On the Road (Again)

Well, friends, it's almost time. For another cross-country road trip, that is. Here's what's on the menu this time... 

BEGIN: Malvern, Pennsylvania
Roanoke, Virginia
Nashville, Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee
Little Rock, Arkansas
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Amarillo, Texas
END: Boulder, Colorado

Before flying to Birmingham, Alabama and then onto Orlando, Florida. Stay tuned for great photos and hilarious stories (I hope). The journey begins August 10th!

Babes in Deutschland: Berlin

Berlin has a strange feel to it. I'm not quite sure how to describe it, other than it left me thoughtful and uneasy, though inspired by the architecture and the memorials. After seeing all of the photos, you could argue that we should have been left spinning by the sheer velocity of our sightseeing. But it wasn't that. It might have been the idea that with a basic sense of direction and a calm demeanor you can fit right into the daily life of Berlin like a cog in a machine. Cities should be more intricate, more confusing to the senses, and full of surprises. Berlin is just too... organized. On the surface, at least.  

Marc and I navigated Berlin with ease (the transportation is clean, efficient, and intuitive), which really contributed to the amount of sightseeing we were able to accomplish. Our list included: the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, Topography of Terror, Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag Dome, Unter der Linden, the Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom), Potsdamer Platz, Neue Wache, Deutscher Dom, Alexanderplatz, Gendarmenmarkt, and the Holocaust Memorial. The photos here are just a sample of our time there. 

Berlin, Germany
May 2010

The Berlin Cathedral is stunning, and its location by the water made it über-appealing to me.

Easily one of my favorite things that we did in Berlin was the Reichstag Dome. The lines were relatively short because we waited until the very end of the day to visit. We were also rewarded with a spectacular sunset blanketing a panorama of Berlin with soft orange light.

That's me, top right ^

Below is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Only the field of Stelae is shown, but equally evocative and powerful is the Information Centre beneath the concrete slabs.

Can you see the Reichstag and the top of the Brandenburg Gate in the background above?

At Topography of Terror, an outdoor museum built on the land that housed the Gestapo. the Reich SS Leadership, and many more important Nazi institutions. 

Next time, I'd like to get further off the beaten track, focus more on the cuisine, and make an honest attempt to learn some basic German. Next time...   

Revisiting Prague: In Photos

Pictured: 1. Me by the Vltava River with Charles Bridge in the bakground, 2. A view of Prague Castle, 3. and 4. The lookout at Prague Castle, 5. and 6. The medieval astronomical clock in Old Town Square, 7. and 8. Close-ups of the Love Wall, 9. Czech currency

For the full story of my visit to Prague in October 2011, click here.

Thermopolis, Wyoming

If only this was about a city in Greece! Thermopolis is actually the name of the town in Wyoming where my family broke up the nine-hour haul from Yellowstone to Colorado. And what a drive it was! Wyoming is twice as large as Pennsylvania, but with less than 1/22 as many people. Our diagonal drive through the state had us exiting through southeastern Wyoming, a seemingly endless stretch of flat land with one gas station, one diner towns few and far between. 

On the side of the mountain, "World's Largest Mineral Hot Spring" is spelled out with white rocks. 

Located in Hot Springs County, Thermopolis' claim to fame is having the world's largest mineral hot spring. We visited the Star Plunge, where we jumped from a twelve-foot-high diving board into a pool of 98 degree mineral water. 

Amanda taking the Plunge

The shaky, swinging suspension bridge

Plans to visit Thermopolis? Check out their visitor's website for more ideas. 

Carnaval in Aix-en-Provence

Every April the city of Aix-en-Provence celebrates an elaborately planned carnival. The theme changes each year. Children in Halloween costumes (princesses are popular) line the street on the grand boulevard in the center of town to watch the parade. They spray silly string at the floats, bands, and people on stilts. In return, the crowd is showered with cannon-fulls of confetti.

Aix-en-Provence, or just Aix (pronounced "Ex") was my home for more than four months when I studied abroad with CEA in the spring of 2010. That year, I think the theme may have had something to do with comic books, or Pablo Picasso. You wouldn't be able to tell looking at the crazy floats. Jelly fish? Pigs with solar panels for wings? Giraffes and dancing skeletons? I never had a chance to post photos of this community event back in the day, but take a look now. Embrace the bewilderment.

Le Carnaval
April 25, 2010

 Vainess, Jenny, Brittany and me on the Cours Mirabeau

 I love that the nose was pierced...

From outrageous to truly bizarre... 

 Confetti blast residue

 We climbed into the Fontaine de la Rotunde to play in the water

The CEA kick line

Buying balloons and gelato

For fun pictures of this year's Carnaval click over to You Had Me At Bonjour.

Sh*t Study Abroaders Say

A couple of months back I posted about happy hour at the Porch at Schenley with my fellow Study Abroad Office interns. Well, on that warm spring afternoon, our intern happy hour turned into an episode of "Sh*t Study Abroaders Say..."

My friends and I laughed about some of the things we had done after returning to the states that earned us strange, clueless, or disgusted looks from friends, acquaintances and innocent bystanders as we clumsily re-assimilated to American culture. Such as:

  • Starting to speak another language (with no invitation, and for no apparent reason)
  • "I don't know the word for this in English, but..."
  • "I've only been to Hooters in Lima."
  • In response to "I like your bracelet, where did you get it?": "Oh, I got this at a market in Spain for only 2 euros!"

I was ecstatic to find a video that captures many of the things American students abroad will say. The Amizade students who created this did a great job, and if you are a study abroad veteran, especially a girl, I guarantee you will laugh:

All I could possibly add to this would be "Scene straight out of Taken." Girls abroad will often hear the terrifying Liam Neeson movie referenced any time foreign surroundings are suddenly frightening or shady. Hey, once you've seen it, it's always in the back of your mind!

This video hits the nail on the head, highlighting our totally ethnocentric culture. In the description, it says that "study abroad sometimes gets a bad name for ignoring academics and community interaction." I completely agree here, and I recognize that I have been very lucky to avoid this in my personal experiences. In France (with CEA) I did a homestay and volunteered at a local daycare center. Living with other French families, taking the public bus through town, and playing with French toddlers and children gave me a sense of community membership and cultural connectivity. In London (with CAPA), my internships gave me insight into the reality of the city as an area filled with hardworking people instead of a travel destination. Participating in the morning and evening commutes with my fellow Londoners and developing working relationships with professionals from many different cultural backgrounds altered the way I perceived my milieu for the better. I would always encourage study abroad students to seek out activities such as these to improve the quality of their study abroad experience.

Bonne Fête Nationale

Today is Bastille Day, or in French: la fête nationale (not le jour de Bastille, as I once thought). In honor of this national holiday, voilà quelques photos de mes visites à Paris.

The Louvre: home of the La Jaconde, the surprisingly petite painting by da Vinci that we know as the Mona Lisa. She seems even tinier amidst the massive crowds that gather in front of her. 

I visited twice, in March and in May of 2010. See what a difference two months of beautiful springtime made in my view of the Île de la Cité from the Pont du Carrousel? (below)

Stained glass at La Sainte-Chappelle, on the Île de la Cité.

After wandering through the 7th arrondissement in search of la Tour Eiffel, the iconic monument appeared suddenly above the buildings.