The final stretch

I have a few weeks left before I come home and so much stress in between. With a 10 page paper due next week and multiple other papers due within the next few weeks… I will definitely be pulling my hair out, but I’m still grateful for this experience. 

The last two weeks I traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, Chamonix, and Berlin. What a weekend and tired is an understatement. I really love traveling, believe me, but I am running out of steam. I have gone all over Europe since August and this past month I’ve been on a plane every week- don’t worry I’m not complaining! I’m just ready for the holiday and to simply sit and relax.

Geneva was simply perfect. Fine cuisine and picturesque scenery ( my pictures don’t compare to actually being there). The city can be a little expensive, so finding a hotel that wasn’t over $100+ a night was nearly impossible. We settled for a hostel that was $120 which is a lot for a hostel, but we were there Thursday to Sunday so not too bad. I usually despise hostels, but this hostel was the cleanest hostel I had ever been to. The beds were actually comfortable and the sheets were clean(they actually ironed them!!) I pay attention to detail folks. There was a cozy lounge that showed movies at 8 every night, so my friend and I definitely took advantage of that since no one else did. If you’re ever in Geneva check out Geneva city hostel! It is right next to the train/bus station and very convenient. No this was not sponsored haha I just really had a great experience at the hostel.

 Before I arrived in Geneva I was already researching the best places to get cheese fondue because you have to get fondue while in Switzerland! I found this place called Café du Soleil which is known for their fondue. Usually you have to make reservations because it’s always crowded, but luckily we got there around 6- before prime dinner time hours. The waiter asked if we could be done eating by 8 because they were booked for the night. In Europe, eating is more about social interaction, but I am all about the food so that wasn’t a problem. It was well worth the money($23) because it was by far the best fondue I had ever had. The next morning we explored the town and went to Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). Since we went to Geneva off season, there weren’t any boats open to take us around the lake, but it was still nice to see. We walked through the park area where there was a wooden gazebo surrounded by beautiful tall trees that were losing their leaves. Red, orange, and yellow leaves surrounded us and it could not have been more beautiful.

The next day we made our way to Chamonix. I was fortunate to have someone recommend me this great place, so I decided to go there. We took a bus from Geneva to Chamonix which took around an hour or so to get there. The lift to Mount Blanc was shut down due to off season, but it was still nice to explore the town. Snow covered caps and fog surrounded the mountains when we arrived due to snow, but as the day progressed, the fog cleared and so the mountains were more visible. What a sight. The french alps are practically indescribable.There is nothing that can sum up what I felt in that moment to see something so marvellous. I mostly kept thinking how blessed I am to be here. We ate lunch at a nice restaurant right next to the Alps and had a great view- especially when the weather cleared up. We spent around 5 hours walking around Chamonix checking out chocolate shops and local stores. It was nice to go inside of cafes and just relax since it was very cold. Although it was pricey to get to Chamonix, it was well worth visiting. 

Berlin has been on my bucket list as long as I could remember. From everything I had learned in grade school, Berlin definitely has a track record, and probably not the best one. I find it important to learn about history good and bad, so I was excited to see all of the things I had read about in person. The weather was fairly cold, but typical fall weather. The first day we went to Reichstag, Brandenburg gate, holocaust memorial, the Parliament, and all around Tiergarten park. Berlin is such a beautiful city. There’s the old mixed with the new which really emanates Berlin’s history- modernity meshed with history. We walked through Tiergarten and made our way toward the Holocaust memorial. Although it was really neat to see it in person and go through such an intricate maze, my heart was heavy. I didn’t want to smile while taking photos because it simply was not a happy place, it is a memorial. Yes, it looks cool, but once I remembered why the memorial is there in the first place, the ambience is nearly dismal.

 Near sunset, we walked Siegessaule also known as the Victory Column. It was originally built by Hitler to exemplify the superiority of Nazism, which I found disheartening, but a lot of things in Berlin can be disheartening due to its history. Luckily times have changed. Inside we climbed around 17 stories just to get to the top of the building, and it was worth it. I was able to see a nice panorama of Berlin. Tiergarten park surrounds the victory column, and bustling Berlin was directly behind the park. Tiergarten park is basically Central park, it’s massive and absolutely stunning during fall. 

The next day we walked around the city and went to the East Side Gallery which is a gallery that consists of 100+ paintings by artist from all over the world. The wall basically a timeline that documents change in Berlin and the hopes of a better future. Which in previous years, the wall was used to divide and oppress humanity.  For me, it was a nice reminder of how far humanity has come. Although this was not long ago, it is progress in the right direction. Later, we went to KaDaWe which is the second largest mall in Europe. It is a department store with practically any brand you could possibly imagine. Yes it is expensive, but there are a lot of nice things there that we don’t have in the States. I bought myself some sunglasses since someone stole mine while I was traveling during previous trips. Once we left the mall, we stumbled upon the Christmas market which was immaculate. Lights hanging in every direction, cute wooden cottage like concessions, and the smell of hot wine and bratwurst in every direction, I was definitely in Berlin. My friend drank the hot wine, but I didn’t care for it too much- same as in Prague. I resorted to eating a bratwurst, which was delicious! We walked around the market for an hour or so but since it was colder at night, we didn’t stay as long. Overall, I am so glad that I went to Berlin, especially during a festive time. There is so much to do and so much to learn. Even 4 days was not enough, but I did get to see a lot while there. 

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Still exploring

Two years ago when I was abroad in Spain I saw most of northern Spain, so it was great to be in the South for the first time and to be on the mediterranean. Spain never disappoints and Málaga was absolutely beautiful. The weather, the people, and the food (specifically churros con chocolate). Most importantly being able to speak Spanish and understand it was nice, especially since our air bnb host spoke Spanish the whole time when telling us about the apartment.Spain will always be the place where I feel at home.

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Now rewind to last week where I spent 10 days exploring Dublin, Galway, Amsterdam, Oslo, and Stockholm.

Saturday I flew to Dublin. A nice short 45 minute flight for just 10 pounds was definitely a great start to the trip. Dublin is a beautiful modern city. We stayed in an airbnb that was near the temple bar district, which is an area in Dublin that has hundreds of restaurants and pubs. Although the weather may be gloomy, the city is full of life- especially at night in the temple bar district. The first day we went to a restaurant called Old Mill which served traditional Irish food and of course I got a Guinness. If you’re ever in Dublin I would highly recommend it.

The next morning we took a train to Galway. We arrived at 11 and went straight to our airbnb and we had the best host. As soon as we arrived he realized we had made it 30 minutes before the the last bus tour of the day to the Cliffs of Moher and the countryside and scheduled someone to pick us up to take us there. We were just in time! The Cliffs were unbelievable. I am slightly afraid of heights especially if there’s no protection, but I conquered my fears and explored the Cliffs. After the Cliffs we got on the coach and went around the countryside and it definitely felt like fall. There were quaint cottages with sheep and cows in all directions and vast acres of rock and grass that seemed like it never ended. The five hour tour was perfect. Galway was a great getaway from Dublin. More relaxed, many pubs, and just a great atmosphere. I honestly preferred Galway over Dublin, and although I am more of a city person, Galway has so much character that could not be overlooked.

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Amsterdam can be summed up in one word and that is “wild.” I absolutely loved it though. The city is filled with old historic buildings but is also modernized in many areas. There’s a mix of old and new which really makes the city unique. The discolored leaves, endless canals, and beautiful buildings was so picturesque. We toured the Anne Frank museum and I could not believe what I was seeing. All of the things I learned in school about Anne Frank and her story was all now displayed in front of me. My heart felt very heavy the whole time. Although it was interesting and exciting to see a part of history that you’ve learned so much about, it was very sad but I am grateful to have experienced it. After the museum we went to Zaanse Schans. I had always wanted to go to Holland so last minute I decided for us to hop on a train and go. It was as perfect as I imagined. Colorful windmills, a river, and a double rainbow! It could not have been more Dutch.

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Oslo was cold! I definitely felt like I was in Scandinavia. The second day there it snowed and it felt as if we skipped seasons and went straight to winter, but apparently it is normal. It was very expensive, but very beautiful. The snow added more charm as we explored. We went to the National Gallery in Norway and saw the famous painting “The Scream” by Edvard Munch as well as works by Picasso and Monet. The good thing about going to museums this time of year and seeing famous paintings is it is not crowded at all. You really get to see the paintings for all that they are and not feeling rushed was another plus. At night we went to Vigeland Sculpture Park and wow was it surreal. The snow continued throughout the night so when we arrived at the park the ground and iced tree branches were covered in snow, which created such a serene environment. The statues were also beautiful and the snow made me see them in a different light.

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Last stop was Stockholm and it was definitely everything I had hoped for. For the longest time I had been fascinated with Stockholm and to finally see it in person was a dream. Yes, it was cold but it was beautiful. The buildings were mesmerizing, with similar styles of Prague and its architecture, yet they are two different places. It began to snow a few hour after landing and although it was around 29 degrees, it was great to see Scandinavia in its natural light. I definitely got a feel of winter a bit early. We spent most of the time roaming Stockholm and going to the Viking museum. Another interesting thing that we decided to do in Stockholm was stay on a boat. Yes, the hotel was a boat on the Riddarfjärden Bay. It was very nice, cozy and clean! It was such a fun experience and I definitely don’t regret booking it. I would love to see Stockholm in the summer because I am sure it is just as beautiful, but I think seeing it while snowing added a lot of character.

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My next adventure is to Geneva, Switzerland so I will update when I have time. School is going well and I just wrote my first paper which I did well on. I am excited to continue my journey, but I am also excited to be home soon!

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Catch up

You al’right, ciao, bonjour, yassou, ahoj,

Some of these words may ring a bell, others maybe not. Those happen to be different ways to say hello in places I have visited thus far, starting with the U.K. all the way to Czech. I’ll let you guess the others. Not to sound pretentious, but I consider myself to be a linguistic connoisseur. So it’s really entertaining for me to reflect on all of the places I’ve been and to compare each language. How some are so similar and how they are different, it is truly astounding how one communicates. How social interactions can be simple and refreshing, and yet awkward and uncomfortable. Social cues dos and don’ts  makes every place I have visited so far interestingly different. Should I tip or should I not? Should I say thank you? Or is that too polite? Will this car stop if I walk across the intersection? It’s only 57 degrees (Fahrenheit. Sorry no Celsius for me, unless you want me to pull out my TI-84 )and everyone is wearing heavy coats and scarves; would it look weird if I just wore long sleeves? If I look at this souvenir for too long will they hassle me to buy it?  Dumb questions, yes but you’d be surprised.

It’s perplexing to me how the world is conceivably large, yet here I am in the midst of discovering it. I’ve been in the U.K. for a little over a month now, and I’d be lying if I said the idea of being in another country alone was not frightening to me at first. Luckily it has been the complete opposite of that. Everyone has been friendly and very inviting. My first week here I had to calm down with going out places because there were so many things going on for “fresher” week. I still wouldn’t consider myself a “fresher” since I graduate in the Spring, but according to my U.K. companions, I am indeed, a “fresher.” 

Classes have been interesting. Completely different style from back home, but I definitely expected that. Attending a prestigious uni is definitely intimidating. I mean, Ernest Rutherford did split the atom here!!? Considerably high expectations, but I am enjoying it. My courses are difficult and things are run at a faster pace, but the challenge is partly exhilarating. As a neuroscience/psychology major, I couldn’t have picked a better place to study. Some of my favorite courses so far are my psychology course that is studying the evolution of cognitive behavior and my sensory systems course which primarily consists of neuronal development and studying different action potentials. Senior year and I am finally in a course that heavily dissects my major…thanks education system. 

 

Lastly traveling, so far I have been to Rome, Wales, York, Naples, Venice, Milan (kind of),Capri, Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, Prague, and Paris. Reading week-which is practically fall break- is next week. So you’ll have to see where I’m traveling next! Although my study abroad experience is not over, I am very thankful and truly blessed to have this opportunity. I also am very fortunate to experience something so grand, something I would have never imagined- especially at this age. Each time I travel there is new opportunity and unforgettable life experiences that I will cherish after this is all over. God truly has blessed me with a wonderful journey. Who knew the world was so vast? Each time I’m on a plane, I am reminded of how small I am and how large the world truly is. Different languages, cultures, and experiences all just a plane ride away. I am elated to continue exploring. 

Cheers,

Brittany