UI Study Abroad Blogger

On my third day in Spain, I learned about the expert pickpockets of Madrid. It wasn’t simply through Ibon’s sound advice to get a money belt or to sling packs in front of our bodies where we could see them. No, I had to learn the hard way. I’m blaming it on the fact that I’m from a town where we don’t even lock our bikes. I implicitly trust everybody. However, belief rarely lines up with reality and in less than a week abroad I found myself wallet-free. Still, I’m optimistic that not every lesson that day was lost on me. Before I was so swiftly and silently robbed, I absorbed some stories about Spain’s long and complicated history, which, on more than one occasion, involved miracles.

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I spent the entirety of last weekend in Bath. The journey commenced around noon on Friday when my friend Juliette and I left the Norwich train station for London Liverpool Street. We originally intended to leave around 10:30 a.m., but complications arose and we missed our train. This incited a brief period of anxiety, but after a few minutes I was able to remind myself that the journey wasn't ruined or cancelled because of one small complication. To travel frequently means you have to be ready for anything to happen, because unfortunately not everything will run smoothly.

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Three months ago to this exact date was the day I accepted to spend the spring semester in Thessaloniki, Greece. After sending the acceptance e-mail, I remember calling my mom, my boyfriend, my friends – anyone who would listen – and then wondering how in the world I could ever wait three months to leave for Greece.

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I have been in Spain for roughly two weeks and have spent 25% of that time lost. Maybe this is an exaggeration since many of my meanderings, as Tolkien might say, were spent with intention. However, this was definitely not true of my first day. My first experience of feeling misplaced was immediately upon arriving in Madrid. The second (third, fourth and fifth ad infinitim) have been in Bilbao, a clean and beautiful city whose streets seem to snake like tributaries of the Mississippi river even though I’ve been told by everyone who lives here “it’s so small it is impossible to get lost.” In every Spanish city I have visited so far I’ve found it very easy to lose my way, and the only difference between my first day and today is that now I do it on purpose.

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I don’t know how to answer the questions you’ll ask me about being abroad for four months. You’ll ask if it was amazing, and then you will ask me if I miss it. And I will say there are a few things that I miss in particular – getting to see mountains every day, and I honestly miss hearing the Icelandic language. The landscape is surreal, so I miss that, too. What I could do without is missing my friends and family in the United States. But now I just miss the friends that I made abroad.

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Getting off the plane at O’Hare was surreal. Was I really back in Chicago? Costa Rica felt like a dream and I had just suddenly awoken to the brisk winter of the Windy City. To be honest I wasn’t excited to be back, not as excited as I should have been or excited as my friends were. I had found a sense of happiness in Costa Rica that I was scared I would lose the moment I stepped back on to U.S. territory. But as I walked through the airport, I promised myself I would hold on to that happiness and optimism I had gained in Costa Rica and carry it with me wherever I went.

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Location: Norwich. Time since arrival: One week. Status: Alive and thriving. I am in England.

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After 28 hours in airports and airplanes – with little to no sleep – I made it not to home, but to a nice comfy hotel. Little did I know when I was buying my plane ticket home back in July that I would get caught in Iowa’s first big snowstorm of 2015. Had I gone back a day earlier or a day later, I would have gotten home just fine!

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Wow, I can’t believe it’s really been two weeks already. When I was sitting in the airport writing the first blog I honestly had no idea how this trip would go. I didn’t know any of the 50 people going (except for one boy from a previous class), and my nervousness was at an extreme high. Once the jetlag disappeared after a few days, I felt very comfortable in this foreign town.

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It’s Wednesday night and I’ve just had a long but great day. I and a few other people got tickets to the Warner Bros Harry Potter Tour! To say that I used to be obsessed with Harry Potter is probably an understatement. My room was plastered with posters, I knew every tiny little fact and would take online trivia quizzes to prove I knew every little fact, and I’ve definitely read the books more than once. I was always convinced (okay, still am) that my Hogwarts letter had just gotten lost in the mail.

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