Becca In Hungary: Spring Break Adventures!

March 31, 2015

Never have I imagined that in one week I would be able to visit five countries, ski on the Olympic slopes of Austria, explore the canals of venice via a gondola, stroll through ancient ruins in Rome, run across an entire country, and much more. This past week was definitely one of the most exciting, thought-provoking, adventurous experiences I have had in my life. Instead of explaining every detail of the trip I went to talk about the highlights of the trip and also important lessons I have learned from this trip (To get more details about my trip check-out the website created by fellow University of Richmond student Jackson: http://54.165.202.145/travel/ . This site has the specific counties we visited as well as pictures from the trip).

Highlights of the Trip:

Skiing through the Alps in Innsbruck, Austria

Skiing through the Alps in Innsbruck, Austria

Running through Liechtenstein. The run started in Austria and ended in Switzerland

Running through Liechtenstein. The run started in Austria and ended in Switzerland

Finally reaching the boarder of Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Finally reaching the boarder of Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Biking to the Lindt factory in Zurich

Biking to the Lindt factory in Zurich

Exploring the Islands of Murano and Burano in Venice

Exploring the Islands of Murano and Burano in Venice

Taking a gondola ride

Taking a gondola ride

Visiting Ancient Rome

Visiting Ancient Rome

Lighting more candles from my family

Lighting more candles from my family

Things I learned:

1)  Always assume the worst case –> Now before you peg me as a pessimist, hear me out. As a computer scientist, we are told to always consider all possible cases when constructing an algorithm. When deciding how fast the algorithm will run we almost always define the runtime based on the worst case scenario. While traveling, it is best to assume the worst case in the running time of public transit, tours, and other events whose timing is out of your control. For instance, on the last day we had signed up for a tour of the colosseum that was suppose to end at 6pm giving us plenty of time to get to the airport for our flight at 9:30pm. Oh course, though, our tour began to run late causing us to leave the tour early. When we get to the metro we found too long of a line for tickets. Instead of 12 minute metro ride to the train station that would take us to the airport, we embarked on a 30 minute run. While in the train station we fought through more lines and language barriers, but we did finally get to the airport right in time. Originally, I had expected the process of getting to the airport to take maximum 1 hour. In reality, it took closer to 2 hours. When it comes to traveling getting from one place to another always takes longer than expected because there are always unforeseen road blocks. So now when I approach the problem of getting from point A to Point B I always assume the worst case running time.

2) Always get a paper map of each city you are in (with public transit)–> Before the trip I spent hours upon hours working out every detail of the trip. Each day I had a plan of what to do and how to get there. Even though I felt like I had prepared for everything I oh course missed some details. Most of the time we could turn to Google maps for assistance when we strayed away from my daily plan, however in some places Google maps would not work. For instance, when exploring Liechtenstein we could not use our data because each megabyte cost $15.00. Technology is wonderful, but unfortunately it is not as reliable as the good old paper map. Luckily, we had a wonderful map of Liechtenstein and thus had no problem navigating the country.

3) Pick your travel buddies wisely –> A huge reason my spring break went so well is because I had a great travel buddy. I spent the trip with one other person making it easy to plan activities that we would both like. When planning a large international trip you will inevitably hit many road bumps, and you want to make sure you are traveling with someone you can work with to solve these problems. I give many thanks to my travel buddy Jackson for helping to make the week sail as smoothly as possible!


Becca In Hungary: Connections!

March 2, 2015

When I was six years old my family made the big trip to Disney World in Florida; the trip that every kid never forgets. The most memorable part for me was the exhibit where you swirl around a magical world on a small boat while the song “It’s a Small World After All” plays. As a six year old the song just didn’t make sense to me because in my view the world was just a huge playground ready to be explored! I thought the 100 foot walk to my best friend’s house in my neighborhood was a large distance, so the idea of this world being seen as “small” was just preposterous to my young mind. To this day I still see the world as a massive complex network of people and places, but these past two weeks have shown me how interconnected this world really is.

The first connection I was able to make was meeting up with my previous University of Richmond roommates, Aileen and Rayna. They are studying abroad in Germany and Denmark respectively, and this past weekend we all met up in Prague. I really had to step back and reflect on this because it truly is amazing how out of 6 billion people in the world and even more opportunities, somehow the three of us were able to all come together and meet in a new country which we had never explored before. How cool is that!?! I loved being able to visit some of my closest friends and create meaningful memories with them.

My UR friends and I exploring Prague

My UR friends and I exploring Prague

While in Prague, the three of us went on a tour of the city. While on the tour my friend Rayna was approached by an individual in the group who ended up being a friend from her grade school! This just blew my mind because again even in a world so big we are still so interconnected.

Some main attractions in Prague

Some main attractions in Prague

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My favorite part of Prague was visiting the Pinkas Synagogue which holds pictures drawn by children during the Holocaust. Through these pictures visitors could see the children’s fears, hopes, desires, and prayers. The thing that struck me that most about these pictures, though, was the fact that even though these children were enduring unimaginable pain and loss, they always drew the Jewish people with a smile on their faces and frowns on their perpetrators. I was moved by their ability to see such hope and happiness despite the pain they had endured.

After visiting the Jewish district in Prague, I decided that this weekend I wanted to explore Budapest’s Jewish District in order to draw parallels between these two countries. On this tour I began to see all these connections between the countries I have visited and these connections have really opened my mind to how interconnected our world truly is. For instance,  in the 19th century Austria came to “liberate” Hungary and bring Catholicism to their people. The ruler of Austria during this time was the Habsburg family. When I visited Austria, I was able to visit the Habsburg palace. What I found interesting was during the Jewish District tour in Budapest the tour guide was very negative about the Habsburg family and discussed their blatant discrimination against Jews. However, while in Austria, the people spoke highly of the wealth and power of the Habsburg family. It really goes to show you how skewed history can be. This idea reminds me of the quote”“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” By traveling to different countries I have had the oppertunity to see different countries prospectives on the same historical events. I able to draw my own connections between people and places and begin to feel even more connected to this beautiful and expansive world.


Becca in Hungary: A Weekend Fairytale

February 19, 2015

Once upon time, in a far away land lived a woman by the name of Rebecca. She spent her days slaving away on programming apps for Iphones and solving mystical mathematics problems for her combinatoric class. While lost in a world of new words, and people, she met a messenger who spoke of a glamorous ball scheduled to occur in Vienna. But Miss Rebecca was just a simple peasant girl; how could she afford such an activity? Well, in the dark of the night Rebecca was spooked by the arrival of her fairy godmother, Barbara. Cheerfully Barbara announces, “What are you waiting for? You have a ball to attend, a dress to try on, and a carriage waiting for your arrival.” Rebecca was shocked and before she knew it she was swaying to the music of Strauss and Mozart.

Okay okay so maybe I am being sightly over-dramatic about my so called fairytale weekend, but most of the story is actually true. Though I never saw a messenger roaming the streets sharing the word about the future ball, I did find the ball’s website after a comprehensive Google search of unique things do in Vienna. And unfortunately, I do not have a fairy godmother that gifted me with tickets to the ball, but rather my parents purchased tickets as a birthday present for me. But I did in fact travel to Vienna this past weekend and attend a proper Viennese ball. During the month of February Vienna is known for sponsoring hundreds of balls for various organizations. The ball I attended was called the BonBon Ball and was sponsored by Manner confectionary and various other Austrian candy companies. Essentially the premiss of the ball was to look and dance classy while also enjoying the pleasure of hundreds of free samples of various confectionary treats (so basically my heaven).

The ball was on Friday, so right after school fellow University of Richmond student, Jackson, and I boarded a train to Vienna and within an hour and half arrived to our destination. We met many road blocks before getting to the ball, but we finally made it to our hotel and began to get ready for the ball. Embarrassing enough, we didn’t have time to get dinner, so before our classy ball we had to swing over to McDonalds to gain some energy for a night of dancing. When we arrived at the ball the first thing I noticed was CHOCOLATE!! There was SO MUCH chocolate! After noticing all the chocolate though, I began to notice all the people between me and that chocolate and soon realized this place was packed!! So Jackson and I slowly made our way to our seating in the upstairs parlor.

Making our way up to our table.

Making our way up to our table.

Soon we heard the music planning, and we quickly got out on the dance floor. I am proud to say that Jackson and I were the first ones dancing. Before coming to the ball we learned a basic waltz, and that was the ONLY dance experience we had. The rest of the crowd there must have been taking lessons for years because they were amazing! Though it is fair to say we were by far the worst dancers in the room, we definitely were having the most fun! With all that dancing though I quickly realized that this is NOT the event to bring out your highest heels. Within the first couple songs my feet were throbbing with pain, but the excitement and adrenaline is what keep me on the dance floor.

Wishing I could switch shoes right about now!

Wishing I could switch shoes right about now!

The event was split into three ballrooms. The smallest (which also happened to be my favorite) was a Frank Sinatra/ Jazz themed room.

They also had a caribbean themed room which mainly had people tangoing.

In the caribbean themed room

In the caribbean themed room.

The last dance floor they had was the main ballroom floor. This is where all the main activities were, but the dance floor was also crazy busy. Each hour they would release huge balloons from the ceiling onto the main ballroom. If you caught the balloon then you would try to pop the balloon open in hopes of finding a prize.

Looking down onto the main dance floor from a balcony.

Looking down onto the main dance floor from a balcony.

Overall, going to the ball was absolutely amazing, and I could not think of a better way to celebrate my 21st birthday. I would like to thank Jackson for being the best escort a girl could ask for and for helping me feel like a true princess. I would also like to thank my parents for the best birthday gift ever!

Feeling like a princess :)

Feeling like a princess 🙂

Enjoying all the free candy!

Enjoying all the free candy!

All the candy we were able to take from the ball.

All the candy we were able to take from the ball.


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