Granada: The Last Muslim Kingdom

Hola from Granada, Spain!

We have had a busy few days! We took a day trip to Sevilla from Córdoba, where we saw the Real Alcazar, or Royal Palace, modeled after Granada’s Alhambra. I loved visiting Sevilla and seeing the Real Alcazar was a great preview to the Alhambra’s power and influence.

Arabic architecture at Real Alcazar in Sevilla, Spain
Arabic architecture at Real Alcazar in Sevilla, Spain
Pools in the garden of Real Alcazar in Sevilla, Spain
Pools in the garden of Real Alcazar in Sevilla, Spain

We arrived in Granada 3 days ago, and we have been moving around like crazy! On our first day, we climbed a giant hill to Plaza San Nicolas, where we were able to hear some live music and get a great view of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountain range behind it. The mountains surrounding Granada were part of the reason that it was so isolated and able to survive as the last Muslim Kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula until 1492.

View of the Alhambra from Plaza San Nicolas
View of the Alhambra from Plaza San Nicolas

On the second day, we visited the Capilla Real, or Royal Chapel, which is next to the Catedral de Granada. The Capilla Real is where Ferdinand and Isabelle, the Catholic Monarchs who captured Granada are buried. Originally, they wanted to be buried in Sevilla, but after conquering Granada, they decided to move their burial site. The chapel was not even close to completion at the time of their deaths, so they were buried at the Alhambra until the chapel was finished by Carlos, their grandson, who inherited the throne. Juana, the third daughter of the Catholic Monarchs, and her husband Felipe, Carlos’ parents, are also buried in the chapel, along with another grandson of the Monarchs, Miguel, who died when he was three years old. Photos were not allowed in the chapel, but it was incredibly beautiful. 

A portion of the facade on the Capilla Real
A portion of the facade on the Capilla Real

Later in the day, we got to visit the Alhambra! I was so excited to visit, and this site did not let me down! The Alhambra was originally a military fortress that dates back to the 1100s, and this military district of the Alhambra is still standing today. The Nasrid family established their dynasty in Granada after making a deal with Christian rulers: they would help the Christians take Córdoba from the Almohad Muslims, but the Nasrids would get the Kingdom of Granada as a protected area. The Nasrids were Muslim, but did not like the control of the Almohads. The Kingdom of Granada lasted from the 1200s to 1492, when the Catholic Monarch conquered it. They were in an isolated, defensive position, and also paid a tax to the king in order to maintain their protected status. In the end, Granada was weakened as Christian troops closed in. Isabelle felt that she needed to justify her power, and a military victory, especially one over the Muslims, would do just that. Granada also became unable to pay their tax, as it was paid in gold, and they traded silk into Africa for gold, and the silk industry had crashed. 

Arabic art and architecture at the Alhambra
Arabic art and architecture at the Alhambra

The Alhambra’s construction began in the 1200s and was not completed until several generations later. The splendor of the Alhambra proves that the process was necessary and worth it. The decoration in the Alhambra can be described as “mural poetry.” In Arabic architecture and art, there are three main elements: writing, plant symbols, and geometric designs. The Alhambra features all of these, but writing is especially important. The motto of the Nasrid family is written everywhere in the Alhambra, roughly translated to “There is no victor but God.” I got really good at recognizing this phrase!

Stucco work at the Alhambra featuring the Nasrid motto, “There is no victor but God.”
Stucco work at the Alhambra featuring the Nasrid motto, “There is no victor but God.”

When the Catholic Monarchs captured Granada, the only thing they changed about the Alhambra complex was the building of a cathedral over the Alhama (main) mosque. Later, Carlos built (and did not complete) a palace at the site, after he spent 6 months there on his honeymoon and liked it so much he wanted a palace. This was just one of many projects that Carlos started and did not complete. Carlos was the fifth Holy Roman Emperor, and the first Carlos to rule Spain, so he is seen depicted as both Carlos I and Charles V. I can assure you that this is incredibly confusing to all of us trying to figure out and memorize the history. He wanted to reproduce what Augustus was able to do at the beginning of the Common Era, when he ushered in the Pax Romana, however, Carlos spent a lot of time fighting while he was in power, so he didn’t quite achieve his goal.  

One of many empty spaces in Carlos’ unfinished castle at the Alhambra. Sculptures should have been placed here, but never were.
One of many empty spaces in Carlos’ unfinished castle at the Alhambra. Sculptures should have been placed here, but never were.

The Catholics did not alter the Alhambra, despite it being very distinctly Muslim, and of their enemies. Arabic art and architecture had been in style for many years, and it still was. The Catholic Monarchs realized the luxury and style that the Alhambra offered, and despite having Arabic writing all over it, they did not change this. The Catholics wanted to unite society under one religion to create more legitimacy as rulers and have a stronger bond of loyalty with their citizens. However, the Arabic style of the Alhambra was also the ultimate prize of capturing the last Muslim Kingdom. At the time, the line between Christianity and Islam was not as clear as it is today. The Catholics saw the motto of the Nasrids and simply translated “Allah” to “God.” This is much different than the attitudes of today, so it can be a little difficult to wrap our minds around! 

Stucco work at the Alhambra
Stucco work at the Alhambra

Islamic religious art cannot contain iconography, so we rarely see any sort of images of people or animals in these structures. However, in the Alhambra, the Muslim king had three paintings made that clearly show iconography. These paintings are in his personal space, so the iconography is allowed. They look like Christian paintings, but the people are Islamic. These paintings are great examples of how Christian culture permeated Islamic culture. We know that the Christians loved Islamic art and architecture, but the influences went both ways. 

Painting depicting Christian influence on Muslim art
Painting depicting Christian influence on Muslim art

After touring the Alhambra, we visited the Generalife, or Almounya country house. This house was located a bit above the Alhambra on the mountain, and it was a summer retreat for the King. It had gardens and fruit orchards, as well as easy access to the mountain to go hunting. This structure also had a great view of the Alhambra, and was beautiful in its own right! 

A beautiful view of the Alhambra from the Generalife
A beautiful view of the Alhambra from the Generalife

I have really enjoyed visiting all of these important historical sites in Granada. This is our last city in Spain before we travel to Morocco! I am excited to continue our journey as we learn more about the connected history of these two countries. 

Arches typical of Arabic architecture at the Alhambra
Arches typical of Arabic architecture at the Alhambra

Thank you for following along! 

Cape Town ep. 5

It’s been a few weeks folks, happy belated new year! I caught a cold while writing so it took me a bit longer to finish. So without further adieu, here’s my last post: 

10 Lessons Learned in Cape Town (in no particular order)

  1. Learn to laugh off traveling challenges so many times while traveling I found myself exhausted, confused, and downright irritable. Like when I was in the Amsterdam train station wanting to yell at the ticket machine for repeatedly denying my card and making it impossible to go anywhere. In a last ditch effort I tried to use apple pay and to my great surprise, it worked!  Now more than ever I know that traveling can be challenging, but all you can do is find the humor and enjoy the process.
  2. Silence is helpful – and often needed In a culture of productivity and go, go, go, I often neglected to take a day and read a book or slow down. One of the beautiful parts of this trip was the time I took to sit on my couch, let go of my fear of missing out, put my phone down and just read. I made some of my biggest personal discoveries during the times I stayed in, or took a half hour to journal my thoughts while waiting for a plane or a train. Moving forward, I’m working on being intentional with creating more space for quiet in my life here.
  3. Be willing to be wrong Living in Cape Town taught me there are other ways to do life and nothing is gained by assuming my way is the best way just because its mine. I’ve come back with different perspectives on work, health, and myself and I know there’s a lot more to learn if I just keep an open mind
  4. Small amounts of money add up quickly This I heard so many times and still found myself shocked at how quickly $2 here and $4 there adds up. Happy to say I feel like I’ve found the balance between trying new things and not spending too much. I know now that I’d way rather spend on food and fun than clothes or Ubers.
  5. friends are everywhere, if you look. I’ve always considered myself outgoing but being abroad for so long really showed me the value of putting down my phone and seeking connection. In Amsterdam I got a bit lost with a Canadian ex-pat who ended up going the same way I was. That same week, I was alone going to the Eiffel Tower and ended up making two great friends in line. They took my pictures at the top and we still chat on Instagram! In Cape Town, a barista ended up being one of my favorite people; we had the best waffles of my life together.
  6. Don’t be afraid to adventure alone I knew going in I’d be spending a bunch of time on my own and wasn’t worried but this trip gave me an ability to be content finding my own adventures and enjoying what I wanted to. I spent a lot of time with my fellow interns and it was awesome; at the same time, I am happy I had the chance to be on my own for a good bit as well.
  7. Ask for what you want-the worst that can happen is someone says no This lesson popped up everywhere for me on my trip; from the girls who shared their portable charger at a restaurant when my phone was at 8% and I needed to order an Uber, to the UPS guy who searched through the closed warehouse for an ID card I needed to get back to the US. Always ask!
  8. You never know what’ll happen if you step outside your comfort zone Something I never thought I’d fall in love with: hot yoga. I was never a big fan of sweating but on a whim decided to just buy the intro to a new studio and wow, was I a fan. I always say that trying things out is important; my time in Cape Town made me all the more sure of it.
  9. Relationships need conscious effort and open communication Obviously I knew this logically, but I saw it in more clearly than ever because of this trip.  Simply put, this trip forced me to be aware of the relationships I was trying in and those that I honestly wasn’t. I came back from Cape Town to a tear-filled conversation with my best friend who I had stopped talking to about halfway through. It was tough but in the end reminded me people don’t stay in your life just because.
  10. Less is more I came back from Cape Town, took one look at my closet, and instantly started taking things out. I don’t think I really understood how much excess was in my life until now. Not only did I reorganize my closet and get rid of somewhere around 10-15 bags of donations and trash, but I have grown more aware of other things. I’m currently analyzing if I’m spending on useful things or just being lazy to grocery shop.

In the end, this trip was, as they all say, life-changing. I’m so grateful to have gone on this experience and look forward to using these lessons both in my life in the States and in all my future travels.

Thanks for following along on the journey, don’t forget to add a visit to Cape Town to your life!

-Camila

Reuniting with a friend.
Felt like it was fitting to end my blogs with this. Grateful for the trip and all the great people/ lessons I got (plus I met this girl who lives an hour away in the US, how cool is that?)

Winter Break Part 1

My mom flew out to England the day I had to move out of my dorm for winter break at the University. We spent our first night in Nottingham and I got to show her a little of the city I’ve been living in the past few months! We went into the city center for dinner, walked around the Christmas market, and then got mulled cider at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem.

The next day we headed to Edinburgh, Scotland. We spent 2 days here wandering around and taking in all the history of the city. Our only full day here we walked to the Castle, around Royal Mile and stopped to try (vegetarian) haggis.

The Parish Church of St Cuthbert with Edinburgh Castle in the background
The Parish Church of St Cuthbert with Edinburgh Castle in the background

Our last morning we found Victoria Street- the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley and we found a few other of J.K. Rowling’s inspirations around the city.

The coffee shop JK Rowling supposedly wrote a lot of the Harry Potter books in
The coffee shop JK Rowling supposedly wrote a lot of the Harry Potter books in
Victoria Street: JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley
Victoria Street: JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley

Later that day we moved on the Glasgow. Although there was a lot less to do here- we really just wanted to get a feel for the cities and see what they had to offer. Every blog that I had read when trying to decide between the two had said that they were both great- neither was a bad choice. Tired from our first few days of non stop traveling and wandering around, we went to the Christmas markets in Glasgow and then ordered pizza to eat in our room while watching Christmas movies!

The next afternoon we flew to Dublin. We spent just one night in Dublin, in a hotel on O’Connell street. We wandered around the busy street to find dinner and I showed my mom a little of what I had seen earlier in the month when I had been here with my friends.

The next morning we woke up early- 5:30- for a tour to the Cliff of Moher and Galway. Although everyone else on the tour was going back to Dublin later that night we had decided to spend a night in Galway per a family friend’s recommendation. The first stop on the tour was just a bathroom break but it was at Obama Plaza- somewhere in rural Ireland where Barack Obama’s ancestors are from apparently.

The second stop was the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs were beautiful, but the wind was so harsh it could knock you over if you weren’t careful and it was raining off and on while we were there. Still it was an amazing experience and I am so happy we got to go.

The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher
The wind at the cliff was so harsh you could see water being sprayed over the edge
The wind at the cliff was so harsh you could see water being sprayed over the edge
O’Brien’s Tower at the edge of the cliff
O’Brien’s Tower at the edge of the cliff

The third stop was at the Burren region or “rocky area” which is a large region of Ireland.

The burren region in Ireland
The burren region in Ireland

And then we were in Galway. We only spent the one night in Galway before heading back to Dublin. In Galway our hotel was in Eyre square right in front of the Christmas Market and we easily walked everywhere.

Galway’s Christmas Market
Galway’s Christmas Market

The next two nights we were in Dublin and this time around we actually got to explore the city beyond the one street. 

The Temple Bar in Dublin
The Temple Bar in Dublin
St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin
St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin

Our final stop was London for Christmas. We got there the night of the 23rd and got to explore a little of the city at night. On Christmas Eve we did some grocery shopping and then went to high tea near Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace.

High tea at the Park Room: finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and tea
High tea at the Park Room: finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and tea
Our cakes from high tea
Our cakes from high tea

Christmas Day we opted to stay in the apartment, watch crappy Christmas movies and cook. It was so nice to have a homemade meal after all these months of eating dorm food and eating out. It may not have been a very exciting Christmas Day but we were just lucky to have been able to spend the holiday together. The next day we explored Notting Hill’s Portobello Road. From there we walked through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park to Buckingham Palace.

Queen Victoria statue in Kensington Gardens
Queen Victoria statue in Kensington Gardens
Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park
Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park

Our last day together we visited the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, Covent Gardens (for some souvenirs) and then the London Eye.

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge

It was such an amazing experience to get to travel with my mom and I was so grateful to have had her with me for Christmas. For the second half of my break my best friend will be flying over and we will travel a bit of Europe before I head to Italy for my last week. More travels to come.

 

Cheers,

Rilee

Córdoba: Oranges and Abd al-Rahman’s Alhama!

Hola from Córdoba, Spain! 

On Monday we drove about 4 hours from Toledo to Córdoba on a bus. All along the road were olive trees, which made it a beautiful drive! Córdoba is amazing. We are staying right next to the mezquita (mosque), and we can see down the hill across the river. There are orange trees everywhere with oranges on them!

There are beautiful orange trees everywhere! They are edible but very sour, so it was recommended that we do not eat them. That must be why the trees are so full!
There are beautiful orange trees everywhere! They are edible but very sour, so it was recommended that we do not eat them. That must be why the trees are so full!

On Monday afternoon, we had a walking tour of Córdoba, which was really interesting. I always love going on walking tours because I feel like it is a great way to see the city and it doesn’t move too quickly. We got to walk through some of the main areas of the city and down by the waterfront. 

These remains of a Roman temple were pointed out on the walking tour. Córdoba has a long and rich history!
These remains of a Roman temple were pointed out on the walking tour. Córdoba has a long and rich history!

The mosque’s construction began in the late 700s by Abd al-Rahman. Abd al-Rahman escaped Damascus as a young man, and as a member of the Umayyad dynasty, his family was being massacred, and he managed to escape. The Muslim land of al-Andalus (what we now think of as the Iberian Peninsula) was where he sought refuge, as it was about as far as he could get from Damascus.

The stunning red and white colors are made of red brick and white stone. The alternating materials were used to strengthen the mosque structure, as well as to create a decorated arch.
The stunning red and white colors are made of red brick and white stone. The alternating materials were used to strengthen the mosque structure, as well as to create a decorated arch.

He longed for his homeland, and this shows in his design of the mosque. Abd al-Rahman’s original mosque was smaller than what we visited today, as additions were made by subsequent rulers. The original mosque was made up of 11 naves, running north-south. The qibla wall of mosques is the wall that everyone faces to pray, and there is a niche called the mihrab where the leader of the prayer sits, and their voice is amplified through the mosque. The qibla is meant to face toward Mecca, so from Córdoba, this wall should face east, however, the qibla here faces south. This is because Abd al-Rahman wanted to recreate as much of his homeland as he could in al-Andalus, and mosques in Damascus face south. I think this is one of the really interesting facts about this mosque!

At its largest, the mosque had over 1000 columns. After the cathedral was added, there were less than 850 columns remaining.
At its largest, the mosque had over 1000 columns. After the cathedral was added, there were less than 850 columns remaining.

Over time, the mosque was expanded 2 more times in the southern direction, and then was expanded once more in the eastern direction. This last addition added 8 extra naves to the original 11, which puts the mihrab off center. However, the mihrab of this mosque is absolutely beautiful, and while off center, I am so glad it was preserved and not moved, as it is made of mosaics from the Byzantine empire. Byzantine artists were hired and sent by the government from Constantinople to Córdoba to complete the decorations on this mihrab. Nothing compares to seeing it shine in person!

The stunning mihrab with Byzantine mosaics! The picture doesn’t capture how beautiful and shiny it is.
The stunning mihrab with Byzantine mosaics! The picture doesn’t capture how beautiful and shiny it is.

As you walk farther into the mosque, suddenly, there begins to be Christian imagery, and then, a huge cathedral rising out of the mosque. It was built in the 1500s, long after Córdoba was conquered in 1236. After Granada was conquered (the last of the Muslim kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula), the Christian officials wanted to make the mosque in Córdoba (which had already been used as a church for many years) into a cathedral to show their power and control over the area. King Carlos, a descendant of King Ferdinand (of Ferdinand & Isabella!) allowed the cathedral to be built. It is so interesting to see the contrast of Gothic architecture and Arabic architecture right next to each other.

The contrast between Gothic Catholic and Muslim architecture can be seen here, in La Mezquita de Córdoba.
The contrast between Gothic Catholic and Muslim architecture can be seen here, in La Mezquita de Córdoba.

I was so excited to visit this site and it did not disappoint! I feel really lucky to be able to visit. I also loved the courtyard, which features running water (an essential component of cleansing before prayer for those practicing Islam), palm, orange, and cypress trees, as well as one very old olive tree. The palm trees are a Mediterranean tree that Abd al-Rahman liked so much that he wrote a poem about them in his old age. The cypress trees are from Iran and are usually used in cemeteries because their roots grow down, not out. The orange trees are not original to the courtyard, but were planted in the 13th century by Christians. Orange trees are from China and were brought to the area by the Arabs. 

A palm tree in the courtyard of La Mezquita Alhama de Córdoba
A palm tree in the courtyard of La Mezquita Alhama de Córdoba

After visiting the mosque, we went on another walking tour to the Judería, or Jewish Quarter. The Judería is from the 1200s, after Christian conquest. We visited la Sinagoga de Córdoba which was built in 1315, and is one of 3 surviving synagogues in Spain, the other two being in Toledo. The synagogue was built in Arabic style, and the Jewish residents had to request permission from the Christian leaders at the time to build it.

The sign outside La Sinagoga de Córdoba, in La Judería.
The sign outside La Sinagoga de Córdoba, in La Judería.
The Arabic Architecture is highlighted here in La Sinagoga de Córdoba.
The Arabic Architecture is highlighted here in La Sinagoga de Córdoba.

I enjoyed the walking tour, as usual, and I am excited to see what else I learn in Córdoba! I was really excited to visit this city because we read so much about it before departing, and I feel so fortunate to be able to visit the sites I have been reading about! 

I love the orange trees here, and I couldn’t decide on my favorite photo to share here!
I love the orange trees here, and I couldn’t decide on my favorite photo to share!

Thanks for following along! 

Emmaline

Toledo: The City of Three Cultures

Hello from Toledo, Spain! 

My name is Emmaline and I am a sophomore Anthropology major at Linfeld. I am currently studying abroad during January Term in Spain and Morocco, studying history and cultural encounters in cities throughout Andalusian Spain and Morocco. The course started at 5:30 AM on January 3, when I woke up to ride the shuttle to PDX. We then flew to Amsterdam (10 hours!), and then to Madrid (about 2 hours). We then took a bus to Toledo, about an hour south of Madrid. It is absolutely beautiful here and so full of history.

Toledo is surrounded by a river on three sides, making it an ideal site for a protected city
Toledo is surrounded by a river on three sides, making it an ideal site for a protected city

Toledo was an important city in the Iberian Peninsula for the Roman Empire, and then was taken over by the Visigoths during the 5th century when the Roman Empire had weakened significantly. The Visigoths established Toledo as their capital, and in 711, Toledo was taken by the Arab troops, looking to extend their empire. Toledo was taken back by the Christian Alfonso VI in 1085 during the Reconquista. Toledo is known as “The City of the Three Cultures,” as it was a rare city where Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived and co-existed together. All of this background is important because it explains why Toledo is a great city to study culture and history in. 

I love the colorful buildings in Toledo!
I love the colorful buildings in Toledo!
I love seeing all of the plants on balconies here in Toledo!
I love seeing all of the plants on balconies here in Toledo!

Today, we attended a lecture at the local university, La Universidad de Castilla – La Mancha. We learned a bit more about Toledo’s history, and that is where the great information I shared with you came from! Afterwards, we toured the university, which has archaeological sites inside it! There are Roman ruins and evidence of water collecting and distributing. I loved seeing this, as I want to study archaeology in the future. Later in the afternoon, we went on a walking tour of Toledo, where we explored sites significant to Muslim, Jewish, and Christian history in Toledo.

The main tower of the Toledo Cathedral
The main tower of the Toledo Cathedral

We visited La Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz, which was a small mosque built in 999. It was later turned into a Christian church, after the Reconquista. A wall was knocked down and an altar was added to transform the space, but of course, it still resembles a mosque! A Roman Road was discovered under the mosque in 2010, which was really cool to see.

Christian iconography viewed through an Arabic style arch in La Mezquita Del Cristo de La Luz
Christian iconography viewed through an Arabic style arch in La Mezquita Del Cristo de La Luz

After the mosque, we visited Santa Maria la Blanca synagogue. All of the Christian names for Muslim and Jewish religious sites were added after they were transformed to Christian sites of worship, which is why they don’t exactly match up. The synagogue features Arabic architecture, because the best architects of the time were Arabic. This synagogue was also later transformed into a Christian church by adding an altar.

Arabic art and architecture in Santa Maria La Blanca Synagogue
Arabic art and architecture in Santa Maria La Blanca Synagogue

Lastly, we visited the Catedral Primada de Santa Maria. It is an incredible mix of architecture and highlights the mudejar architecture style, which is a mix of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian artistry. It has a beautiful altar, and is full of detailed work. I found it so interesting to see the sites I have been learning abut and preparing to see, and the co-existence that happened in Toledo throughout history. This created a very unique city to study culture and history in!

The main facade of the Toledo Cathedral
The main facade of the Toledo Cathedral
This altar depicts the life of Jesus Christ. Many people in Mesieval Toledo could not read, so the pictures made it possible to understand the stories of the Bible. This is made from painted, sculpted wood, and a lot of gold!
This altar depicts the life of Jesus Christ. Many people in Mesieval Toledo could not read, so the pictures made it possible to understand the stories of the Bible. This is made from painted, sculpted wood, and a lot of gold!

Tonight, we went to the parade for Three King’s day, which is tomorrow, January 6. This is the end of Christmas festivities here in Spain, and the parade was exciting. There were floats for each of the three kings, and afterwards, there were fireworks and people threw bouncy balls down into the square. It was a lot of fun and I am really glad I am able to experience an event like this in Spain!

The streets were packed for the Three Kings Day Parade!
The streets were packed for the Three Kings Day Parade!

I am enjoying Spain and I feel so lucky to be studying abroad here! I am so excited to see what the following days bring.

Thanks for reading and following along on this great adventure!

Cape Town ep.4

Holiday season came and went and with it went the post I had planned for last week so you get two in a week! This will be the second to last as I talk about my initial thoughts being back in the US and then I’ll wrap up with lessons learned in a few days. Ok on to today’s post: 

You know the phrase, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”? (If not: it’s about the bathroom, ok cool got it? Great.) You’re probably wondering why I started this post with that, and I promise there’s a point.  I mention this is because when I got back from Cape Town, this phrase was running in my head on a loop. The reason for this is that in Cape Town, because the huge water crisis happened so recently, there is still a large focus on saving water. When we arrived in Cape Town, we were told the phrase as a part of our water conservation talk and by the time I left, it was second nature.

Coming back to the US, one of the reverse shocks I had was just marveling at how much water waste there is. Before I went to Cape Town, I thought I saved water a bunch since I grew up in a house where my parents would be irritated if I left the tap on unnecessarily, but now after being in CT I have a very different appreciation of saving water.  I’ve found it difficult to flush every time I use the bathroom because I can’t stop thinking about the 9 liters of water that are being used, sometimes needlessly.

This is only a single example, but it illustrates just how true the phrase “Abroad changes you” (which I used to think was a huge cliche!) is. I’m from another country so I’ve always had a different perspective on life because of it but my time in Cape Town brought different issues to the forefront of my mind. When it comes to the water, you’d think being a Californian would have made me more conscious, but apparently I needed an extreme to really learn.

Besides that, one of my greatest challenges of returning has been readjusting to the pace of life here. I was used to working 50 hour weeks (or more) since I work in sales, and being in Cape Town slowed me down a great deal. As needed as the break was, one of my ongoing challenges has been speeding back up. I have major projects at work I need to take care of, but have spent several days feeling almost groggy. I’m continuing to improve and expect to get back up to full speed soon, but still plan to create space for quiet and slowness so I don’t lose them in the fast pace of living in the US.

The other obstacle has been answering the question “How was South Africa?!” I’ve now opted to just answer “Amazing.” because I know people aren’t looking to have a long conversation and are going to smile and move on quickly. The long dissections of Cape Town I reserve for a select number of people who I know are genuinely interested. One thing which has helped a lot has been staying in touch with my some of my friends from Cape Town. We have a group message and when one of us has felt nostalgic or sad we’re able to come together. Overall, being back has been an adjustment but I am grateful to take my experience abroad and use it in my life back home.

This time around I don’t have pictures but since this readjustment is a journey, have a photo from one of our hikes.

going down the hill in cedergburg
going down the hill in cedergburg

Until next time,

Camila

December 1st-8th 2018- A Hui Hou Japan (Until We Meet Again, Japan)

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum Basement Floor

Konnichiwa! On our last week in Japan, we got another week off so we explored what we could before our departure. However, the weekend before we had to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam or JLPT for short. The JLPT was a standardized exam that measures Japanese language proficiency for non-native speakers. It was almost like the Japanese version of the College Board SAT. After the JLPT, there were no more classes, studying, final papers, presentations, or homework! So here is what I did during my final week in Japan. For the last time, 始めましょう !

Saturday 12/01- The day before the JLPT exam, my KGU buddies and I got together one last time by having dinner at a shabu-shabu (hotpot) restaurant. We had such a great time together. I also gave them a small box of Hawaiian chocolate-covered macadamia nuts as my way of saying thanks. Overall, my KGU buddies have been really helpful and kind during my time in Japan. In the beginning, it was a rocky start getting to know them because my Japanese wasn’t that great but now I can happily say we have become great friends for life!

My KGU buddies and I together one last time
My KGU buddies and I together one last time

Monday 12/03- My final week off started by going to Harajuku and Shibuya for some shopping and a little sightseeing. First, I went to see the famous Hachiko statue in front of Shibuya station. For those of who don’t know Hachiko’s story, Hachiko was a famous Japanese Akita dog known for always waiting for his owner in front of the station even after his death. I remember seeing the movie, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale back in 7th grade in my Japanese class and asking if the statue still existed. I never knew that 9 years later, I would actually see that same statue. After that, I went to the Mocha Cat Café in Shibuya. Now, I am not a fan of cats, but they seem to be pretty popular in Japan. The admission price was 200 yen for every ten minutes. There were two floors of cats and they were all over the place! After playing with cats, it was time for me to do some shopping. I shopped at the famous Shibuya 109, known for its many stores filled with cute Japanese products and mainly fashion. After that I shopped at H&M and UNIQLO, and that concludes round 2 of my Harajuku/Shibuya trip!

Tuesday 12/04- I stayed in the Yokohama area by going to the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum which was about all things ramen. The first floor is all about the history of ramen in Japan, but the two basement floors are the most fun. It is a replica of an old town of Japan and there are nine different restaurants serving different types of ramen. You can even request to have a mini sample if you want to try multiple bowls which is exactly what I did. I had three mini bowls from three different restaurants and they were all so good! I wish I could have tried more, but I was so full. Maybe instead of having a wine studies major at Linfield, how about a ramen studies major with ramen tasting?! After that, I worked off all that ramen by doing some shopping at World Porters shopping mall in Minato-Mirai. While I was shopping, I came across this unique section called Hawaiian Town. It was a section of all things Hawaiian including restaurants, cafes, and shops. There were even signs that had names of Hawaiian towns such as Waikiki, Ala Moana Blvd., etc. I wished I had found this place earlier because the atmosphere has a nice taste of home.

 

Wednesday 12/05- I returned to Tokyo by doing some omiyage shopping. First I went to Nakamise shopping street in Asakusa which is the best place to get local souvenirs from Japan. Then, it was round 3 of my Harajuku/Shibuya trip. It started by having lunch at Harajuku Gyoza-ro, then shopping at places such as Kiddyland and the Takeshita shopping street which wasn’t too crowded compared to the last time I came. The main highlight of my trip was going to a conveyor belt-dessert café called the Maison Albe Café Ron Ron. It costs $18 USD for an all-you-can-eat dessert experience. There were a variety of desserts to choose from, and I ate about nine plates! At night, I hung out with my former Linfield International students/Tokyo friends. We first went to Tokyo Tower, the world’s tallest, self-supported steel tower (not to be confused with the Tokyo Skytree that I went to during fall break). The view was really pretty especially since we went at night. After that, we had dinner at a restaurant where we ate monjyaki. Monjyaki is similar to okonomiyaki, but the batter is softer and you cook the ingredients first and then pour the batter in the center. Plus it is often eaten when partially cooked. There was also okonomiyaki served at the restaurant and I actually helped cook it on the grill. I had a fun time hanging out with my Tokyo friends for the last time because I may not ever seen them again for a while.

Thursday 12/06- The next day I headed out to the Fujiko F. Fujio Museum aka Doraemon Museum in Kawasaki. Fujiko F. Fujio was a manga artist known for creating many manga including the popular Doraemon. For those of you who are not familiar with Doraemon, he is a cat that comes from the future to help a boy named Nobita by using many tools that I wish existed in our world. The museum also included works from Fujio’s other manga including one called Kiteretsu Encyclopedia that looks similar to Doraemon in plot lines and characters.

Model of Gian in the Woodcutter's Spring from Doraemon manga, "The Woodcutter's Spring"
Model of Gian in the Woodcutter’s Spring from Doraemon manga, “The Woodcutter’s Spring.”
Model of Doraemon in children's play area
Model of Doraemon in children’s play area
Me in front of Christmas tree in Doraemon Museum
Me in front of Christmas tree in Doraemon Museum

In the evening, I reunited with my host family before I left Japan. When I met them in front of my dorm, I was very happy to see them again. We had dinner at a restaurant that served Japanese-style spaghetti (sorry I forgot the name) because it was eaten with chopsticks. During dinner we exchanged gifts with each other. I gave my host family a box of Hawaiian chocolate-covered macadamia nuts along with 3 bags of Kona coffee. In addition, I also gave individual gifts to each of the family members including a toy for the dogs. For my gifts, they gave me a pair of beautiful chopsticks and a hand towel plus, they also had a gift for my real family back home! And they gave me a decorated card with messages including a video made by my host sister. My host family has done so much for me during my homestay, that words cannot express how thankful I am to meet them. I still (and hope to continue to) keep in touch with them even long after my homestay ended. No matter how many International students they “adopted,” and if they get a new one next year, I hope that they will always remembered me. As soon as we returned to my dorm, I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. Right before my host family left, we took a family selfie and I gave my host mother a tight hug before we parted ways. I will say this once again, I WILL HAVE SERIOUS WITHDRAWALS from my host family when I leave Japan.

My host family and I
My host family and I together before we parted ways

Friday 12/07- My last full day in Japan was spent at one of the greatest places in Japan! Can you guess what it was? Here is a hint: It is the happiest place on Earth. That’s right! I went to Tokyo Disneyland! Here are some differences between Disneyland in America and the one in Tokyo. First, the ticket price in Tokyo is cheaper than America’s for a one day pass. Second, Tokyo Disneyland is known for their popcorn. There are many popcorn vendors around the park and they come in many different flavors including a curry-flavored popcorn. Plus, they sell popcorn containers that are shaped like Disney characters that you can use to carry the popcorn in. Plus at Tokyo Disneyland, they have many rides and attractions that are similar to the ones in America such as It’s a Small World and Haunted Mansion. I only stayed a little while because the park closed early that day, and I wasn’t feeling too good in the afternoon. But, I had fun because the park was in their Christmas season which is the most magical time of the year for Disney. Plus, I got to see a parade and got myself a pair of rose-gold Mickey Mouse ears. If I ever decide to go back to Japan, I will definitely go to Tokyo Disneyland again!

Saturday 12/08- This was the day I departed from Japan. Hours before I left my dorm, it was a bit hectic as I had to get everything out of my room, and fit all the souvenirs that I had bought in both of my suitcases. As soon as that was over, we met most of our buddies in the dorm cafeteria. After turning in our insurance cards, room keys, and student IDs, it was a two-hour bus ride to Narita Airport. When we arrived at the airport to check my bags, I found out that one of them was overweight by 11 lbs. Luckily, my KGU buddies helped me make my bag less overweight. I had to end up carrying some of my stuff in a bag, though. Before I proceeded to TSA, we all had dinner together, and took last-minute selfies and goodbyes. Then before I knew it, I was heading back home. Even though it was a 7 hour flight, I slept most of the time and when I woke up, it was already 1 hour before arriving back in the US. As the time was counting down, I thought to myself, “Man, it is going to be so hard going back to reality, and it will feel like c***!” The moment the plane landed in Honolulu, the weather was cloudy with showers. However, there are some things I am looking forward to being back home. I get to spend the holidays with my family, and I get a chance to see my high school Christmas concert since I came home earlier than usual.

Well, that is it for this blog, and the last of the blogs. Looking back at my study abroad experience, I can say I have no regrets. Even though there were some setbacks and challenges, it didn’t stop me from doing things I wouldn’t imagine myself doing. I traveled by myself during fall break to Kyoto and Hiroshima, I tried windsurfing even though I failed, I got used to riding the rail system even though it can get crowded at times, and made some awesome friends and family in Japan. I wish I could stay longer, but next semester I have a 16 credit load, plus I will be in the Hawaiian Club Luau. Yes, I manage to do everything I can possibly do in a short time. If there was song that could describe my experience, it would be “I Lived” by One Republic.

Since this is the last blog, I would like to take some time to say a few thank yous. First, I want thank my Japanese professors Christopher Keaveney, Masayuki Itomitsu, and TA Ayaki Horii. Part of the reason why I am studying abroad is because Japanese is my minor and language minors are required to study abroad for a semester. They were the ones who encouraged me to minor in Japanese and study abroad, while making it possible to pursue the rest of my college career. Second, I would like to thank the Linfield College IPO, specifically Shaik, Matt, Marie, and Michelle. The IPO was a huge help preparing me before, during, and even after studying abroad. They made sure we turned in our forms on time, answered any questions that we had about studying abroad, and made sure our experience was comfortable. Third, even though I already thanked them, I would like to give another thank you to the International Center at KGU (Matsuoka san, Murakami san, and Yamada san). They were the ones who coordinated our time at KGU, our go-to people when we needed help, and blessed me with a loving host family and great KGU buddies. どうもありがとうございました (Thank you very much)! Lastly, I would like to thank YOU for following my journey throughout my blogs which will hopefully inspire you to study abroad in the future if you haven’t. It will change your life for the better, and you won’t regret it. Linfield makes it possible for everyone to study abroad, including nursing students and athletes.

さようなら and Aloha (Goodbye)

-アリッサ クワモト

November 8th-30th 2018- 十一月のイベントとオリンピックの会じょう (November Events and Olympic Venues)

Light tunnel at Sea Paradise Illumination

(I am back home right now, but please try to bear with me as I write my last two blogs in a quick manner.)

Konnichiwa! Two months have passed during my time abroad in Japan, which means it is near the homestretch of the program. This post will talk about events that happened during November. In addition, I will also be talking about some of the Olympic venues that I visited.  Along with my other four class, there is an independent research class called Perspectives in Japan with the theme of 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I had to choose one aspect of Olympic preparation and conduct research on my own. Since my topic was sustainable venues, I visited some of the venues that will be used for the 2020 Summer Olympics. With that being said, 始めましょう!

Thursday 11/08- Our economics class took a field trip to the Kirin Beer Yokohama Factory where we went on a tour about how the beer is made and processed at the factory plant. The brewery is the only major Japanese manufacturer to produce their own malt and selecting their finest ingredients by traveling far to select the highest-quality of it. After the tour, we got to do some beer tasting. It was my first time tasting beer and let me tell you that it was the most disgusting thing I ever drank (in my opinion)! The taste was very bitter like some cough medicine your parents forced you to take when you were sick, and I wanted to throw up! I even tried both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers and they still gave that same bitter taste. The only thing I enjoyed was the snack that was provided with the beer tasting. This was the most interesting field trip that I ever went to, and the first one where I drank (remember, 20 is the legal drinking age in Japan).

Beer processing plant at Kirin Beer Factory
Beer processing plant at Kirin Beer Factory

Sunday 11/11- I decided to have a nice and relaxing Sunday by going to Umi no Koen, a marine seaside park with the only beach in Yokohama. Nearby the park was an amusement park with an aquarium called Sea Paradise which is why you can see a rollercoaster on the shoreline. (I actually visited the amusement park later on this month). Although it was nothing compared to the beaches back home, I still had a great time sitting on the sand and listening to the sounds of the ocean.

Umi no koen
Umi no koen

Tuesday 11/13- Our Japanese Cultural Studies Class went to a concert in Shinjuku called Mangekyo. Mangekyo was a modern taiko concert with modern image projection mapping and very stylish costumes. This was unlike any taiko concert I had ever seen. I thought the performers were good-looking, and had great energy. I also thought they were having fun and so was the audience. I was only allowed to take a few pictures near the end of the show.

Mangekyo concert finale
Mangekyo concert finale
Taiko drummers of Mangekyo
Taiko drummers of Mangekyo

Friday 11/16- I went to see the “Bohemian Rhapsody” movie in a theater nearby Kamiooka Station. To get tickets, you can pre-purchase them online ahead of time, then when you arrive at the theater you get the ticket out of a machine. For snacks they have the typical ones served at the movie theater except for popcorn, the only original flavor they have is shoyu-butter which was actually pretty tasty. As for the movie, I thought it was a great storyline with fantastic music. The one thing about movie theaters in Japan is that everyone stays until the credits have finished playing. It is because they are showing respect to the directors and producers who created the film. I found that pretty interesting since I never stay for the credits because they are somewhat boring. At least there was good music playing during that portion.

Saturday 11/17- I took a little trip to the two most populated cities home to Japanese pop culture: Harajuku and Shibuya (round 1)! My first stop was at Meiji Shrine, a shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Since it was also the shichi-go-san (Seven-Five-Three) Festival that weekend, I saw many families with their kids dressed in kimonos. Nearby, I took a stroll down Yoyogi Park, one of Tokyo’s largest city parks which featured a lot of nature. Fun Fact: Before becoming a city park, it was the site of the Olympic Village for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. From the religious and peaceful side of Harajuku, I went through one of most busiest and crowded places: Takeshita Street. This street is known for many shops, boutiques and restaurants along the way, including the largest Daiso store (Japanese version of the Dollar Tree Store)! It is especially crowded during the weekends if you wish to go during that time. I also tried one of Harajuku’s famous crepes. After pushing my way through the crowds, I went to a rabbit café called Ra.a.g.f. The cost was 700 yen for a half-hour session along with 150 yen to feed the rabbits and drinks for yourself. The bunnies I played with were really cute! Then, I wrapped up my trip by conquering the famous Shibuya scramble crossing street. It was amazing to see so many people crossing the street all at once with some taking selfies in the middle of the crosswalk. I even saw the view of the crossing from a nearby Starbucks and it was amazing! And that was round 1 of my Harajuku/Shibuya trip!

Sunday 11/18- The Enoshima Yacht Harbor was the first of the Olympic venues that I visited for my independent research. Before I go further, past Olympic venues have now become abandoned “ghost towns.” What Tokyo is trying to do for the 2020 summer games is to use existing facilities for 60% of their venues, including those that were used in the 1964 games. The Yacht Harbor was used for the yacht competition back in 1964 and will be used for the sailing events in the upcoming games. It has also been used for other sailing competitions as well.

Enoshima Yacht Harbor Club House
Enoshima Yacht Harbor Club House
Enoshima Yacht Harbor
Enoshima Yacht Harbor
Enoshima Yacht Harbor Center Promenade
Enoshima Yacht Harbor Center Promenade

Wednesday 11/21-  Around this time of year, many places have huge light displays called Illumination and they have become popular attractions. I went to one Illumination display with my KGU buddies, along with a few friends, at the Sea Paradise amusement park (the one I mentioned earlier in this blog) in Hakkeijima. It was really beautiful with tons of lights all over the place including a huge Christmas tree and a colorful light tunnel.

Christmas tree at Sea Paradise Illumination
Christmas tree at Sea Paradise Illumination
My KGU buddies and I at Sea Paradise Illumination
My KGU buddies and I at Sea Paradise Illumination (Photo was taken by my buddy’s friend. He is a great photographer).
Picture of me taking a picture
Picture of me taking a picture (also taken by my KGU buddy’s friend)

Thursday 11/22- Even though there was no Thanksgiving in Japan, our Japanese Cultural Studies professor took us out to dinner at a sushi restaurant. Earlier, I didn’t want to go because I was very tired, plus there were some personal issues I encountered recently. However, my professor encouraged me to go to experience a Thanksgiving in Japan. So I went along with my classmates, and we got to have sushi with my professor along with her two daughters. The sushi was really good including the flower that was part of the plating decorations. (In Japan, everything on the plate is made to be eatable so it was okay!) The one thing that was embarrassing/awkward about the dinner was when the head of the sushi restaurant pointed out and asked if we were foreigners. Then our professor told him where we all came from, enthusiastically. One little pet peeve that I adapted during studying abroad is when I am in a place with few tourists, and someone points out if we are foreigners. They weren’t acting racist or anything, but it just makes me feel a little awkward standing out as a 外国人 (foreigner).

My ikebana arrangement at KADO event
My ikebana arrangement at KADO event

Saturday 11/24- The International Center arranged a kado (flower arrangement) experience for the international students. We were taught by a professor from Kyoto University about the art of ikebana. When creating ikebana, you have to find balance as you are arranging the flowers and the branches plus there has to be no symmetry in between. It was a bit difficult trying to fit all my plants in a perfect place. The end result did not come out as perfect, and at one point I wanted to throw it out. But temporarily, I put it on my balcony in my dorm.

Yoyogi National Stadium
Yoyogi National Stadium
Imperial Palace
Imperial Palace
Imperial Palace Garden
Imperial Palace Garden
Bamboo Pathway of Imperial Palace Garden
Bamboo Pathway of Imperial Palace Garden

Sunday 11/25- These next two places were also future Olympic venues. The Yoyogi National Stadium which is nearby Yoyogi Park was used for the basketball and aquatics events back in 1964. For the 2020 games, it will be used for handball events and the para-badminton wheelchair rugby events for the Paralympic games. The Imperial Palace Garden was not used as a venue for the 1964 games, but another goal that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Committee is trying to achieve is the use of nature within the city and city within nature. This venue includes traditional landscape Japanese gardens and will be used for the race-walking events.

(Another sustainable venue for the Tokyo Olympics that I mentioned in my first blog is the Yokohama Baseball Stadium which will be used for the softball and baseball events.)

Tuesday 11/27- The International Center arranged another cultural event for the international students. This time, it was a sado experience that involved kimono dressing and tea ceremony. For the tea ceremony portion, we were taught how to make the tea using the traditional tools that are used for the tea ceremony. While I was waiting for my kimono dressing appointment, I actually took part in the tea ceremony for a second time where the host actually makes the tea. Then it was time for my kimono dressing experience. I was dressed in the complete kimono outfit, including tabi (Japanese socks) and geta (Japanese wooden shoes). I even got my hair styled in a traditional kimono hairstyle.

Me in complete kimono outfit
Me in complete kimono outfit
Back side of kimono outfit
Back side of kimono outfit

Friday 11/30- There was a farewell party for the departing International students. Each of us gave a short speech that we prepared in Japanese class. I was a bit nervous not because I had to say it in Japanese, but because of another reason. Compared to the other study abroad participants, my experience was not as perfect as theirs. I made a lot of mistakes and had many struggles. There were also times where I thought my Japanese wasn’t improving (even though several people said I spoke good Japanese). I know I shouldn’t be beating myself up with what happened to me in the past, but I was also thankful at the same time to the people that helped me along the way and believed in me like the International staff and my KGU buddies. Now enough said about my speech! I also gave each of the International staff members a box of Hawaiian chocolate-covered macadamia nuts as my way of saying thanks for all they have done. For future study abroad participants, always bring a little something from your hometown to give to the ones who have helped you on your journey. That includes your host family, International staff members, friends, etc. After the farewell party, we went to a izakaya in Yokohama with our KGU buddies for a drinking party. Before I leave Japan, I wanted to have a chance to drink sake, so this was a perfect chance. I had the umeshu drink, and it tasted great! Overall, I had a blast drinking with my KGU buddies as this was one of the last times we would be together before parting ways.

Having fun with my KGU buddies at drinking party
Having fun with my KGU buddies at drinking party

Well that was a quite a mouthful that happened during the month of November. I know it was jam-packed, but I had to do a lot because I was running out of time.

じゃあね!

ーアリッサ

Ireland and the beginning of winter break

We are officially done with classes and ready for winter break!

This last week was full of stress, I had to write a paper that is 100% of my grade and pack up my dorm room completely. But it was also full of excitement because for the next month I will be traveling Europe.

Saturday my mom will arrive in Nottingham and we will begin our holiday exploring the UK. Even though I spent the last few months here, there is still so much that I haven’t seen, and so much that I am excited to do with my mom. More on this to come later.

The weekend after Carmen and spent 40 hours to get to Loch Ness and back, our little group ventured to Ireland. We flew from East Midlands to Dublin early Thursday morning. When I say early I mean early, we caught a bus from campus to the airport at 4 am.

The flight was only 40 minutes, give or take, and so by 8 am we had landed and made it through customs with another stamp on our passports. We took the bus to our hostel where we left our bags so we could explore the city. Not knowing what we really wanted to do in Dublin, we wandered around. Our first mission was to find bagels, a staple we were all craving since the Starbucks on campus is seriously lacking in bagel options.

The Grand Canal in Dublin
The Grand Canal in Dublin

After that we made our way to Trinity College, as it was on the list of places that you should visit in Dublin. As we were wandering the campus, admiring the amazing detail in the buildings, we happened upon a graduation ceremony. As we were walking across a courtyard, people in caps and gowns poured out of the building opposite as us. Deciding that was a sign to leave, we headed in the direction of the Cathedral.

Trinity College
Trinity College

After visiting two churches and Dublin Castle we headed to the National Botanical Garden. With three greenhouses and plenty of picturesque gardens outside, we spent hours wandering the grounds. It was so beautiful and by far was one of my favorite spots in Dublin.

The grounds at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin
The grounds at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin
A cool looking tree at the botanical gardens
A cool looking tree at the botanical gardens

Later, after we had eaten and managed to find our way back to the hostel, Carmen and I decided that we should go to a bar and get a flight of beer, because if you don’t try beer in Dublin, where you really there? After going to three bars, we finally found one that offered a flight, instead of just pints. As neither of us have really had beer, it seemed like the best way to really try and see if we liked any beers, unfortunately, we don’t.

Friday morning we headed to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. Again, the first thing we did in was check into our hostel so we could drop our bags. We wandered around the city centre, managing to run into a Christmas market. We went to Victoria Shopping Centre to avoid the rain and to see the famous dome on top of the mall. We found a cute vegan restaurant for dinner and then headed back to our hostel, calling it a night early so we could wake up early Saturday morning.

A view of the ocean during the hike to Giant's Causeway
A view of the ocean during the hike to Giant’s Causeway

The only thing I really wanted to do on this trip was go to Giant’s Causeway, a formation of naturally hexagonal rocks, on the coast of a village called Bushmills. Luckily, it took no convincing to get my friend’s to agree. So Saturday we got up early, checked out of our hostel, and made our way to the bus/train station. The Causeway is a little more than an hour away from Belfast, and a train plus a bus ride away but it was totally worth it. We spent the majority of the day walking around, climbing the rocks and hiking the cliff next to the causeway.

A small formation of the rocks at Giant's Causeway
A small formation of the rocks at Giant’s Causeway

Although it seems like the only way to access the causeway is by paying £11 to get into the visitors center,  we did some research and learned that there are paths that lead to the causeway that don’t require you to pay. The only downside of not paying is that if you want souvenirs, you have to have a ticket. We got one and took turns going inside to look at the gift shop.

We made our way back to Belfast that afternoon/night and grabbed dinner at a knock-off Chipotle, yet another craving satiated. Then we opted to spend the night in the airport since our flight was early the next morning.

Sunday morning we caught our flight from Belfast to Manchester and then took a train back to Nottingham. As soon as I was back in my room I passed out, exhausted from the weekend’s adventures.

In the two weeks following the trip I worked on my essays and researched how to pack and looked at travel tips, preparing for my month long trip where I would be living out of a backpack. I packed my entire dorm room up, as we have to move out for winter break. Luckily, this wasn’t that difficult as I only brought one checked bag in the first place.

Now I am waiting for my mom to get here, so my break can really start.

Rilee

Episode 10: The End

Wow. Never ever would I have thought that I would be writing this blog post. Let alone be ending a trip of 4 months in Europe. This study abroad wasn’t just a simple trip to Europe, it was a grand adventure. It was a growing experience, a learning experience and overall an amazing experience. From leaving Oregon and getting stuck in London for a day to FINALLY arriving in Vienna, Austria. To think that was over 4 months ago. The memories I’ve made have been never ending and unforgettable. I will never forget the people, the friends I have made. Everyone at the Institute became like a second family to me. The professor are people I will never forget, Pokorny’s politics class, Hanreichs history course and Vedran’s diversity class. Each one I learned something so very new. They all opened my eyes and helped me look at the world in a different way. They taught me things about Europe and Austria that I never thought Id know. It was a part of this adventure I am so grateful for. 

Wow. Never ever would I have thought that I would be writing this blog post. Let alone be ending a trip of 4 months in Europe. This study abroad wasn’t just a simple trip to Europe, it was a grand adventure. It was a growing experience, a learning experience and overall an amazing experience. From leaving Oregon and getting stuck in London for a day to FINALLY arriving in Vienna, Austria.

To think that was over 4 months ago. The memories I’ve made have been never ending and unforgettable. I will never forget the people, the friends I have made. Everyone at the Institute became like a second family to me. The professor are people I will never forget, Pokorny’s politics class, Hanreichs history course and Vedran’s diversity class. Each one I learned something so very new. They all opened my eyes and helped me look at the world in a different way. They taught me things about Europe and Austria that I never thought Id know. It was a part of this adventure I am so grateful for. 

Vanessa, Ana, Micahaela, Me, Verena and Heidi at the AAIE Christmas Party.
Vanessa, Ana, Micahaela, Me, Verena and Heidi at the AAIE Christmas Party.
Vanessa, Ana, Michaela, Me and Hermann at the AAIIE Christmas Party.
Vanessa, Ana, Michaela, Me and Hermann at the AAIIE Christmas Party.

The other students. Now those are people I will never ever forget and I hope that the next group has as good as a time as we did. Going from spending every single day together for the past 4 months (literally every single day) to not seeing each other for two months is going to be hard. But while in Austria we have collected so many memories that will last for a life time. We have become a family and I will never forget the time we’ve had here.  

Thomas, Michaela, and Ana at a market in Bratislava!
Thomas, Michaela, and Ana at a market in Bratislava!
Some of the group at thanksgiving.
Some of the group at thanksgiving.
Vanessa, Michaele, Thomas, Ana and Kiefer in Budapest.
Vanessa, Michaele, Thomas, Ana and Kiefer in Budapest.
Vanessa and I at oktoberfest in Vienna!
Vanessa and I at oktoberfest in Vienna!

Now to say thank you. Thank you to Hermann, Gretl, Verena and Heidi. Thank you for making the Institute and Vienna feel like a home. For being so kind and welcoming when we arrived and for continuing to be so kind and welcoming through the whole trip. Thank you for every little thing you have done for us. You all are people we will never ever forget and I know we can not wait to see you again. Thank you so much for being one giant family. 

Everyone from the AAIE and Linfield group at the AAIE christmas party.
Everyone from the AAIE and Linfield group at the AAIE christmas party.

Thank you to our host families. The ones who took us in and housed us, fed us and showed us the city when we didn’t even understand the ubahn. Thank you for always being there for us. Thank you for coming to all of our events. Thank you for everything. 

Vanessa and her wonderful host parents Julia and Bernhard.
Vanessa and her wonderful host parents Julia and Bernhard.

Thank you to the other students on this trip. At the beginning I did not think we would do the things we did. I didn’t think we would spend every single day together, go on almost every trip together and become such great friends together. With out you guys this study abroad wouldn’t have been the same. 

Everyone ice skating!
Everyone ice skating!

Austria and Europe I thank you for showing me your beauty. For showing me sun in October and snow in December. For helping me grow into a better more cultured person. Thank you for teaching me so many new things and letting me meet so many new people.

A Church that looks like a castle in Vienna.
A Church that looks like a castle in Vienna.
 "Frohe Weihnachten." (Merry Christmas) in lights.
Views from Greece.
Views from Greece.
Roof Panorama of Budapest, Hungary.
Roof Panorama of Budapest, Hungary.
Hiking in the Alps.
Hiking in the Alps.

Thank you for all the experiences, good times and long lasting friendships. We will miss you. 

This isn’t a goodbye but a see ya later. 

Melissa Rockow