Tips, Tricks, and Joys of Studying Abroad

by Liz Hopewell

Excuse me while I faint due to shock that this experience is already halfway over – 7 weeks down and a mere 5 to go. You would think that I would be either over the moon that I get to go home in a few short weeks or clinically depressed that I have to leave here so soon, but surprisingly I am neither. Instead I am filled with joy when looking back at every moment of these last fun filled weeks and looking forward to soaking up every second of the next 5.

Beautiful lake in Interlaken, Switzerland

Beautiful lake in Interlaken, Switzerland

One great thing about this program is the freedom it provides for personal travel outside of the program. One specific weekend trip (rather week long trip) was our mid-term break last week. During this week, we had 10 days to plan (on our own) a place to go, somewhere to stay, many places to eat, what to do, how to get there, and any other logistics related to our adventure.

One of the many breathtaking views in Ireland

One of the many breathtaking views in Ireland

Those of us that didn’t have family or friends coming over to visit decided to embark to Ireland and Switzerland!

We all pulled together to research where to stay (thank goodness for Rick Steves), what to do when we were in each place, and most importantly, what to eat in each country. Luckily, mid-October becomes tourist season for both Ireland and Switzerland. This worked in our favor more often than not – resulting in cheap flights and lodging. Once the details were all in place, we embarked and loved every single adventure that followed.

Ireland group enjoying the spectacular Cliffs of Moher

Ireland group enjoying the spectacular Cliffs of Moher

After traveling on our own for 10 days I learned a few things about European travel, the do’s and don’ts, and I thought I would share a few of them with you for your future travels.

Cute bistro we found in Doolin, Ireland

Cute bistro we found in Doolin, Ireland

1. Research. Research. Research.
Like I said earlier, I am so thankful for Rick Steeves. Through his books, we chose all but one of our spots for lodging for the entire 10 days. There are people out there that travel for a living (sign me up for that job!) – so utilize their talent and look up recommended places to stay and eat during your European study abroad or vacation.

The view from our balcony at our guesthouse in Murren, Switzerland

The view from our balcony at our guesthouse in Murren, Switzerland

2. Spend a little extra money on a good hotel.
This one may be a little hard for a poor college student to grasp, but it really pays off in the long run. Our lodge in Doolin (25 Euro per/person a night) had one of the best breakfasts I have ever had. Most people looking for a budget option would opt for hostels (which are usually great cheap options), but the local hostle in Doolin disguised itself as the cheap option when it was really a few euro’s more expensive than other options.

 

The locals in Doolin, Ireland

The locals in Doolin, Ireland

 

3. Get to know the locals
Locals are the ultimate tour guides and they are filled with great information about their respective cities. The more people you ask, the more recommendations you get – and when you get a lot of recommendations for a particular place, you know it’s legitimately good. Locals enable you to immerse yourself in the culture rather than skimming the touristy surface.

The Irish sarcasm can be found everywhereThe Irish sarcasm can be found everywhere

The Irish sarcasm can be found everywhere

4. Have everything you can planned out beforehand.
It truly pays off to have your schedule set before your embark – look at transportation schedules, compare transportation options, look at check-in and out times, ensure you have the correct currency, look up key phrases. All of these, and more, will enhance your trip ten-fold!

Hang-gliding in Interlaken, Switzerland

Hang-gliding in Interlaken, Switzerland

5. Have fun!

Is that cliché and obvious? Maybe, but after the research and planning are done – relax and enjoy your vacation. Everything may not go perfect, but the minor details all seem to fade and the good times are remembered forever!

 

School by Day….Opera by Night

Never would I ever have believed all of the things this program has allowed us to experience. Today, we went to a local school to talk and interact with kids of different ages. Walking up to the school, we were a little skeptical as to how this would work (partly because we didn’t know how well they spoke English and partly because the hike to the school is treacherous) and if this would even be fun. It turned out to be the best experience! They speak English so well and they were so fun! The kids made me want to learn another language as fluently as they knew other languages. Talking to kids, not that far from our age about what they like and how they live, was such a more interactive way to learn about culture than sitting in a classroom.

Visiting the local school

Visiting the local school


We also knew coming to Italy meant that we would see an opera. Who goes to New York City and doesn’t see a Broadway show? That is how important operas are in Italy. Finding out that the whole opera would be in complete Italian was a bit daunting because how were we supposed to sit through a three hour opera that we cannot even follow? So, what better way to understand an opera than to act it out ourselves? We all had a role in the opera and acted it out. It was so funny and such a fun way to let loose with each other and understand the opera. It helped so much once we were at the opera to have a good grasp as to what was going on. The opera itself was so entertaining and did not disappoint!
Group picture before the opera

Group picture before the opera


These past 7 weeks have been the craziest, most fun, most tiring, and most rewarding weeks of my entire life. I have learned so much not only about the Italian culture and history, but about myself as well. This has, no doubt, been one of the best decisions of my life.

Ciao,

Jessica Mizell

No Longer Worried

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The first picture the whole JSB group took together on the grand tour of Rome.

By: Ali McIlhenny

Before we arrived in Ariccia, we had to write about a few things we were worried about for our Journal assignment. As I sat at my desk in my room thinking about what these next three months entailed, floods of worries began to enter my mind. I worried about the amount of money I was about to spend, the community in Auburn that I was leaving and the community I was about to enter. But most of all, I worried about missing out on being a part of the everyday lives of my friends and family.

Most of those worries slipped away the moment that I got here and began living the fast paced life of a study abroad student. What replaced those worries were learning opportunities and excitement for new adventures. I still get a little sick to my stomach when I have to buy a plane ticket or pay for overly priced meals, but I am learning so much about the value of money.  Money is not meant to sit in our bank account never to be used. Quality spending has become one of the biggest lessons I have learned. My community worries went away when I started to get to know and grow with the other 17 students here. We could not have been blessed with a more wonderful group. I love each and every one of these people and they have become my community. Living and sharing just about everything with them has taught me about humility, selflessness and unconditional love. These past five weeks have been a time of growth and I am so grateful for that. I am filled with unending excitement that I get to spend six more weeks traveling with people whom I can only become fonder of.

I am not exactly sure as a communications major what I want to do one day as a profession, but I know that I want to love people well. My worries have turned into learned lessons and opportunities for growth. Studying abroad has opened my eyes to a whole new world and I am always going to be thankful that I did it.

Fun Fur

Yesterday, I got to see the inside of a very successful fashion house. The fashion majors at Auburn got a personal tour of Fendi’s flagship store and headquarters. Alana Pucci was our tour guide for the day. She planted a curiosity in us because of her knowledgeable for the brand. She has been working for Fendi for 31 years. Alana started in February just as Valentine’s help and has been there ever since. I loved to hear that Fendi credits their employees for their huge success. This large company acknowledges that every person is apart of the team and has contributed to their success. Learning about each handbag that Fendi produces was incredible. I knew that fashion is very detailed, but I did not know that each bag has a story behind the name of the bag. Karl Lagerfeld is one of the most famous fashion gurus, but I was surprised to hear that he was responsible for creating the double ‘F’ logo for Fendi. The double stands for “Fun Fur”. Most people think it stands for Fendi, but Lagerfeld never wants to be predictable in his work.  He still to this day helps design the extraordinary furs and dresses for Fendi. The fur is from different places in the world but is hand-dyed and created in Florence and later distributed to the stores. Fendi uses fox, mink, beaver, and rabbit to create their staple piece. Alana informed us that mink is the top seller for fur selection. I have developed a love and respect for Fendi after this tour. I look forward to seeing their new collections and the success that they receive.

The original staircases leading to the offices

The original staircases leading to the offices

Surviving Lake Como and Shopping in Milan

View of Como from the ferry

View of Como from the ferry

My handmade Magnum ice cream bar... chocolate ice cream,   dark chocolate shell,   brownie and macaroon pieces,   and white chocolate drizzle. Yum!

My handmade Magnum ice cream bar… chocolate ice cream, dark chocolate shell, brownie and macaroon pieces, and white chocolate drizzle. Yum!

Standing in front of IL Duomo in Milan

Standing in front of IL Duomo in Milan

While most of the group had opted to go on the hike in Cinqueterre this past weekend, Emily and I decided to embark on a more leisurely visit to Milan and Lake Como..or so we thought. Starting Friday and continuing through the weekend we suffered a string of minor mishaps and slip-ups, but our trip still proved fruitful and fun nonetheless.

Friday morning we almost missed our train from Albano to Rome because we had misread the train schedule- good thing I double-checked the schedule 30 minutes before we left the palace! At the Rome Termini we boarded our first high-speed train for a three hour ride to Milano Centrale, hopped trains, and finally arrived in Como San Giovani. Once we stepped foot outside the station Emily realized that in our rush to make it to Albano she had forgotten to print out the map to our hotel. Luckily we had the address written down and after an hour and a half of asking passing pedestrians for directions in broken Italian, (thank goodness for Lanie’s Survival Italian class!) and getting turned around and lost one too many times we finally made it to our hotel..only to have the concierge tell us that he had never received the reservations we had made through a travel website. Thankfully the hotel still had room to accommodate us. Although we went to bed exhausted that night we woke up to the most glorious complimentary breakfast we’d ever experienced. I’d never been so thankful for scrambled eggs and unlimited coffee in my entire life.

Saturday’s excursions consisted of riding the ferry for a two hour scenic cruise to Bilagio, the little town where George Clooney’s vacation villa is located. Although we didn’t spot George, we enjoyed a scrumptious lunch and a glass of Prosecco by the water while we watched a wedding reception taking place on an old steamboat docked at the pier nearby. Talk about a perfect wedding venue! We returned to our hotel late that night and slept, waking up to several excited iMessages from friends and family about Auburn’s win against LSU and Alabama’s defeat against Ole Miss (did you know that ESPN’s live streaming app WatchESPN is available in every country EXCEPT Italy? Neither did I until I attempted to watch the game) After enjoying the four-star breakfast for the last time we checked out early and set off towards Milan to explore a bit and treat ourselves to a bit of shopping. How could we not in one of the world’s biggest fashion capital cities?  After lunching we stopped in the Magnum ice cream store to personalize an ice cream bar before heading back towards the train station to return to Rome and Albano.

 

Although our trip got off to a rocky start, Emily and I handled our obstacles confidently and successfully. After living in a foreign country for a little over a month, we had gained enough experience and independence to solve our issues quickly without dissolving into a state of panic, and most importantly, not let it ruin our unforgettable experience of Milan. The most important lesson we learned was to double-check, print out, and prepare everything the night before..and that Survival Italian class really can save your life (or at least save your feet a couple of blisters from unnecessary walking!)

-Bonnie Sullivan-

 

When in Rome…

People always tell you about how great studying aboard is and how much it can change your life.  However, students forget to tell you with all the fun you have having there are tough times as well.  Adjusting to living with “strangers” and learning a new culture is hard, and you realize quickly you will never be fully prepared before you enter that strange environment.  Starting this experience, I couldn’t believe how quickly time was flying by.  It came to the point that I wanted it to slow down just so I didn’t feel as if I were wishing away my time in Italy.  Before I knew it my parents were about to be here and the program was already half over.

This week was one of the first times I’ve felt we have actually gotten to see how a native Italian family lives.  Over the past couple of weeks, we have traveled to different places learning about the Italian culture and the traditions that have made them who they are today.  This week was no different.

Yesterday, we traveled to Rome to visit the Sistine Chapel and the Moses, a few of the many pieces by Michelangelo.  Coming from a Catholic background, I enjoy learning the roots to my religion.  After visiting the Sistine Chapel, I did not know what to think.  It was overwhelming and much different than anything I could have imagined.  At every turn, I saw something new.  But, my favorite part of the day was going to one of our professor’s homes in Rome to enjoy a relaxing evening and getting to know our abroad family even better.  This program is one of the best decisions I’ve made, but we constantly go, go, go. So, taking the time to just sit down and enjoy the company of each other and having a real Italian aperitivo experience was a night that I will always remember.

Ciao,

Holly Paucke

Some of the delicious food at the aperitivo hosted by one of our Italian professors.

Some of the delicious food at the aperitivo hosted by one of our Italian professors

A Weekend in Belgium

 

Before I left for Italy, there were many places I knew, or hoped, I would visit during my time here. Belgium was not one of them. That being said, I sure am grateful we decided to take a trip there this past weekend. I had no intentions of ever going to Belgium; not because I thought I wouldn’t like it, but because I had no idea it was such an amazing country so it had never been on my radar. There was a group of fourteen of us that decided to go to Brussels for the entire weekend. Our flights left at 6:55 A.M. on Friday and 9:20 P.M. on Sunday, so we had as much time as we could possibly fit into the three short days we had to spend in the beautiful town.

The Grand place in Brussels, Belgium

The Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium

It was everything we could’ve asked for and 100 times more than we expected. If you don’t know – like we didn’t until very soon before we left – Belgium is known for their waffles, fries, and beer. What better way to fully experience a country than by eating/drinking all they have to offer in their famously delicious foods and drinks? There is no better way, so we did just that. It’s alarming the amount of waffles and fries I consumed in that short weekend but I wouldn’t do it any other way if I had the chance. It had been so long since we had eaten “American” food so we obviously jumped at every chance to eat French fries, which pair very nicely with the delicious hamburgers Brussels has to offer. The waffles were unlike anything I had ever tasted. No matter what you prefer, there is something for everyone: waffles with chocolate syrup, fruit, powdered sugar, white chocolate, Nutella, the list could go on forever.

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One of the many waffle stands in Brussels


Overall, the trip was a complete success and I think I speak for everyone when I say we would definitely go back in a heartbeat if the opportunity arose. It was so nice to be in a city where a majority of the citizens are fluent in English and the food and stores are familiar. As much as we all adore Italy, sometimes it’s refreshing to have a tiny taste of life that we’re accustomed to. I can’t wait to see what else the rest of Europe has to offer!

Riley Pitman