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The weekend started by getting on the bus in Istanbul at 9pm. There were about 50 of us and we were mainly exchange students who went to various universities in Istanbul. Our first stop was Salt Lake. This place is very unique because it is the second largest lake in Turkey, and much of the salt used in Turkey is taken from this lake. The place we went to on Salt Lake actually had no water, and we could walk out far from “shore.” It was quite cold, but it was very cool to walk on the ground which was basically solid salt. I even tasted some of the salt!

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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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“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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I am at the point where everything is starting to feel somewhat normal and at home here. Things are feeling familiar to me, and it’s been more than 24 hours since I’ve gotten lost–although I wouldn’t put too much confidence in my inner-GPS skills just yet. I am also very consciously wondering, “Am I integrating myself into the culture enough? Do I look the part? I haven’t had paella yet, should I be worried?”, while also comparing what it’s like to be an American, a University of Iowa student, even just an Iowan, to the culture here.

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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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