Jackie in Switzerland: Coming Home

August 5, 2015

Hi there, remember me? I have officially been home for about three weeks, and it is weird! I have waited to write this post because it took me a little while to figure out what it’s really like to come back after 6 months abroad.  I still feel the same, but the biggest struggle has been the little things that I now notice in the U.S. after seeing completely different things abroad. For example, I find that after being in Switzerland, I take a more liberal view point on a lot of social issues in the U.S. Coming from a generally conservative town, it’s sometimes difficult to find a balance between what I thought was ‘normal’ before and how I fit into that normal with all of my new opinions. And by this I mean that I’m finding it harder to bite my tongue, which has led to more than a few political arguments with my father (sorry, dad).

In truth, it surprised me how little my life had an effect on those back home when it seemed like I was having the eye-opening experience of a lifetime. I expected my friends and family to have been following my travels, anxiously awaiting my return so that they could hear all about it. What actually happened was that I returned to find that people had been doing other things while I was gone (how dare they have lives without me?) and that my returning home was more of a return for me than for anyone else.

I have some awesome pictures from all across Europe, and I can still remember the taste of my Swiss chocolate, Italian coffee, and Greek souvlaki. Oh my, the separation anxiety is real. But while all of that stuff really matters to me, for everyone else in my life, these things are remotely cool and interesting, but nothing life changing. I don’t know if I was expecting people to absolutely freak out and bombard me with questions, but I have spoken surprisingly little about my experiences since coming home.

What I’m basically trying to say is this; never, ever, EVER live your life for someone else’s interest. In the end, they’re probably not going to care nearly as much as you do, and in the process, you’re going to miss out on what you love trying to be the cool, interesting traveler that you think everyone wants.

The person you should be trying to impress is yourself. Studying abroad gives you the best experiences ever, but those experiences are YOURS and no one else’s, so you need to spend your time/money/energy figuring out what you want to do, even if it may be boring to someone else.

This blog has given me the chance to be honest about what it’s really like to study abroad and I hope that you all enjoyed reading about it as much as I enjoyed writing about it! Good luck to all of the students studying abroad this fall; you’re in for a great time. 🙂


Jackie in Switzerland: The (almost) End

June 26, 2015

Leaving Lausanne did not feel entirely real. I think after spending so much time in one place, it is hard to imagine that you might never be back. For the whole last week in this town, I have been living in total denial, which is really the easiest and (clearly) the most mature way to handle things. I’ve mostly been doing the exact same things as normal, refusing to pack, and actually ignoring anyone who tries to remind me that I’m leaving. If someone insists that I should actually start getting my things together, I kindly tell them to stop talking. Very mature.

Luckily, I do not have to say goodbye quite yet, since I will be traveling around Europe for a month after leaving Lausanne! I am really excited for that, since I will be seeing many countries in Eastern Europe that I have never visited before. I also do not know a single word of Czech, German, Hungarian, Greek or Italian so I’m sure that will create some funny/embarrassing /awkward beyond belief stories along the way. I’m sure it will be a whirlwind experience, but for now I’m reflecting on how crazy this past semester has been.

This is one of my favorite things in the city.

This is one of my favorite things in the city.

Walking through the streets of Lausanne, I remember the first time that I arrived here and the name Ouchy (the area by the lake) meant nothing to me and I was ‘not all that excited’ about the chocolate. Total newbie mistake.

Being at the end makes me think of the beginning and how I showed up somewhat terrified and completely over my head. I had never had to do all that much for myself, even though I had always thought of myself as independent. I can now say that the word has taken on a whole new meaning after having to beat down the doors of the housing administration just to get my security deposit back (I did get it back!).

It really strikes me how the actual city of Lausanne hasn’t changed, but the people in it have. I promise not to make this into a sappy “this semester has changed my life and I will never be the same” drama, but I will say that studying abroad is like nothing else in this world. I wouldn’t say that it changed me, but more that it made me feel alive. It made me feel more secure in the person that I am at the same time that it made me feel small in comparison to what is out there. It is so easy, especially at a small school like Richmond, to get into a groove and never realize how much there is out there.

Being in a city with so many religions, colors, cultures, languages and people has made me so much more certain about who I want to be. It is almost as if I am taking all of these differences surrounding me, picking which ones I like best, and inserting them into my own life. My friend Amanda said it the best; it’s like leaving little bits of yourself behind in every place you visit, but also picking up little bits that others give you.

This is turning sappier than I intended, but all in all, I will say that I have never been more proud of myself than I am in this moment. Not because I passed all of my classes (yay!), not because I made super awesome amazingly cool friends and not because I necessarily got to do all of the things that I wanted to. I’m most proud because I let this experience grow me. If I could give one piece of advice about study abroad, it would be to let the experience take you whatever way it wants to take you. If you want to meet the same people and say the same things and feel the same emotions, stay at home!

Study abroad will offer you bits of the entire world, but that means nothing if you don’t take them. If you do choose to go abroad, do not leave without making an impression and do not leave without letting the experience make an impression on you.

One last lovely view of these mountains.

One last lovely view of these mountains.


Jackie in Switzerland: Flashback to the 1920’s

June 8, 2015

The 1920’s party was AWESOME. The party took place on a giant boat that started in Lausanne before sailing around Lac Léman for a few hours. The party was called “Titanique Lémanic”, the theme was 1920’s/Gatsby, and I was so impressed with the atmosphere.

It was so fun to dress up for the night and go out for something special!

It was so fun to dress up for the night and go out for something special!

First of all, I am a total nerd and absolutely LOVE the 20’s (and The Great Gatsby) and so I was all over this party from the very beginning. I went shopping at consignment shops in the area with my friends to find anything to wear that would fit the theme. In the end, almost everyone at the party got really into the theme and it truly looked like a fabulous 1920’s party when we arrived.

I dressed up in 1920’s style, and my friend Maeve dressed up as a Titanic passenger… I wonder if the party organizers ever questioned having a party entitled “titanic” on a boat?

I dressed up in 1920’s style, and my friend Maeve dressed up as a Titanic passenger… I wonder if the party organizers ever questioned having a party entitled “titanic” on a boat?

The boat had a casino, a magician, and a dance floor. The decorations looked really extravagant and you could tell that everyone at the party was having an amazing time and that it was one of the last times that we would all be together. It obviously felt fabulous to be on a boat, in one of the prettiest countries in the world, dressed up like Daisy and Jay. But even more than the extravagance of the party, it was incredible to all get together at the very end of the semester and see how far we have all come.

The Jay to our Daisy.

The Jay to our Daisy.

I knew that this was the last time that I would see many of the friends I have made since the beginning of the semester and it made the experience even more magical. We still had our “wow this is real life” moments, but we also realized that this might be one of the last times we could stare in awe at the beauty of Switzerland all together. The boat gave us the best view I have ever seen of the Swiss Alps (and as you know, I have seen a lot) and the sun seemed to set just for us.

Exhibit A in the “wow this is real life” feeling.

Exhibit A in the “wow this is real life” feeling.

This was the first moment where I felt that the end was near. I will be leaving in less than a week and I feel like I have just started getting comfortable in Lausanne. I am realizing that while I post awesome pictures of my travels and I get to learn another language and meet simply amazing people, study abroad is not easy. Yes, in the beginning it was very hard to get used to the country, but now it is hard to imagine not living here. When I arrived, I expected to make a few friends from cool places and then to be okay in returning home.

Pancakes with my friends.

Pancakes with my friends.

I have been combating the feeling that time is slipping by organizing pancake breakfasts on my hall (and forcing everyone to come!) These are some of my close friends that I have made in my dorm, and they were all excited to try ‘American pancakes made by a real American’. Feel free to call me MasterChef.

I have been combating the feeling that time is slipping by organizing pancake breakfasts on my hall (and forcing everyone to come!) These are some of my close friends that I have made in my dorm, and they were all excited to try ‘American pancakes made by a real American’. Feel free to call me MasterChef.

I am finding that the hardest part will be saying goodbye to the people whom I have met here. I have not just found “friends for now” but rather friends for life and people who I will miss terribly. Whether it’s my Chef BFF Amanda who cooks me the most amazing dinners because I am awful in the kitchen, my French hall mate who regularly (and adorably) throws around the American slang that I teach him, or even my friend Ayumi who I will see at school at Richmond, I am realizing that I will not be able to see them on a regular basis and that I have grown so attached to my friends here that I do not know what I will do without them. The hardest part of studying abroad is creating this new comfort and this new home for yourself and then having to leave it as soon as it feels okay.

 As I get closer to the end, I have been taking more and more photos like this one, Lausanne is a gorgeous city!

As I get closer to the end, I have been taking more and more photos like this one, Lausanne is a gorgeous city!

I am unbelievably grateful for the fact that I have found my “people” here in Switzerland, unbelievably relieved that the majority of my work is over, and unbelievably excited for the next chapter. I feel all of these things at the same time, and the result is such a mix of emotions that I don’t even know what to feel anymore. While I knew that I would love my time abroad and that of course I would get comfortable here, I never thought that I would have such a hard time saying goodbye. That being said, I will be traveling around Europe for about a month after my semester officially ends, and so the adventure is not quite over yet.


Jackie in (Italian) Switzerland

June 1, 2015

Study abroad keeps getting better and better.

This past week, I got the chance to go to Ticino, which is the Italian region of Switzerland and it was absolutely amazing! Well, actually the entire trip went wrong from the very beginning, but it ended up being a trip to remember.

I got to see 8 hours of this view, so I can’t complain!

I got to see 8 hours of this view, so I can’t complain!

First, we got to drive through the countryside and see all of the beautiful scenery of mountains and lakes. However, it turns out that since our travel day was a national holiday, a lot of highways were closed and we had to go through Italy in order to get to our destination back in Switzerland. Weird, I know. The result was a 4-hour-turned-8-hours bus ride with 65 people.

Jackie over the city

The view was 100% worth it.

The view was 100% worth it.

Luckily, the views were really amazing and I got to spend time with other awesome students. When we finally arrived in Ticino, we went on a “little hike” (please note the sarcastic quotation marks). Turns out that the hike was about an hour long straight up a mountain and when we got to the top, we were all exhausted, but once again Switzerland shocked us with its beauty and it was all worth it.

This was the posh restaurant were we acted like complete savages and got some appalled looks from the Swiss.

This was the posh restaurant were we acted like complete savages and got some appalled looks from the Swiss.

That night, the exchange network in Ticino organized an apéro with drinks and dinner in order to celebrate our arrival. We all arrived in our comfy workout clothes, starving and absolutely gross after an 8 hour bus ride and a big hike in the heat. We discovered that the restaurant was actually a very posh and fancy place, just along the lake. Our group of 65 showed up and I have never felt more out of place in my life. All of the Swiss were just staring at us and sipping their overly priced drinks as we took over the place.

We got to see the beautiful city of Lugano at night as we scrounged for food.

We got to see the beautiful city of Lugano at night as we scrounged for food.

We were also famished and were all so looking forward to dinner, but the restaurant was not prepared to handle ravenous students and chaos ensued. We now refer to this night as the Hunger Games because each time that the waiter brought out more food, people literally RAN up to the tables and took all the food that they could get. It was every man for himself. I have never seen people move so fast. And I do not think we will be invited back to the restaurant.

While the scenery wasn’t o great in the rain, I was still struck by some of the beautiful little things, like this gate. It’s so cool how the different regions of Switzerland (French, German, and Italian) all have their own personal style.

While the scenery wasn’t so great in the rain, I was still struck by some of the beautiful little things, like this gate. It’s so cool how the different regions of Switzerland (French, German, and Italian) all have their own personal style.

The next day, the rain was incredible. Someone had told me that this part of Switzerland was “the sunniest part of the whole country”, but on this particular day, it was pouring and windy like crazy. We still got to enjoy the day because we visited a really cool old castle and we got to go out and celebrate with the Swiss students from Ticino. This night, we got lots of delicious food and did not feel like absolute savages.

On our final day, we packed up and headed toward home, but not before enjoying the brilliant sun and warm weather. We stopped at a mountain spring and got a chance to swim in the water that came directly from the very top of the Swiss Alps. Of course it was freezing in the water, but the rocks surrounding it were so warm and the views were like nothing I’ve seen before.

Although it looks amazing, the water itself was so cold because it came directly from the peaks of the Alps. That being said, the water was so fresh and clean, we still went swimming!

Although it looks amazing, the water itself was so cold because it came directly from the peaks of the Alps. That being said, the water was so fresh and clean, we still went swimming!

It was all fun and games until someone decided to jump from the giant bridge above the water. Why someone thought that it was a good idea to jump from a bridge into a freezing water, the world may never know, but at least I got a video from my nice warm spot on the rocks.

This is the bridge that a few other students jumped off of (it was MUCH higher than it seems in this picture).

This is the bridge that a few other students jumped off of (it was MUCH higher than it seems in this picture).

After another 4-hour-tuned-8-hour bus ride home, we finally got back to Lausanne. It was hard to go from this amazing vacation immediately into study mode, but now it is the final push and I can see the end in sight. I have 3 papers due this week and then I am officially done with all of my work for the semester. For now, I am living in denial and trying to pretend that I am not leaving in a week. Thankfully, the exchange network is throwing a 1920’s style party this week as a sort of goodbye send-off. I can’t wait and will be sure to post updates soon!

One of the coolest things about the mountains is that you can go from enjoying the warm sun in one moment and drive into the arctic tundra the next! This photo was taken on the same day as the previous one, in the middle of May!

One of the coolest things about the mountains is that you can go from enjoying the warm sun in one moment and drive into the arctic tundra the next! This photo was taken on the same day as the previous one, in the middle of May!


Becca in Hungary: See You Later

May 26, 2015

Its hard to believe that my program is officially over! These past few weeks have just been a whirlwind of emotion. As my brain desired to study for my final exams, my heart desired to finish exploring the city I would soon have to say goodbye too. It wasn’t until these last fews weeks where I began to realize how much I really formed a new home here (Note to parents: No worries! Where you are will always be my real home!). During the last week of the program I had my study abroad advisor, Abby Ward, and computer science professor, Dr. Lawson, from the University of Richmond come and visit AIT. As I walked them through the streets of Budapest I finally began to have that feeling of “oh man I KNOW this city”! I have conquered public transportation, mastered finding great food, and gained knowledge of the history of the streets that I have been walking.

My heart has been so conflicted, because while part of me wants to continue to learn more about Hungary and finish exploring every crack and corner of this city, my other half is ready to be home. I miss the softness and warmth of my towel after taking it out of the dryer (no dryers in Hungary). I miss being able to understand the language being shared around me. I miss the wonderful combination of peanut butter and chocolate that is a rare find across Europe. And though all of these things seem like small things; not having them for five months has helped me see the simple joy and pleasure you can find in them. Not only do I miss the cultural differences that Hungary and America have, I also miss all the people. Like any spring semester I typically do not see my parents and grandparents until summer when I return home for a couple weeks before I embark on a new summer adventure. But this semester I miss them more than ever before. I already have butterflies thinking of the day coming so soon where I will see them in the airport ready to take me home. I am ready to go home, but I will never be ready to say goodbye to Budapest. Instead, I simply say “see you later” because I know someday our paths will cross again.

And though I am ready to return to the people I love some much in America I will also miss the people I have met through my program here. It still hasn’t hit me that I may never see some of these people ever again. Even when I was “saying goodbye” to everyone at the final ceremony I continued to say “see you later”. Our paths were intertwined for a reason, and I can only hope that soon those paths will re-intertwined. Till then I simply say “See you later”.

Becca group

AIT Spring 2015


KyungSun in Scotland: Home Sweet Home

May 26, 2015

I know most study abroad students dread going back home, but I was ready to go back. Traveling, believe or not, is 60% stress and 40% enjoyment. Before arriving home in the States, I traveled to Athens (Greece), Rome (Italy), Budapest (Hungary), and London (UK). Let’s just say that every travel nightmare you could imagine happened to my brother and me during our trip.

Missed our flight? Check.

Had to pay to check our carry-on luggage? Check.

Got mobbed by selfie-stick and tour group vendors? Check.

It was definitely a learning curve for both of us. We can’t explain exactly why everything happened the way it happened. All we can tell you as fresh travelers is that you just have to keep calm and carry on. I kept repeating these words to myself during the entire trip. The best story to exemplify what my travels were like and how I emerged stronger, wiser, and utterly exhausted is our Rome story. Here’s how it went:

After the bus waved us off, my brother and I made our way along the dark streets to our hostel. We made our way with my phone glaring with low-battery warnings and picked up our pace when suddenly, we were hit with the strong smell of fresh urine. When we at last found our hostel, we dished out some extra Euro to pay city taxes that were not included in our initial booking. We were ready for some fluffy pillows by this point. I saw the open door to our mixed dorm room, walked in, and found five shirtless guys lazing around. I was the only girl. Sounds like a dream, but all I wanted was to freely strip out of my clothes, wear my fluffy PJs, and snore my heart away. After a long and surprise-ridden day, I longed for some comfort and privacy. But, I kept calm and carried on hoping for a more relaxing tomorrow.

              ***

The next morning we were ready for the amazing Rome experience everyone raved about. We grabbed our extra battery pack and set out for the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and the many Roman piazzas. My brother and I aren’t really big on having a fixed schedule. We like to have an idea of where we want to go and what places we want to see that day, but we welcome detours to hole-in-the-wall restaurants and signs pointing toward other cool looking places.

KSun pasta

We ended up hitting a lot of tourist sites, gelato shops, and a hole-in-the wall bakery that had the most scrumptious desserts we’ve ever had. This was the Italy I had imagined. What I hadn’t imagined was how hard it was to find food. How can this be you may ask? Well, first we had to get lost. Friends have told us that the best Italian food were in the hole-in-the wall places hidden from the touristy areas. But somehow we always ended up right back on a bustling street. Maybe we weren’t trying hard enough or maybe subconsciously our fear of getting too lost led us back where we unknowingly wanted to be. Whatever our issue was, we were so hungry we sat down at the next restaurant on a semi-quiet street only to discover that it had been a tourist restaurant. After a couple of bites of the pasta, I had a King Kong roar moment. The pasta disappointed my Italy-expectations. But it was only our first day out and we were hopeful for the next meal.

***

Day 3 of Rome was the. most. challenging. day. It’s supposed to get easier right? But in order for this to be a reality, we should have hit the Vatican on day 1. We got up extra early and rushed to the subway in hopes of getting in line early for the museum tickets. Little did I know, it was rush hour, and the metro was PACKED. I tried to make myself as small as I could as more people streamed in with every stop, and eventually ended up underneath someone’s armpit. When we finally squeezed our way out, we walked to the Vatican only to be welcomed with a flood of questions. Questions seemed to fly from all directions – Are you a student? Do you know where you’re going? We have free information! Do you have a reservation? Sensing they were vendors, we quickly pushed our way past only to be stopped by a vendor who gave us her spiel. Thankfully, she told us that we were going in the wrong direction – that the museum was on the other side. We kindly declined her tour and headed off to the museum line only to be bombarded by more vendors.

At one point I responded in Korean just so they would leave us alone. It was honestly overwhelming. I felt like the guy in Temple Run where the vendors were the monster and my brother and I were the poor fellow running for his life. Getting in line was the worst because we were sitting targets. One vendor came up to us and tried to convince us the line was on the other side of the street and that the “discounted” cost for students was 28 euros! I thankfully did my research beforehand and knew that the EU student discount was 7.50 euros. After what seemed like endless “No thank yous” we were halfway up the line and finally got some peace.

The Vatican itself was amazing. Beautiful. Stunning as we had been told.

One of the many intricate ceilings at the Vatican Museum

One of the many intricate ceilings at the Vatican Museum

Vatican City

Vatican City

Rome was one of our early trips, so the obstacles that we faced with every step stuck out the most mostly because they were the first memories of our travels. However, although in the beginning our trip was 60% stress and 40% enjoyment, the percentage did change as the trip went on. We were exhausted, but each day we were able to walk a bit further. We had a better gauge of when to rest, where to eat, and who to ask for information. By the time we ended up in Budapest, we were eating all the traditional local foods, hitting up the tourist sites with ease, and ended up well-rested and financially sound at the end of the day.

St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest was particularly breathtaking.

The process in getting to the 90% enjoyment, 10% stress took longer than we expected, but I’ve learned that this is the main theme of a study abroad experience. You’re thrown into a new environment where you don’t know anyone or anything. All you have are your past experiences, instincts, a dying battery, and the flood of people around you. Although it was scary in the beginning, I’ve found that embracing my vulnerability and tapping the shoulder of the stranger in front of me for directions was usually the best next step for new travelers like my brother and me. The “worst” we’ve faced is when someone ran away because they couldn’t speak English (happened to us in Athens) and the best was when we met someone in line at a Hungarian restaurant and we ended up having an entire dinner conversation with them.

I am extremely grateful to have had the comfort and familiarity of being in a country that uses the same language and has similar cultural aspects and traveling around the EU definitely made me appreciate this fact ten times more. However, my travels were the final growing stretches I needed before arriving back home. Being back home has already made me appreciate all the comforts and joys of familiar things like homemade Korean food, my beautiful countryside town, DINERS, my fluffy blankets, and greatest of all – my friends and family who supported me throughout the journey.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

Thank you to all who have followed me on this life-changing experience. I wish you all the best of luck in your next big step – I hope you get to travel someday as well and visit the places you’ve always wanted to – I hope you break your expectations of the things that have been romanticized and discover new loves that you never thought of before – but most importantly, I hope you have wonderful people to share them with along the way like you all have done for me. Thank you!! 🙂

London: The British National Museum

London: The British National Museum

Athens: At the Theatre of Dionysos

Athens: At the Theatre of Dionysos

Rome: The Trevi Fountain (under construction)

Rome: The Trevi Fountain (under construction)

Budapest: Representing UR!

Budapest: Representing UR!


Jackie in Switzerland: Putting the Study in Study Abroad

May 19, 2015

I am happy to report that Switzerland has turned me into a total French beast. Last week, I gave a presentation in a Contemporary History class that was 75 minutes total (with a partner, I’ll admit). I was so incredibly nervous for this presentation, I was literally shaking before I began. As I told the other students about the absolutely thrilling topic of Swiss books in the United States, I felt more and more at ease, even answering a few questions from other students. After I finally said my last sentence of the presentation, I glanced over at the teacher with that “I’m sorry that I don’t speak French and ruined this presentation” look. I was absolutely shocked when she congratulated us for our great performance and me especially for my French! She said that I was clear, understandable, and that my French was actually very good!

Jackie and Swiss Made

So happy to be done with one big assignment and to never have to read this book ever again (look how big it is!)

Studying abroad with the intention of learning a new language is very weird. I can tell that overall, my level of language is getting so much better. At the same time, there are moments where I get so discouraged in talking to people who speak perfectly that I have the impression that I will never speak French with complete comfort and fluency. I have some amazing hall mates who have been speaking to me in French and teaching me how to use new words and phrases, which has actually helped me more than any of my other classes.

One of the fun things about language learning is being able to read the multi-language signs at the museums. Especially when you find this gem in a Medieval Castle

One of the fun things about language learning is being able to read the multi-language signs at the museums. Especially when you find this gem in a Medieval Castle

The problem is that speaking in another language is so uncomfortable that if people are willing to speak to me in English, it is really hard to force myself to change to French. Almost everyone here knows English very well, and they want to learn it and so they would rather speak in English. I have found a few amazing friends who make me feel totally comfortable in speaking (and making really stupid mistakes in) French. Still, this has been the hardest part of study abroad for me; feeling like I should be mastering French but at the same time being hesitant to force myself to converse with French and Swiss people. I am just starting to find this balance and looking back at the beginning of the semester, I am still blown away by how much better I have gotten.

This baby might not look all that impressive, but it is 22 pages (single spaced!) of French research paper on the problems of European integration and multi-level governance. Still cannot believe that I did this, and I’m feeling really accomplished.

This baby might not look all that impressive, but it is 22 pages (single spaced!) of French research paper on the problems of European integration and multi-level governance. Still cannot believe that I did this, and I’m feeling really accomplished.

I might be struggling a little with speaking, but I have gotten so much better at my written work! So proud of my first grade in Switzerland. It’s a 6/6!

I might be struggling a little with speaking, but I have gotten so much better at my written work! So proud of my first grade in Switzerland. It’s a 6/6!

I still cannot believe that I am almost done with this semester, I really think it has gone faster than any other 4 month period of my life. I will be done with classes on May 29th, and I will be leaving the same day. I feel like at the beginning of the semester, I really didn’t appreciate the fact that I was halfway across the world in a really cool city with really cool people. Now, I have been hanging around Lausanne a lot more and have been getting to know my hall mates. That being said, I will be travelling to Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland for a weekend trip with the student exchange association of UNIL. I am so excited to see this new part of Switzerland, and I will be sure to post lots of pictures of the delicious Italian food I will be eating!

This is where I will be spending my long weekend, the Italian part of Switzerland.

This is where I will be spending my long weekend, the Italian part of Switzerland.


Becca in Hungary: BLOOPERS!!

May 6, 2015

While typically bloopers are saved for the end of the show I wanted to bring the bloopers from my time in Hungary out a bit earlier. As my program begins to wrap up in the next couple weeks I want to reflect on how I have changed through this experience, but I can only show how much I have grown if I show you where I first started. And with that I list my favorite “Bloopers” of my trip:

1) This face whenever someone tries to speak Hungarian to me:

Becca 1
2) followed by this face from them when I try to reply back in Hungarian:

Becca 2
3) When I went to the post office to try to mail a letter home, and everyone in the post office started yelling at me for some reason I am still unclear of today. (note: Sorry mom and dad I haven’t sent anymore postcards; the post office is just too scary of a place for me now.)

4) When I accidentally ate sour cream for an entire week because I thought it was a yogurt. WARNING: if you come to Hungary and see big shelves of tejföl it is NOT yogurt!! Hungarians are just in love with sour cream so they have a deceivingly large amount of it which may make yogurt lovers like me think that it is in fact yogurt.

5) This weekend when I went to a small ranch hotel, the concierge at the front desk would literally run to the back room whenever she saw us, in fear that we may ask her questions in English since she knew little English. At least I hope that is the reason she ran away from us…

6) When I was stopped at the metro to check for my metro pass. Because I have a student pass, I also need to carry a student ID with me. In this specific instance I forget my student ID and the metro workers were not happy. I knew this by their raised tone of their voice, but my lack of Hungarian prevented me from picking up all the details. Once they said they were going to call the police I knew I should just pay the fine for my offense and go on my merry way.

7) When taking a train from Vienna back to Budapest we were told that we had to buy first class tickets because there were no seats left in economy. When we got on the train we found the economy section to not only be nearly empty, but also that our first class tickets were not valid.

8) When I got lost in a Hungarian mall because not only do they have one H&M, T-Mobile, etc in each mall, sometimes they have two or three of the same exact store in the same exact mall… This leads to problems when telling someone meet me at H&M…

9) Trying to explain why I came to Budapest to study abroad. Many Hungarians didn’t realize that their countrymen are crazy good at math and a large portion of the greatest mathematicians are in fact Hungarian.

10) Trying to explain that you don’t want alcohol in some drink you are getting… that’s an even stranger concept to grasp for some Hungarians.

While I love to look back at these moments for a good laugh, I also love to look back on these moments to see how far I have come. Now, before buying tickets for a trip I verify online that I am in-fact getting the right price and deal. When I go to the grocery store I avoid tejföl at all costs, and when I am looking for something more specific I try to Google the Hungarian name before I go or ask someone in the store when I get there. I will never board any form of public transit without my student ID, and when I am using public transit in other countries I carefully check I am purchasing the correct ticket.

This semester has made me more aware that we can’t just assume things about the people and cultures we meet throughout our lives. Its not fair that I just assume that everyone I meet should just know English or that this person will understand our cultural differences. These differences, though, are not something to fear but rather to be explored and celebrated. That really is the point of the studying abroad anyways: exploring new cultures and realizing the plethora of ways people think and operate. I just continue to thank everyone that has allowed me to have this opportunity to explore the culture of Hungary and beyond.


KyungSun in Scotland: The Hardest Goodbye

May 5, 2015

Everyone is leaving, returning, graduating, and getting busy all too fast. I am trying my best to see what I haven’t yet seen of Scotland (weather permitting), have a meaningful goodbye with my exchange friends, say goodbye to my senior friends back at UR that are graduating, AND prepare for my upcoming trip around Europe. It’s honestly an understatement saying that it’s been a roller coaster ride. I’m feeling so many emotions in a day and constantly pressured to absorb as much of Scotland as possible, all while the weather teases me like the stubborn version of myself when I don’t know what I want.

Typical stubborn Scotland.

Typical stubborn Scotland.

I realize that no matter how many gifts I buy, no matter how many pictures I take, or how many meaningful memories I make in these last few days, I can’t capture it all. There’s no way. The other day, I was briefly taken back to my Spain Facebook album, when I traveled there the summer before my senior year in high school. I hadn’t seen these pictures in over three years and I was surprised at how little I remembered. I got pangs of slight familiarity when I saw my photos, but when I compared my photos to my friend Jackie’s photos of Madrid, I had forgotten how intricately detailed and beautiful the buildings were, what each place was called, and how delicious the tapas looked. Most importantly, I forgot what I learned besides the fact that it was my first time abroad.

Fortunately, I wrote most of it in my journal. This is something that I always do. Even back at home, I take time to reflect and write down not just what I’ve seen (because pictures do that for you), but what I’ve been thinking, feeling, and questioning. It’s not a daily thing. I write about every 2-3 days, and to take pressure of myself, I don’t write down everything, but only the things I’m reflecting on that day. It’s not only a great stress reliever, but also my personal way of capturing my growth during my college years. Journaling abroad has allowed me to add that last level of depth to my pictures, souvenirs, and videos. It also weirdly takes an enormous amount of pressure off to find the perfect souvenir for myself. So far, I bought a comic-style map of Scotland (since it listed a majority of places I’ve been to) and a few postcards. But then I still haven’t bought my shortbread, a Scottish flag, or a University of Edinburgh sweatshirt and that’s a must right?

To me, these things are the best representation of what I experienced in Scotland. The map represents where I was, and each postcard represents my favorite things about Scotland.

To me, these things are the best representation of what I experienced in Scotland. The map represents where I was, and each postcard represents my favorite things about Scotland.

I know in the end, we eventually become desensitized to things. I still have meaningful necklaces, posters, and t-shirts from past travels, but I never really notice them on a daily basis. And when I look at my Scotland posters and postcards, the last thing I want to do is simply say, “Wow, Scotland was so beautiful”. Instead, I want to absorb the lessons I’ve learned here and let my fresh perspective shape my experiences when I return. This way, by the time I graduate, I can look back on my four years, look at those souvenirs, and be reminded of how Scotland transformed how I spent my last year at Richmond.

Bonnie Loch Lomond

Bonnie Loch Lomond

So here I am, about to leave the place that I have gotten to know, explore, and be a part of for four months. Remember my post about love? Well, Scotland has taught me a lot about falling in love. Like I said, it’s a painful thing to have to let something or someone you love go, just like I am deeply sad in a way that I can never express in words about leaving Scotland. But you know when you’ve truly loved and not just clung onto something out of selfish desire when you get to know, understand, be immensely happy in, and happily, although sadly, let it go when you need to, knowing that it’s brought you much happiness through the joys and trials during your time together and at the end, inspired you to continue on a path towards becoming a better person.

Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh.

Edinburgh.

Scotland.

Scotland.


Jackie in Switzerland: Cheese, Chocolate, and Cows

May 5, 2015

This week, I learned what Switzerland is really all about: cheese, chocolate, and cows.

I got the amazing opportunity to go to Gruyères, which is the town that actually makes Gruyère cheese, the staple of Swiss cuisine. Of course because this is Switzerland, the town itself was charming and adorably and obviously had an amazing view of mountains and nature (the number one criteria for Swiss cities).

This was the train that took us from Lausanne to Gruyères. I have never in my life experienced something so adorable that it almost didn't seem real.

This was the train that took us from Lausanne to Gruyères. I have never in my life experienced something so adorable that it almost didn’t seem real.

This picture explains how the views in Switzerland are still amazing no matter how many times you have seen a snow covered mountain.

This picture explains how the views in Switzerland are still amazing no matter how many times you have seen a snow covered mountain.

While in Gruyères, I got to sample all of the different types of Gruyère and I could not believe how one kind of cheese could have so many different tastes. We learned how the cheese is made, and how these different types of Gruyère result from the aging process. I also got to try the cheese just before it was put into the rounds, at the very beginning of the process. It was DISGUSTING.

This is the very first stage of cheese making, where the milk gets churned until it makes this gummy type-substance that will be aged to make cheese. This is the gummy stuff that I tried. Very appealing, I know.

This is the very first stage of cheese making, where the milk gets churned until it makes this gummy type-substance that will be aged to make cheese. This is the gummy stuff that I tried. Very appealing, I know.

It was gummy and white and totally flavorless and I cannot imagine how the beauty of Gruyère cheese is made from such an unappealing thing. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the samples throughout the day. The Swiss cheese makers clearly know what they are doing.

This man told us all about how he crafts his cheeses, and then proceeded to jump into the giant vat where he made the cheese.

This man told us all about how he crafts his cheeses, and then proceeded to jump into the giant vat where he made the cheese.

After trying loads of cheese, we walked it off on our way to eat even more chocolate at the Cailler chocolate factory! On our path, we came across more cows than I have ever seen in my entire life. I finally felt like I was in a traditional, small Swiss village. I have made it fairly clear that I am not a super outdoorsy type of girl, so while some other students got a closer look at the cows, I chose to use the ‘zoom’ setting on my camera.

Lots of cows.

Lots of cows.

Okay, so they are kind of cute, but they are still livestock and therefore I kept a fair distance.

Okay, so they are kind of cute, but they are still livestock and therefore I kept a fair distance.

First, we got to walk through a ‘history of chocolate’ interactive museum that showed us how chocolate has evolved over the past few centuries and where chocolate originated. Then, we got to see how Cailler, Switzerland’s major chocolate producer, came to dominate the chocolate world. While this was all well and good, the best part did not come until the very end.

Il était une fois: Evidently, the Swiss take their chocolate very seriously.

Il était une fois: Evidently, the Swiss take their chocolate very seriously.

After the tour, we got to try some of the raw products that go into the chocolate, like almonds, hazelnuts, and raw cacao. I obviously ate as much as I possibly could, which backfired in the end. After this stage of the tasting, we actually got to taste some of the final product Cailler chocolate.

Le chocolat, c’est quand? C’est toujours Cailler, always.

Le chocolat, c’est quand? C’est toujours Cailler, always.

We saw how a certain type of their chocolate is produced and then a factory worker handed us some samples. I expected one or two, but thanks to a very generous worker, we all got a TON of these samples. I was regretting eating all of the raw cacao in the beginning.

But wait.

There’s more.

After this stage, we got an unlimited tasting of all of the Cailler specialties. Yes, you read that correctly, unlimited free samples! These chocolates had caramel, hazelnuts, creamy nougat centers, and coffee infusions. Again, I ate as much as I possibly could but there is only so much chocolate a girl can take. Here in Switzerland, people often eat chocolate as a part of their daily diet. For example, if you are about to go workout and need some pre-exercise fuel, the Swiss would suggest eating a small bar of chocolate. I would like to note that I approve of this mindset.

jackie samples 1

First round of samples.

I could have eaten every single chocolate on these tables if I wanted to. It was tempting…

I could have eaten every single chocolate on these tables if I wanted to. It was tempting…

Although I could barely move after so much chocolate, the experience was amazing and despite my declarations that I would “never eat chocolate again”, it took me all of one day to return to my pro-chocolate mindset.

It was easy to forget in such a cool place that I am an actual student with actual responsibilities, but now I am getting into the swing of final assignments. I do not have any final exams after the class period, but I have a lot of papers and in-class exams to finish in the next couple of weeks. But with the help of the best chocolate in the world, I think I will be able to make it through, wish me luck!


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