2014 Study Abroad Blogger

There are many things a regular person would be worried about when attending a new school in another country. Will the classes be hard? Will the teachers speak English? Will I be able to keep up?

However, the one topic of my concern was… will there be air conditioning?

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Two days prior to our trip, I had an unexpected adventure in Freiburg. One evening, I managed to slice my knee open on a sharp metal railing at a friend’s apartment. All of you who know my tendency to accidentally get injured are probably rolling your eyes right now. Long story short, it was a bloody mess, and I got to take a ride in an ambulance to a German hospital. After figuring out the insurance and filling out some forms, I got six stitches, a bonus tetanus shot, and I was back home within two hours of the original injury.

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As I exited the airport, I couldn’t help but feel the butterflies in my stomach increase tenfold. Here I was for the first time outside of the country, alone and nervous about meeting my host family. I quickly saw my host mom holding up a sign with my name along with her brother. This was it. I was here in Costa Rica and as we piled into the car I tried to keep calm and take everything in. As we sped down the winding roads and steep hills, I saw an array of small business buildings, tin roofed homes, and narrow sidewalks. Finally pulling up to my host family’s home, I was eager to see where I would be living for the next couple of months.

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Right now, I’m sitting on an 8x8m slab of hardwood flooring. I just did some yoga, I’m listening to music and browsing Facebook-- essentially nothing different than I would be doing back home. Yet there are little things that remind me that I’m actually nowhere near home: I have to bring my own roll of toilet paper to the bathroom, and the water in the shower is scalding and reeking of sulfur so I know it’s authentic Icelandic geothermal water. The combination of my regular routine and the elemental stank confirmed the surreal: I’m officially moved into Reykjavik, Iceland.

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Small talk is not a huge thing in Germany, but if you strike up a conversation with a German, you can bet that it will continue for a long time. Our talks with Freiburg locals have resulted in wonderful food, drink, and travel recommendations. What better way to get to know a city than to speak with those that love it most?

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In class our professor told us about "spazieren gehen," which means to take a walk without a real destination. There's not an English phrase quite as concise with the same meaning, but it's somewhere around to stroll or to wander. She tells us this is a very German idea, but she is wrong.

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My event planning class worked towards putting on one event at the end of the month to put into action some of the skills and practices we learned throughout the semester. We targeted other Lorenzo de’ Medici students and their friends studying for the summer and learned how to make focaccia while watching a documentary about how a small town in Italy worked to beat out McDonald’s by providing quality, delicious focaccia and other local favorites.

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Though English is dubbed the main language of commerce here in South Africa, there are still times (and by that I mean most times) that I find myself wondering what the heck was just said to me. The accent and slang used by the natives here makes things a bit confusing for both of us. I have accepted the fact that my coworkers think I have a hearing problem due the insane amount of times I ask “what?” when they speak to me. Though I have gotten used to it, I sometimes still find myself getting tripped up by the slang they use.

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As I mentioned last week, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Interlaken, Switzerland last weekend, and it was truly the most beautiful place I have ever seen. I don’t know how anything will ever top the views of the mountains, bright blue lakes, and of course views of the town from the top of a mountain!

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Since I have been living and working in the city it has been easy to overlook the fact that I’m living in a nation that is still very much developing. I can see implications of poverty by the amount of homeless around the city but still not enough to make me really understand the destitution many face living here today. It wasn't until this past weekend when I visited a township called Langa that I really got it.

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