload has been manageable and given me time to enjoy the beauty of Ireland and spend time with friends.
 
I am now on a two-week spring break from my studies in Ireland. Two of my friends and I left Galway last Friday to explore London. I was excited yet slightly reluctant to leave Galway, but was comforted as I realized that Galway, once a foreign city, now feels like home.
 
Lost tickets, forgotten pin numbers, and sore feet are all worth the amazing sights and experiences of seeing Europe. Staying at hostels is a nice way to remain in a central city location and not spend a fortune. My friends and I were at the Astor Museum Hostel and explored London for five days. We began our adventure at the British Museum, stopped at a pub for a lunch of fish and chips, explored the shops and attended a Palm Sunday service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral the next morning. We also visited Madame Tussauds, rode on the top of a double-decker bus, found the Beatles’ famous Abbey Road, enjoyed tea at Regents Park, and finished the evening at Platform 9 and 3/4 at King’s Cross Station made famous by J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. 
 
Our final days in London were spent exploring Green Park, watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, viewing St. James’s Palace, Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge, and taking a ride on the London Eye. The view of the city was spectacular and the sight of so many red double-decker buses and telephone booths was a dream come true! On our final day, we visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, the Borough Market, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and the Tate Museum. We finished the day close to our hostel at a wonderful restaurant called the Spaghetti House. 
 
Though one friend headed back to Galway, my other friend and I are continuing our travels. Today on a train from London to Edinburgh, we enjoyed beautiful views of green rolling hills and seeing many pastures of sheep. The sunshine was warm through the window and it was a lovely rest after our busy time in London. The adventure continues tomorrow with our exploration of Scotland! 


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March Madness
Tomorrow marks the first day of April, and as the days warm up, I cannot help but ask – Where has the time gone? It feels like I arrived in Barcelona just yesterday; I vividly remember walking through the airport full of anxiety and focused on finding the meeting point for my program. Today, I can navigate around the city (and the airport) like nobody’s business. The days keep ticking by, and with each one of them I continue adding to list of things and places I have experienced. In Barcelona:
  • Sagrada Familia
ASA had a tour of the Sagrada Familia; I went even though I have already gone before because there is just no getting over the beauty of it no matter how many times you see it! Sometimes I come out of the metro station and BOOM, there it is hovering hundreds of feet above me with intricate detail. Inside is just as impressive with light of every color shining through the stained windows. I will definitely make the trip back to Barcelona someday to see the finished product (as of now it is estimated around 2026).
  • Claire’s Parents
My friend Claire was excited to have her parents visit her for a few days and invited me to join them for dinner. I had a lovely time as they were so welcoming and provided a family feel I had been missing a little! We also went on a nice hike up Mount Tibidabo to have a picnic on Sunday then roamed the streets of the Gothic quarter and actually happened across the restaurant with my favorite Patatas Bravas that I thought was lost forever!
  • Raval Tour
The next weekend everyone in ASA seemed to be traveling besides myself, but I enjoyed a tour of the Raval Neighborhood with just Marta and me! We also did some shopping together, and our favorite second hand store Humana was having a sale where EVERYTHING was £1, so I bought a dress, a skirt, five shirts, and a coat! Marta also treated me to some tapas. I love her <3
  • Salsa Night
Claire and I decided it was time to try a night out again, but this time at a Salsa Club! We had so much fun dancing Salsa with partners and in a line. It was also a place we were able to utilize our Spanish. 
  • Game of Thrones Exhibition
Last summer I binge watched the first six seasons of this popular television show. I appreciate it for the intricate plot and fantastic characters. There was an exhibit in Barcelona, so I joined Mason and Michaela to check it out. They had video clips, the amazing soundtrack playing, and costumes from several seasons. Also included was a Hall of Faces I could add my own face to, an ice wall, and of course the Iron Throne. I was also given free Spanish HBO for 2 months (Bonus!)
  • National Women’s Day
This was a big deal in Barcelona and the metro was affected when women didn’t show up to work as a way of advocating for fair wages. There was also a big march in the city center. I celebrated with my class by visiting an artists home, going to the rooftop to enjoy snacks, and sharing about important women in my life. Menorca: This was a rather spontaneous trip because plans to go to Valencia fell through and plane tickets to Menorca were cheap. This is a Spanish island just off the east coast of Barcelona. Claire and I had a wonderful experience thanks to our AirBnb as our host showed us around, introduced us to locals, and brought us to a magical musical cave with a small bar and locals with amazing voices who enjoyed singing Catalan folk songs. Menorca was very peaceful and again, very different from the other destinations I have visited so far. Montserrat: This was a day trip with ASA just outside of Barcelona. There is a cathedral with one of four black Madonnas and a beautiful boys choir. We also hiked to the top of the mountain which was VERY high up and A LOT of hiking but so fun! Netherlands: Spring Break fell upon us, so I made plans with my pal Claire to check out Amsterdam and the surrounding area. I have family friends there that took us in and really treated us well. It was strange to be immersed in a country where I had NO IDEA what they were saying, as Dutch is VERY different from both English and Spanish. Highlights:
  • Anne Frank House: we scored tickets to visit right after our plane landed, so Anne and Hans (my family friends) dropped us off and we walked through this monumental building. It really is amazing. I’ve learned about WWII, the holocaust, and Anne Frank many times in school, but it always felt so distant. Standing in the same room in which she would wrote her diary and seeing the walls in which she glued magazine pictures to brighten up the area was unreal. This part of history did not happen that long ago; there are many pictures of her and even a video. She is so very real and I found myself in her in our shared passion to publish a book someday and record memories. My favorite souvenir so far is buying a copy of her published diary.
  • Zaanse Schans: Here I was able to understand more of the Dutch culture. There were many mills, and canals. I saw how wooden shoes get made, how sails were woven on a loom, and how a saw mill runs. It was a very neat place.
  • Keukenhof: This is a huge garden full of flowers, but mostly tulips. We lucked out as it is only open around 8 weeks a year, and had just opened two days prior. Not all the bulbs had bloomed, but we still enjoyed roaming the paths and breathing in the sweet air.
  • Rotterdam: Anne and Hans love Rotterdam, and their son freed up his day to show us around. A lot of it was bombed and destroyed in WWII, so now it is becoming a leading city for unique architecture. It was here I enjoyed a delicious stroopwafel!
  • Van Gogh Museum: Not only is Van Gogh an incredible artist, but he himself was also an interesting fellow. Our tickets to this museum came with audio and we spent a good amount of time following his life as an artist. Impressive!
  • Canal Tour: We floated through Amsterdam on a Hop on Hop off boat so we could see all the sights.
Tenerife: Since we were all go go go in the Netherlands, Claire and I had made plans for a sunny relaxing second half of our spring break. We flew to the Canary Islands early in the morning, checked into our hostel, and hit the beaches. One day we booked a whale watching excursion with an eco-friendly boat and set sail. I love the water! It took us almost two hours, but then we happened upon a pod of what our guide said to be around 50 pilot whales. They looked like dolphins but of course had rounded noses for echolocation. On the way back we saw some sea turtles! We had a relaxing time, got plenty of sun, and met people from all over the world staying at our hostel – New Zealand, Australia, France, Brazil, Italy, England, and Spain!  It was so cool hearing their stories. I arrived back in Barcelona a couple of hours ago and am looking forward to some rest. April is sure to fly by in a blink of an eye, but so far my experience abroad has been incredible.  

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Weekend Travels and Other Things
Where did February go?! What a busy month – though I have a feeling every month will follow the same pattern until I am back home in Minnesota. My weeks were full of class and exploring Barcelona, while my weekends were full of adventuring to different cities and countries. It is tiring, and I got the fever flu somewhere in the midst of it all, but I am happy to be living life and taking in the world! Barcelona Business:
  • National Art Museum of Catalonia: My class took a field trip to the MNAC on Montjuic and had access to the roof where we could take in the view. Afterward, I wandered the exhibit with a classmate. Montjuic is where most of the 1992 olympic stadiums are located, and from the steps of the MNAC you can see the famous four pillars that reflect the Catalan flag, the magic fountain, and the old bull ring that was converted into a mall.                                                                                                                
  • Bowling: Some friends and I found a bowling alley close to Camp Nou and had a fun night!
  • Castelleres: This is a tradition that Catalans are known for, and I was very interested in seeing it in action. Castelleres, known as human towers, teams are made of nearly 100 people with towers reaching 10 levels at times. I was able to join in a practice, and even had someone stand on my shoulders. It was a very neat experience.
  • Parc Güell: Gaudí is a celebrity around these parts. Besides Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell is another notable project of his that is a must see. Sadly, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time here as I had to catch a bus, but it was also under construction, so I will have to be back later on to take it all in. However, the fairy tale style buildings were amazing, and the mosaic bench was magnificent. 
  • Sant Pau Hospital: Sharing a block with the University I attend, this Hospital is a beautiful facility. It was constructed to help patients heal not only by providing medicine and care, but also a welcoming environment that would boost their spirits. The walls and ceiling are colorful and the grounds are wonderful to stroll.
  • Park de la Cuitadella: Green space is hard to find in Barcelona, but this park provides a nice escape. There are trees, a green house, a fountain, a pond, and grass!
  • Valentine’s Day: I love holidays and Valentine’s Day is no exception. Sadly, it is not as big of a deal to Spaniards. That didn’t stop me from getting together with some friends, baking a cake and watching RomComs.
  • Palau de la Música: This was another site my class visited. It had exquisite architecture with very detailed ceilings. I may try to make it to a concert here sometime.
  • Claire’s Parents: My fast friend Claire had her parents come visit her, so we showed them around our favorite sites and climbed Mount Tibidabo again to enjoy the sun and take in the city spread out before us. We ate well and even found my favorite Tapas place with the best Patatas Bravas so far!
  • Protests: The King of Spain came to inaugurate the congress causing a divide between Barcelona residents as some welcomed the King and others protested him. It was all peaceful, but rather loud, as a common way to protest in Spain is by banging on pots and pans. It was also a bit inconvenient as the metro closed down so the police could keep it contained. It is rather fascinating listening to my teacher’s views on the subject, and it runs a lot deeper than one might think.
  Andorra  This was my first travel getaway and I left the country! Some friends and I took a bus to Andorra – a small country in between France and Spain, and we stayed in our first AirBnB, which was delightful. Our host gave us great recommendations on places to eat and advice on how to reach the mountain to ski. It was a rather spontaneous trip, but surprisingly it all worked out! I rented skis and enjoyed an afternoon on the slopes of the Pyrenees – it was amazing! Then I warmed up at Caldea Spa and finally scarfed down a delicious pizza. Hiking was also in our itinerary, and we left with high spirits and a fondness for this small wintery country. Morocco This was a packed weekend full of traveling, eating traditional moroccan food such as couscous, exploring the “Blue City” of Chefchaouen, descending into Hercules Caves, riding a camel, and more! Morocco was full of life and color, the weather was beautiful, and the people were friendly. I highly recommend a trip to Tangier in the future. Seville This was a weekend trip with my program, Academic Study Abroad (ASA). We took a train and stayed in a hotel. We watch a Flamenco show, toured the Cathedral of Sevilla (where Christopher Columbus’ tomb is), enjoyed the sunshine, beheld the wonders of the Real Alcazar de Sevilla (so beautiful Game of Thrones used it as a filming location for Dorne), ate gelato x3, roamed around the city square, and ate REALLY good food. Seville is a beauty <3   Overall, February was a great month. I took midterms this week, and it’s weird to think of how fast my time abroad is going. I am proud of myself for all I have done so far, but I have a goal to immerse myself among Spanish people a bit more in the coming weeks. Luckily, I think that is possible as I will be taking a weekend trip to Valencia with my friend Claire to stay with her old exchange student’s family soon. In the meantime, I continue to talk Spanish with my host mom and take in all I can from my surroundings. Until next time! <3 If you would like to see a visual representation of my travels, check out my youtube video about January in Barcelona: https://youtu.be/z2Nw6Xxpf6g If you would like more details about my Morocco trip, check out my other blog: https://allthingsedenblog.wordpress.com

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Galway, Ireland: Taking Learning to a Deeper Level
After attending a chapel service on Wednesday evening, I talked with another visiting student who is also staying in Galway. She told me that she recently arrived in Ireland just a week before. After hearing that I have lived in Galway for nearly two months, she asked me how my semester was going and if I was glad that I decided to study abroad. I was excited to tell her that my adventures, friendships, and learning experiences have been worth all the challenges and that studying in Ireland was the perfect addition to my college education. After talking with numerous other visiting students, it has become evident to me that studying in another country is a significant opportunity for personal growth and maturity, especially for young adults. College is already a time of exploration and personal definition and studying abroad takes the experience to an even deeper level. Although my daily activities are comparable to that of my life at Concordia, the physical displacement of being in a location away from home and the experience of living within a new culture and meeting new people with new ideas and backgrounds has made my life here unlike my experience of college at home. I have found that time away from home has given me a greater amount of freedom and introduced me to a rich atmosphere of diverse opinions and perspectives. The opportunity to meet new people, live in a new geographical area, and participate in relevant educational experiences has encouraged growth and personal discovery at an excelled rate. As I mentioned in my previous post, I am currently working with grade school children in Ireland at an after-school homework club at a local primary school in Galway. This service learning experience provides me with a multitude of opportunities that are helping me prepare for my future career as a Child Life Specialist when I will provide educational, emotional, and social support to children and their families who are going through medical procedures and experiencing hospital stays. As a homework club helper in Ireland, I am building personal relationships with children of various backgrounds and experiences as I support and encourage them in their schoolwork. In addition to helping them understand their work, one of my highest goals is to express genuine attention to the individual needs and interests of the children. I hope it is evident to the children that I care deeply about their unique challenges. The rewarding experiences of helping the students at homework club parallels the work I will someday do as a Child Life Specialist and has increased my excitement to someday offer similar personalized care to children and their families in a medical setting. In addition to my schoolwork and volunteering, I have enjoyed the beauty of Ireland while spending time exploring Galway. The weather is becoming nicer as the semester progresses and the rain and cool winds of winter slowly give way to the warm breezes of spring. This past week, Galway experienced pleasant spring weather and many daffodils are blooming across campus. The other day, one of my friends and I enjoyed tea and scones outside on a campus bench in the sunshine. I feel very blessed to experience such lovely weather in February. Planning for spring break travels is now underway! I look forward to exploring more of Ireland and Europe!

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Fall Break and other Travels
I’ve officially been here in Florence for two months and my program is over halfway over. This is crazy to think about. Time has been going so fast. My weeks typically consist of going to class, running around getting things done and exploring Florence, while my weekends are sometimes still adventuring in Florence or traveling around Europe. Fall break just finished and we go back to class on Monday. Italy/Florence:
  • Cafes: Cafe Rosano and La Milkeria
  • Uffizi Gallery – One of the most popular museums in Florence
  • Piazzle Michelangelo – Panoramic  view of Florence
  • Day trip to Pisa – Leaning Tower of Pisa

My roommates Julianne, Emily and myself at the Leaning Tower in Pisa

 

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Weekend Trips: During the weekend, I’m usually either traveling or exploring things in Florence. There are several travel agencies in Florence where you can book trips with them and they will take care all of the details and are still cheap for students. This way, all you really have to do is show up. This is how I’ve done most of my trips because it’s so convenient. My trips to the Amalfi Coast and Croatia, I was able to book with them. Amalfi Coast Highlights
  • Boat Tour around Capri
  • Positano
  • Downtown Sorrento
  • Tour of Pompei

Positano

 

Capri

Croatia Highlihgts
  • Krka National Park
  • White Water Rafting
  • Downtown Split
  • Croatia Island Cruise

Krka National Park

Fall Break: From October 19th through the 28th was our fall break and we didn’t have classes. I was lucky enough for my parents to come visit and to be able to spend the week with them. We traveled to a few different parts of Europe. I met them in Barcelona, then Lugano, Switzerland, and finally Venice before we went our separate ways. We visited three totally different cities. Barcelona Highlights
  • Sagrada Familia
  • Park Guel
  • Tibidabo
  • Catalonia Square
  • Tapas
  • Beach

Sagrada Familia

Tibidabo

Lugano, Switzerland Highlights
  • Olive Trail
  • Mounte San Salvatore
  • Swiss Chocolate
  • Water front on Lake Lugano

Walking the Olive Trail

Mounte San Salvatore

My parents and myself up on Mounte San Salvatore

Venice Highlights
  • Walking Tour of St. Mark’s Square and Doge’s Palace
  • Gondola Ride
  • Parents trying gelato

Walking Tour

Gondola with my parents

My parents trying gelato for the first time

My favorite place was Lugano, Switzerland. It is a small town that is surrounded by lakes and mountains and is right on Lake Lugano. When walking around, everywhere you went was gorgeous. However, the best part of Fall Break was just being able to experience traveling with my parents. Fall break was the best week that I’ve had! Overall: This experience has been so incredible so far! I can’t believe it’s already halfway over. I’m excited to see what the next month and a half will be like.  I was also able to celebrate my birthday earlier this month. I celebrated with friends and gelato. It is cool to be abroad on your birthday because it seems much longer than one day.

Celebrating my birthday with gelato and friends

I’ve learned so much about the culture, some of the language and myself. Tourist season is finally starting to die down, so this next month and a half should be easier to explore more of Florence. Ciao, Kacie

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Salamanca, Spain
The Start:  It has been almost a full month since I have now arrived in Spain and what a journey it has already been. My program started off with a 4 day orientation in Madrid. Madrid, I believe is a wonderful place to start off and understand what the Spanish culture is like. Being the capital of the country it is always packed with people so there is always things to do. We had a few tours to get our bounds around the city. The API program really provided for us, with a nice hotel, and a few meals included in our orientation. They gave us information on how the semester would go on to be, certain rules, regulations, that whole gist. Madrid was perfect because it established relationships with faces we will keep seeing until December. Language: Qué Lo Qué? A semester in Spain has begun. The beauty of Spain is how different places in Spain can be, I’ve previously visited Barcelona before I even thought about studying abroad in Spain. I figured it would be similar but there are so many aspects that differ. The most apparent one is the language. Yes, it is known that Spanish has many different tones and slight changes depending on what country the native Spanish speaker is from. However, the biggest difference in Spain is from the land of Catuluna and the Basque country to basically anywhere else in the country. I have a decent understanding of Spanish but everyday I learn a new slang word or phrase that is used in everyday chats. Many Spaniards do not speak English which is oddly refreshing and at the same time frustrating for many people. It forces you out of a comfort zone that you will never get out of unless you put yourself out there. Salamanca:  The place that will be considered my home for the next 3 months or so. It is a small city with many different things to do since it is highly populated with students from across the world. We meet knew people almost everyday if we have made it out of the house. There are so many pubs, bars, coffee shops, and other places to just sit down and have a drink with someone to chat. The architecture around here is incredible, the school itself is one of the oldest universities in all of Europe but it is well kept. There is a friendly environment that makes it easy to have a good time, most of the people on the street are experiencing the same sort of adventure in one way or another. Whether it be locals meeting people from other countries or vice versa. The nice part about being here is that you get to be as interactive as you want to be. There is no pressure to go out and do things, if you want to stay in bed all day and take a magical siesta that the Spanish do so well you can do so. Spain so far has been an absolute blast meeting new people and travelling to places that we all want to go and experiencing the culture together.

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Firenze
I arrived in Florence, Italy on Tuesday, August 28th. I was nervous, excited and filled with all sorts of emotions, but it was so incredible to start taking everything in. Going into this journey, I felt like I somewhat knew what to expect but at the same time I felt like I wasn’t really all that prepared for everything. The culture shock, hasn’t really been that huge for me. Although, the main language here in Italy is Italian, most people can speak English. I try to speak as much as I can in Italian, but I don’t know much yet. The language difference has been the biggest “culture shock” that I’ve noticed. Other than that I really haven’t had much culture shock moments. I’ve now been here just over a month and everything I have done has been so incredible. Of course, there has been ups and downs throughout this first month, especially with homesickness and being away from friends and family but it’s a lot better now. I’m much more adjusted and know what to expect on a day to day basis. I’m studying abroad with a program called ASA (Academic Studies Abroad). We all attend Florence University of the Arts (FUA) and the program has 3 excursions, 2 overnights and 1 day trip included in the total cost. We have already had both of the overnights and ended up going to Cinque Terre and Rome. The very first weekend I was here (so Labor Day weekend) our program went to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre translates to 5 towns or villages. We ended up staying in Monterosso when we were there. One of the activities we did was a hike along a few of the towns. We took a train back to Corniglia and hiked our way to Vernazza and then back to Monterosso. The hike was extremely hard but had incredible views that were so worth it. We then ended up staying at the beach for the afternoon and then next day.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

I started classes at FUA on Monday (labor day). Not all classes, but a lot of the classes through FUA are much longer than I am used to. All of my classes only meet once a week but they are 2.5 hour long. This has been an adjustment to be able to sit still and have an attention span for that long. It’s something that I’ve had to adjust to and is different. Another difference between school with FUA and CSP is that the classrooms at FUA aren’t necessarily classrooms. Some of them have sofas for you instead of chairs and most of the classrooms don’t have desks. I only have one class that actually has a desk but it’s a very small desk. Nothing like CSP with the big tables. It’s just different. One last difference is that FUA doesn’t really have what you would say on-campus buildings. The buildings are spread throughout the city of Florence. The closest one to me is probably around a 5-minute walk and the furthest is around a 20-25-minute walk. ASA puts us all in shared apartments with other students in ASA within walking distance of the school. I’m living in a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom with a living/kitchen area. It’s a somewhat nice apartment that has some character. It is actually a lot bigger than I anticipated. Our second overnight excursion with ASA was to Rome. This was also a really cool excursion. We did all the basic touristy items in Rome such as, the Vatican City and museums, the water fountains, the Roman forum and the Colosseum. It was really interesting and cool to see so many of the famous landmarks that you see in movies.

All members of our program including our site director Chiara!

After Rome, I have a much greater appreciation for Florence. Rome is a big city and is very populated and has lots of tourists. In Florence, it feels like home. I enjoy, that I don’t have to rely on public transportation and that I can walk everywhere. I enjoy that although there are tourists, it’s not as many and it will die down. I am so happy I decided to study in Florence. Florence feels like my home away from home!

Home away from home

  That’s all I have for now. Until next time. -Kacie :)

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Semester in Galway, Ireland - Closing Thoughts
As my semester at the National University of Ireland, Galway comes to a close, here are some thoughts and encouragement for students considering a semester abroad … The Adventure Begins Before You Leave —Read what locals and visitors have written about the country and university where you will be studying. This information will help you feel connected even before you get there. — Research the weather patterns of the country. This will help you determine the type of clothing you will need to bring with you. For winter in Ireland, I was glad that I packed my rain boots and lined raincoat. — Spend time researching the visitor documentation requirements of the country where you will be studying. Find out if you will need to register with the immigration office or apply for a visa. If you do, what types of documentation will you need to make sure to take with you? — Know that it is not unusual to feel stressed or overwhelmed in the months prior to your departure. Packing, planning and saying goodbye to family and friends for several months can be difficult. Remember that this journey is a pathway to meeting new friends. You will be amazed at the new connections you will make with people around the world. — Reach out to students who have traveled to your study abroad country. They can share valuable advice about the country, and their stories will help you maintain excitement and enthusiasm about your semester ahead. Freshman Feelings — Your first few weeks at your study abroad university may bring back feelings of being a freshman as you select classes, search for classrooms, make new friends, and learn the academic system of the school. Give yourself time. You will soon figure it all out. — The campus may seem large and overwhelming at first, yet over the course of the semester you will become acquainted with all the buildings and study areas. — Consider becoming involved with at least one extra curricular opportunity. I chose to get involved with the youth chapel on campus. Not only was I introduced to many Irish students, I was able to connect with individuals who shared my ideas and values, and it gave me a sense of belonging that made me feel at home at NUI. Ask for Help — It is almost inevitable that you will need to ask for help. The first week on campus I got disorientated many times. On a few occasions, individuals asked me if I needed help finding my way. Other times, I would politely ask for directions. Everyone was very kind and willing to help. The Irish community is especially kind to visitors and never hesitates to stop what they are doing to help you find your way. — Professors, advisors, and fellow students are excellent resources as you become accustomed to your new campus. By the end of your semester you will have the entire campus memorized and feel like a pro. Maintain an Open Mind — One of the reasons that entering a new country can feel overwhelming is the country’s striking differences from home. Although the changes seem major at first, over the course of the semester you will realize that your home country and your study abroad county are not that different. — Some things that are helpful to know: electrical outlets may be a different shape, the grading system may be different from your home university, and as I found out the water heater may be complicated to figure out at first! After a short while, things will seem normal again. — Keep in mind that the aspects of your study abroad country are not better or worse than home, just different. Differences are wonderful learning opportunities! Stay Connected — The time difference between your study abroad country and home may present challenges. It will take time to establish a rhythm of communication, but simultaneously conversing with old and new friends is a very rewarding aspect of studying abroad. — As your adventure unfolds during your semester abroad, it may be challenging to keep in touch with family and friends back home. Remember, that everyone back home is excited for you and wants to know how you are doing. Volunteer — Volunteering while abroad gives you a sense of purpose in a foreign country and is another a great way to meet a variety of new people. — It is a fantastic way to become acquainted with the local community. My time at a local elementary after-school homework club offered insights to the daily lives of children in Ireland and proved to provide some of my fondest memories of my semester abroad. Pace Yourself — You may feel obligated to take advantage of every study abroad moment. While this mindset is good, it is also important to have down time between your adventures. — Pacing yourself between adventures will ensure you stay healthy and rested and you will enjoy traveling days that much more! Your Fears Are Your Limits — I give the study abroad experience the highest recommendation. Not only has it enhanced my college education, it has allowed me to grow as a person in ways that I would not have if I had remained at home. — Not all aspects of studying abroad are easy, but the challenges you face are more than worth the amazing things you will experience and the wonderful people you will meet. — When you return home, you will be a changed person. For me, I think I will see the world differently. I can’t think of a better way to learn about yourself and grow as an individual than to live in another country for a semester. When you reach the little house, the place your journey started, You will recognize it, although it will seem much smaller than you remember. Walk up the path, and through the garden gate you never saw before but once. And then go home. Or make a home. -Neil Gaiman

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Coming to a Close
Even if you’re not traveling the world, I dare to say April is the busiest month of the year for students because the school year comes to a close. This April was no exception, however, the busyness was full of exciting things and memories that will last a lifetime. Aril 1st: After getting back from spring break, it was Easter! My family is very involved in the Easter events at our church back home, so for the first time since I set off in January, I truly missed home. To combat this, I tried going to a service at the International Church of Barcelona. It was really cool to see people from all nations coming together to celebrate the same Christ who died for our sins halfway across the world. April 3rd: I turned 20! It was strange not being with my family and friends on my birthday – the first time in my now 20 years of life, but I did go out for some Italian food with some of my new ASA buds. (Sadly, there was no birthday discount) Another plus, due to the 7 hour time difference, my birthday seemed to last 7 hours longer! April 4th – 11th My mom came to visit me!! This was VERY exciting, and I enjoyed sharing my new city with her. I kept her incredibly busy as we went to see all the hot spots Barcelona has to offer – Parc Guell, the beach, Sagrada Familia, the Magic Fountain show, the bunkers, etc. And of course we enjoyed some delicious typical food – patatas bravas, colçots, pan con tomate, paella, crema catalana, etc. She was even able to join me and my program in a spanish cooking workshop! We had a blast together and I am so fortunate that she was able to come experience a slice of Spain with me. April 12th – 14th Back in January, my friend Claire and I had bought a trip through Bus2Alps to go to Croatia. I was told Croatia is BEAUTIFUL, and it is true, it is. Sadly, I didn’t get to stay long because plane tickets to and from Split/Barcelona are not super cheap which made us have less time there than we would have liked. However, I did spend a magical day floating down the Cetina River in a raft and having the time of my life. WOW, it was GORGEOUS! and we were able to jump off cliffs and swim, and I met some other lovely ladies traveling around who joined me on my raft. This was a peaceful weekend stop. April 15th – April 25th Then it was preparing for the end. I had a lot of finals and projects to complete, including a stressful marketing group assignment, but I made it through and out the other side! I made a conscious effort to embrace the beauty of Barcelona because I knew I wouldn’t be seeing it much longer. Saying goodbye to my classmates and professors was sad, as we are now scattered across the world never to all unite again. My program had a farewell dinner, so we could all get together one last time, which was lovely. I don’t think it has really hit me yet that my program is done. There have been so many times we have all hopped on airplanes to travel for a week, but we always returned. I don’t think it will sink in that we aren’t all returning until I am back home in MN for a few weeks. (BEWARE the reverse culture shock) That being said, this has been an incredible experience that I can’t even put it all into words. I have learned so much – not just academically or culturally but about myself. I strongly encourage everyone to get outside their comfort zone and travel! Before my return, I have one more bout of traveling ahead of me – London, Paris, and Rome. Then I will fly back to Barcelona to pick up my bags and return home to the USA.

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Adventures in Scotland and Ireland
One of the advantages of studying abroad in Europe is the amazing potential for travel during school breaks. While visiting London, my friend and I were in relative close proximity to Scotland, so we continued our spring break travels in the vibrant city of Edinburgh. A scenic train ride from London to Edinburgh treated us to gorgeous views of rolling green hills and grazing sheep while warm sunshine through the window blanketed us on our journey. We had reserved beds at Edinburgh Backpackers, a hostel that offered a central location on a street directly off the Royal Mile. Our first evening in Edinburgh was quiet as we enjoyed dinner and a walk around the cobblestone streets as the sun set behind the historic buildings. The next morning, we woke up to the joyful Scottish sound of bagpipes resonating from the streets below. We explored the historic city with a walking tour of the Royal Mile and St. Giles’ Cathedral, and then as two Harry Potter fans, we could hardly resist finishing the day with a delicious dinner at the Elephant House café where J. K. Rowling wrote a few of her books. The following day, we visited the National Museum of Scotland where I was impressed with the variety of exhibits for all ages. As it was Good Friday, we attended a beautiful service at St. Giles’ Cathedral around noon and then joined a walking tour called The Potter Trail, which took us to sites such as Grey Friars Cemetery with gravestones known to have inspired the names of some of J. K Rowling’s Harry Potter characters, and Victoria Street, which is the avenue which inspired J. K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley. Edinburgh is a wonderful city and as our time there progressed, it became evident why Rowling was inspired by this very magical place. Meeting new people is one of the many rewarding opportunities of studying abroad. Not only do you meet people at your new university through classes and activities, sometimes you make connections between friends or friends of friends. As this was the case with my travel partner, we decided to take a day trip to meet a friend of a friend who is a native of Glasgow and a student at the University of Glasgow. He generously offered to meet us for hot chocolate and give us a personal tour of Glasgow and his university. The University of Glasgow is known for its resemblance to Hogwarts, the magical school in Harry Potter and the beautiful architecture of the school did indeed bear a striking resemblance. We were blessed with a beautiful day of sunshine so we continued on to explore Kelvingrove Park, which took us down a walking path next to a river. The flowers were beginning to bloom and many birds were flying about in the trees above us. The following day, we attended a beautiful Easter morning service at St. Giles’ Cathedral. The acoustics were incredible as the choir sang joyful praises of the Lord’s resurrection. We then enjoyed a lovely brunch of waffles at St. Giles’ Café followed by shopping at the Royal Mile Market where we found a variety of crafts, jewelry, clothing, and antique vendors. We completed the day with a tour of Edinburgh Castle, which sits at the top of the Royal Mile and offers a beautiful view of the entire city. Although it was a bit cold that day, we couldn’t resist sampling a handmade Scottish ice cream cone at the end of the tour. On Easter Monday we departed from Edinburgh on a flight to Shannon, Ireland. After a series of long bus rides, we were greeted in Dingle by breathtaking views of rolling hills with intense shades of green, sheep and cattle gracefully grazing within stone walled pastures, and the beautiful sight of Dingle Bay at the bottom of the valley. I kept repeating over and over in my head that this is the most beautiful place in the world. After numerous nights of sharing rooms with other travelers at hostels, we treated ourselves with a couple nights at Murphy’s Bed and Breakfast, which is a few minutes’ walk from Dingle Bay. Our hosts were very kind and we enjoyed delicious breakfasts of bacon, eggs, fruit, and homemade brown bread both mornings. After the busyness of London and Scotland, we soaked in the relaxed atmosphere of Dingle as we explored the shops and visited a huge pasture of grazing sheep where young lambs played with one another. As I have been missing my three cats at home, I was excited to find a few wondering among the shops. One friendly kitty was willing to let me shower it with love. We finished the lovely day at John Benny’s Pub on Dingle Bay listening to live Irish music. I could not help but fall in love with the quaint and friendly town that seemed made especially for me. On our last days in Dingle, we took a coastline bus tour of the Dingle Peninsula, which included magnificent views of sparkling blue waves and rolling green hills, and a two-hour horseback ride through the hills. Although it was a cold and extremely windy day, we had wonderful horses. The views at the top of the hill displayed the entirety of Dingle with its ships in the bay and lovely homes. Sore and cold, we ended our day at the Dingle Pub to warm up and have a delicious meal. Of all the places I have visited on my travels so far, Dingle is definitely my favorite location. The final days of our spring break were spent in Cork. My favorite location, about an hour outside of Cork, is the Blarney Castle and Gardens. We climbed the narrow, winding stone steps to the top of the castle and were rewarded with a wonderful view of the surrounding gardens and green fields. Unfortunately, during the final days of our break, I felt under the weather and needed to stay at our hostel to rest. The next day it was wonderful to return to Galway. It truly feels like home now and it was a comforting feeling to return to a place so welcoming and familiar. Already my classes are coming to an end and I am beginning my preparations for final exams. I look forward to some quiet and relaxing weeks in Galway to study and read before I will be excitingly welcoming some visitors!

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Adventures in Galway and London
I am blessed to have experienced so much in the past month! It has been an amazing adventure to explore the places I once only dreamed of visiting.
 
A recent highlight was attending the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway. Because of our heritage, my family has always celebrated March 17 so it was a surreal experience to witness the celebration in Ireland. In the parade, some of the children from the school where I help at homework club waved and played instruments. It was fun to recognize familiar faces and it helped me feel at home in Galway.
 
My classes continue to be enjoyable as I have read interesting books and presented on interesting topics. It has been a wonderful break from my courses at home to engage in elective classes. The workload has been manageable and given me time to enjoy the beauty of Ireland and spend time with friends.
 
I am now on a two-week spring break from my studies in Ireland. Two of my friends and I left Galway last Friday to explore London. I was excited yet slightly reluctant to leave Galway, but was comforted as I realized that Galway, once a foreign city, now feels like home.
 
Lost tickets, forgotten pin numbers, and sore feet are all worth the amazing sights and experiences of seeing Europe. Staying at hostels is a nice way to remain in a central city location and not spend a fortune. My friends and I were at the Astor Museum Hostel and explored London for five days. We began our adventure at the British Museum, stopped at a pub for a lunch of fish and chips, explored the shops and attended a Palm Sunday service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral the next morning. We also visited Madame Tussauds, rode on the top of a double-decker bus, found the Beatles’ famous Abbey Road, enjoyed tea at Regents Park, and finished the evening at Platform 9 and 3/4 at King’s Cross Station made famous by J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. 
 
Our final days in London were spent exploring Green Park, watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, viewing St. James’s Palace, Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge, and taking a ride on the London Eye. The view of the city was spectacular and the sight of so many red double-decker buses and telephone booths was a dream come true! On our final day, we visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, the Borough Market, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and the Tate Museum. We finished the day close to our hostel at a wonderful restaurant called the Spaghetti House. 
 
Though one friend headed back to Galway, my other friend and I are continuing our travels. Today on a train from London to Edinburgh, we enjoyed beautiful views of green rolling hills and seeing many pastures of sheep. The sunshine was warm through the window and it was a lovely rest after our busy time in London. The adventure continues tomorrow with our exploration of Scotland! 


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March Madness
Tomorrow marks the first day of April, and as the days warm up, I cannot help but ask – Where has the time gone? It feels like I arrived in Barcelona just yesterday; I vividly remember walking through the airport full of anxiety and focused on finding the meeting point for my program. Today, I can navigate around the city (and the airport) like nobody’s business. The days keep ticking by, and with each one of them I continue adding to list of things and places I have experienced. In Barcelona:
  • Sagrada Familia
ASA had a tour of the Sagrada Familia; I went even though I have already gone before because there is just no getting over the beauty of it no matter how many times you see it! Sometimes I come out of the metro station and BOOM, there it is hovering hundreds of feet above me with intricate detail. Inside is just as impressive with light of every color shining through the stained windows. I will definitely make the trip back to Barcelona someday to see the finished product (as of now it is estimated around 2026).
  • Claire’s Parents
My friend Claire was excited to have her parents visit her for a few days and invited me to join them for dinner. I had a lovely time as they were so welcoming and provided a family feel I had been missing a little! We also went on a nice hike up Mount Tibidabo to have a picnic on Sunday then roamed the streets of the Gothic quarter and actually happened across the restaurant with my favorite Patatas Bravas that I thought was lost forever!
  • Raval Tour
The next weekend everyone in ASA seemed to be traveling besides myself, but I enjoyed a tour of the Raval Neighborhood with just Marta and me! We also did some shopping together, and our favorite second hand store Humana was having a sale where EVERYTHING was £1, so I bought a dress, a skirt, five shirts, and a coat! Marta also treated me to some tapas. I love her <3
  • Salsa Night
Claire and I decided it was time to try a night out again, but this time at a Salsa Club! We had so much fun dancing Salsa with partners and in a line. It was also a place we were able to utilize our Spanish. 
  • Game of Thrones Exhibition
Last summer I binge watched the first six seasons of this popular television show. I appreciate it for the intricate plot and fantastic characters. There was an exhibit in Barcelona, so I joined Mason and Michaela to check it out. They had video clips, the amazing soundtrack playing, and costumes from several seasons. Also included was a Hall of Faces I could add my own face to, an ice wall, and of course the Iron Throne. I was also given free Spanish HBO for 2 months (Bonus!)
  • National Women’s Day
This was a big deal in Barcelona and the metro was affected when women didn’t show up to work as a way of advocating for fair wages. There was also a big march in the city center. I celebrated with my class by visiting an artists home, going to the rooftop to enjoy snacks, and sharing about important women in my life. Menorca: This was a rather spontaneous trip because plans to go to Valencia fell through and plane tickets to Menorca were cheap. This is a Spanish island just off the east coast of Barcelona. Claire and I had a wonderful experience thanks to our AirBnb as our host showed us around, introduced us to locals, and brought us to a magical musical cave with a small bar and locals with amazing voices who enjoyed singing Catalan folk songs. Menorca was very peaceful and again, very different from the other destinations I have visited so far. Montserrat: This was a day trip with ASA just outside of Barcelona. There is a cathedral with one of four black Madonnas and a beautiful boys choir. We also hiked to the top of the mountain which was VERY high up and A LOT of hiking but so fun! Netherlands: Spring Break fell upon us, so I made plans with my pal Claire to check out Amsterdam and the surrounding area. I have family friends there that took us in and really treated us well. It was strange to be immersed in a country where I had NO IDEA what they were saying, as Dutch is VERY different from both English and Spanish. Highlights:
  • Anne Frank House: we scored tickets to visit right after our plane landed, so Anne and Hans (my family friends) dropped us off and we walked through this monumental building. It really is amazing. I’ve learned about WWII, the holocaust, and Anne Frank many times in school, but it always felt so distant. Standing in the same room in which she would wrote her diary and seeing the walls in which she glued magazine pictures to brighten up the area was unreal. This part of history did not happen that long ago; there are many pictures of her and even a video. She is so very real and I found myself in her in our shared passion to publish a book someday and record memories. My favorite souvenir so far is buying a copy of her published diary.
  • Zaanse Schans: Here I was able to understand more of the Dutch culture. There were many mills, and canals. I saw how wooden shoes get made, how sails were woven on a loom, and how a saw mill runs. It was a very neat place.
  • Keukenhof: This is a huge garden full of flowers, but mostly tulips. We lucked out as it is only open around 8 weeks a year, and had just opened two days prior. Not all the bulbs had bloomed, but we still enjoyed roaming the paths and breathing in the sweet air.
  • Rotterdam: Anne and Hans love Rotterdam, and their son freed up his day to show us around. A lot of it was bombed and destroyed in WWII, so now it is becoming a leading city for unique architecture. It was here I enjoyed a delicious stroopwafel!
  • Van Gogh Museum: Not only is Van Gogh an incredible artist, but he himself was also an interesting fellow. Our tickets to this museum came with audio and we spent a good amount of time following his life as an artist. Impressive!
  • Canal Tour: We floated through Amsterdam on a Hop on Hop off boat so we could see all the sights.
Tenerife: Since we were all go go go in the Netherlands, Claire and I had made plans for a sunny relaxing second half of our spring break. We flew to the Canary Islands early in the morning, checked into our hostel, and hit the beaches. One day we booked a whale watching excursion with an eco-friendly boat and set sail. I love the water! It took us almost two hours, but then we happened upon a pod of what our guide said to be around 50 pilot whales. They looked like dolphins but of course had rounded noses for echolocation. On the way back we saw some sea turtles! We had a relaxing time, got plenty of sun, and met people from all over the world staying at our hostel – New Zealand, Australia, France, Brazil, Italy, England, and Spain!  It was so cool hearing their stories. I arrived back in Barcelona a couple of hours ago and am looking forward to some rest. April is sure to fly by in a blink of an eye, but so far my experience abroad has been incredible.  

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Galway, Ireland: Taking Learning to a Deeper Level
After attending a chapel service on Wednesday evening, I talked with another visiting student who is also staying in Galway. She told me that she recently arrived in Ireland just a week before. After hearing that I have lived in Galway for nearly two months, she asked me how my semester was going and if I was glad that I decided to study abroad. I was excited to tell her that my adventures, friendships, and learning experiences have been worth all the challenges and that studying in Ireland was the perfect addition to my college education. After talking with numerous other visiting students, it has become evident to me that studying in another country is a significant opportunity for personal growth and maturity, especially for young adults. College is already a time of exploration and personal definition and studying abroad takes the experience to an even deeper level. Although my daily activities are comparable to that of my life at Concordia, the physical displacement of being in a location away from home and the experience of living within a new culture and meeting new people with new ideas and backgrounds has made my life here unlike my experience of college at home. I have found that time away from home has given me a greater amount of freedom and introduced me to a rich atmosphere of diverse opinions and perspectives. The opportunity to meet new people, live in a new geographical area, and participate in relevant educational experiences has encouraged growth and personal discovery at an excelled rate. As I mentioned in my previous post, I am currently working with grade school children in Ireland at an after-school homework club at a local primary school in Galway. This service learning experience provides me with a multitude of opportunities that are helping me prepare for my future career as a Child Life Specialist when I will provide educational, emotional, and social support to children and their families who are going through medical procedures and experiencing hospital stays. As a homework club helper in Ireland, I am building personal relationships with children of various backgrounds and experiences as I support and encourage them in their schoolwork. In addition to helping them understand their work, one of my highest goals is to express genuine attention to the individual needs and interests of the children. I hope it is evident to the children that I care deeply about their unique challenges. The rewarding experiences of helping the students at homework club parallels the work I will someday do as a Child Life Specialist and has increased my excitement to someday offer similar personalized care to children and their families in a medical setting. In addition to my schoolwork and volunteering, I have enjoyed the beauty of Ireland while spending time exploring Galway. The weather is becoming nicer as the semester progresses and the rain and cool winds of winter slowly give way to the warm breezes of spring. This past week, Galway experienced pleasant spring weather and many daffodils are blooming across campus. The other day, one of my friends and I enjoyed tea and scones outside on a campus bench in the sunshine. I feel very blessed to experience such lovely weather in February. Planning for spring break travels is now underway! I look forward to exploring more of Ireland and Europe!

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