2014 Study Abroad Blogger

As I walked down the Obispo, a popular street with many stores and restaurants, I could see people as pale as rice paper or as dark as the night sky but in Cuba there is no white and black, you are just Cuban.

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One of the first things I learned in high school German was, “Was machst du in deine Freizeit?” This means, “What do you do in your free time?” It’s one of those seemingly useful questions that doesn’t work here because Germans don’t do small talk.

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About two weeks ago, I went on a day trip to the Swiss Alps. We were supposed to hike up a mountain in a place called Engelberg, but had to reorganize our trip due to a festival in a small Swiss town where cows were descending from their mountainside pastures, thus closing off the road. (Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.) So instead of hiking, we ended up making our ascent up a different mountain via gondola – a first for me!

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October 8th. Can you believe it? I can't. It's been more than a month abroad, and somehow I'm still surviving. Actually, I know how I'm surviving. With lots of pastries and tea.

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Although many people in Europe know English, especially in the cities, they are not always willing to speak it. During my first week in Vienna, Austria, I learned this the hard way. Austrians learn English in school, but don’t use it very often.

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“Góðan daginn! Do you need any help sorting your sheep?” I asked in butchered Icelandic, tapping an older woman in waders on the shoulder. She stopped directing sheep traffic and shook her head. Although she probably spoke English fluently, she apparently didn’t have the time to spare when tourists such as myself were eager to help. Instead of answering my question, she pulled an older man over for me to talk to and walked away.

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Time is different in Germany. It's more than just the 7-hour difference from Iowa, the 9-hour difference from my father in California, and the 10-hour difference from my mom in Alaska; time is more valuable here.

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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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