August 22, 2011

Stride Ten: Going to School Abroad


      While I was abroad, I took two different classes. I took a Spanish class and I took a Basque Politics Class.  Everyone keeps asking me, "Did the university look the same as it does in the United States?" The answer to that is yes! Of course, granted the University of the Basque Country was a small university so the scale of campus was much smaller. But they still had a cafeteria and many different buildings and green space for students to hang out!
       One thing to be aware of when you travel abroad, do not expect everyone, especially your teachers to speak Spanish! My spanish teacher only spoke spanish and my entire class was taught in spanish. Which actually turned out great, I do not have much experience with spanish, but she would speak slowly and explain anything we needed to be re-explained. It actually helped me learn more spanish in the long run!
     My Basque Politics class was great! It was taught by an American Professor and he was awesome! He came from the Basque studies program at Boise State University. He was very knowledgeable about Basque Politics and opened up his students eyes to the struggle and oppression of the Basque people in Spain, specifically San Sebastian.
    Taking classes abroad was a great experience, at first, it was overwhelming because of the language barrier, but got much easier as the semester went on! I am upset though that I did not get to have any classes with Spanish students, only american students. But it was still amazing!


August 03, 2011

Stride Nine- Arriving in San Sebastain

HOME! I arrived in San Sebastian, Spain!

I called San Sebastian my home for the past month and I could have not been happier that I chose to study abroad there! San Sebastian is the heart of the Basque Country and rich with culture and tradition. Currently, San Sebastian is titled "The Cultural Capital of Europe" and I could not agree less! After staying for a month, I explored the culture, languages, people, and cuisine associated with the area and it fascinated me more and more each day. San Sebastian is home to the native Basque people who claim they were the first people in Europe. The Basque people have their own language Euskadi which is present everywhere in San Sebastian and is spoke by nearly 20% of the population. The people of San Sebastian were prideful of their beautiful city and many of them have lived there their entire lives. The food was unlike anything I have seen before! The Basque country and San Sebastian is known for its Pintxos, otherwise known as Tapas. Hundreds of Pintxo bars line the streets of San Sebastian and each of them has their own unique Pintxos or mini, extravagant appetizers usually served on a baguette. Also San Sebastian is known for it's Sidera or Spiked Cider which was at each Pintxo Bar and would be served with dinner if you wished.

Some of my favorite things to do in San Sebastian were to hang out with the friends I had made in my group, eat out at different restaurants, hike, lye on the beach, and bike on any of the hundreds of miles of bike paths that curve through the city.

Here are some amazing pictures of my apartment and hiking! !

This was my apartment and I shared it with Frank and our wonderful roomate Leah!

Some views from hiking around San Sebastian. We were right on the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains so there were great views of the city! 


July 22, 2011

Stride Eight- Day Trip Numero Uno

There are a few day trips we have gone on so far, but the first was STONEHENGE! Here are a few pictures we took while we were there! Stonehenge is a wonderful site to see! We took a tour bus up with about 16 other people and we were aloud to walk around the area for an hour or so! This was defiantly the nest way to go because the transportation was great and it got us free admission to actually see Stonehenge. It is surreal. I always pictured it to be out in the middle of no where, but you can actually see it from the highway! And also I had always imagined the stones to be absolutely massive, but they were not nearly that big! Although the road was near and the rocks were smaller than expected, I still loved it and geeked the entire time I was there. Crossed one more thing off the bucket list!!

It was a great sight to see! I would reccomend the short day trip to anyone in the London area! It only took about 1.5-2 hours to get there and it is a great peice fo history! 


Stride Seven-Second Stop PARIS!

Bonjour! We had a blast in Paris! I am going to put a lot of pictures on this entry because I thought Paris was beautiful. I did not have the best time with the people, they were rather unwelcoming to tourists. If you come to Paris- or any country that does not speak your language- I recommend at least learning the basics of the language. If I did not have the language barrier in Paris, my experience would have been more positive! But I still loved it and it is an amazing city! 

When we first got to Paris we immediately found the Eiffel Tower (Which is not hard to do!) and climbed up it! It was around 700 steps to get to the second level which you can see in the picture below when I am at the lower level. Once you get to the second level you have to take an elevator to go up to the top! 

Frank the Tank Climbing
At the Second Level

 At the top!!! 

After the Eiffel Tower we went to the LOUVRE! Which honestly has been at the top of my Bucket List since I was teeny tiny and first found out that the Mona Lisa was there! I was SO EXCITED!! Some of my favorite works of art are in the Louvre and it was amazing to see them in person. 

Throughout the Louvre Courtyard there are little stumps that you can stand on and it positions your perfectly to hold the tip of the Pyramid! 

Below- The "Mona Lisa" and I. I actually am not a crazy fan of the Mona Lisa but I thought it was funny because we had to beat a hugeeeeeeeee crowed to get this picture! 

After the Louvre we of course needed GELATO! So thanks to our lovely travel guide book we found the best spot in paris to get Ice Cream- BERTHILLION! It was amazing- slightly pricey but totally worth it! 

Some other sweets we enjoyed were Macaroons in Montmarte and Cookies from a small shop just south of Montmarte 

The next day we decided to go to Versailles. Here are a few pictures! The Gardens were wonderful and the actual Palace was HUGE! No wonder there was a French Revolution! 

To finish our trip we walked around and found an awesome Bridge! Here it is!! Me and Frank put a lock on and when we purchased the lock from a souvenir shop down the street the very nice store owner repeated said "Love Lock, Life Lock" (or "Love Lock, Life Long" he has such a strong accent it was hard to tell!) about 45 times superrrrr fast! ! ! It was hysterical! =) 

Paris was awesome! Defiantly if you are there for a short amount of time choose what you want to see most because it is a HUGE city with so many things to see! 


July 05, 2011

Stride Six & First Stop LONDON!

Ello from LONDON! I spent 3 days in London on my trip and it was WONDERFUL! Thanks to the jet leg it felt like we were there for 4 or 5 days! My first impression of London was “WOW I am in a different country and it doesn’t really feel like it!” Which sounds awful at first, but the way I see it is that it is a good leeway country into traveling Europe! If you haven’t been to London and are a bit weary of going out of the states because of a Language or Cultural barrier, London is the place for you. It is still rich in culture and history, but still similar enough to the US to feel right at home. I have broken down the trip into five categories to make it a bit easier to read instead of sharing every detail and moment with you all! (Travel, People, Food, Accommodations, Sights)

“The Tube” Is what those in London call the Metro! The Tube was a necessity in London and got me around everywhere in a Jiffy. For around 6.00 Pounds (about $9.50) a day can get you any where you would like to go in a matter of minutes! I easily read the tube map and I do not think I ever got lost which is great considering I do not think I could even find my way out of a room with one door! The only problem with the Tube is that it closed early, around 1:00 am, so when I was coming home from the bars, I had to hop on the Bus. The bus drivers were really helpful when it came to giving directions and telling you when to get off the bus at your stop if you are not paying attention! But watch out- at night, the bus drivers are crazyyyy!!!!

Everyone was so nice in London! Frank and I had a few favorites. The desk worker at our hostel was really informative and just about our age, which was nice, because he would always fill us in on the places to hang out and go out! Every night we would come in and talk to him on the way up to the room about all sorts of things! One of my favorite least favorite things about London though was all of the helpful people that gave us directions. We asked a man in a park one day for directions to Convent Garden (what we thought was a pretty scenic park that turned out to be an open air market and shopping area!)  He gave us what seemed like great directions with landmarks and road names, but as we kept walking and walking and walking, we realized there is not such a thing as a straight road or a 90 degree corner in London and getting directions from someone is nearly impossible. We decided to just spend our time meandering and hoping to run into monuments, museums, and parks, rather then getting frustrated with bad directions and maps missing all sorts of streets!

The food in London is not much different than the food in the US sadly, but I must say, the Londoners LOVE their McDonalds! McDonalds are everywhere and each one is huge (think of the biggest McDonalds you can, they were all bigger!) and not only were they bigger, they were all packed! One of my favorite moments from the London trip was stumbling upon this small pizza place in Camden Town just around the corner from the subway station and eating some of the best pizza I think I have ever had! I just wish I could remember the name! My advice to you in London is go into all sorts of restaurants, I am sure they will still be delicious!

 While we were in London we stayed in a Hostel called Keystone Hostel. This hostel was located in an area called King’s Cross which is the same neighborhood as the St. Pancras International Train Station. This was an AWESOME location! We were a bit nervous at first because it seemed north of the city and like it would be an inconvenience to travel around. But luckily the metro was a block and a half away from the hostel. We shared a room with 6 other people but the beds were comfortable and for the most part the restrooms were clean. Each morning they offered a complementary breakfast, which was a great way to get your day started and save a few Pounds/Dollars. Also the staff was awesome and informed us of where we could do the most interesting things and where the best nightlife is.

I had a lot of favorite sights in London. I will name a few because if I wrote them all, you would be reading forever! I loved Big Ben- it was beautiful and I did not expect it to be one of my favorite things. Trafalger Square was an awesome place to hang out before dinner and drink a bottle of wine with your feet in one of the various fountains. Also, I highly reccomend making the hike to go see the London Bridge ! It was beautiful! I was not expecting it- you can walk across it and even go up in it for a few Pounds. It was defiantly a beautiful sight. The nightlife is awesome wither you like pubs, bars, or clubs London had it! One night we went to a club called Proud 2 which was a huge three story club and had a blast and managed to fanagle our way up to the third floor VIP. The next night we went to a bar with a huge dance party! Each night brought something new and fun! I recommend going out at night when you can if you visit London! I loved Camden Town and the Market. One of my favorite London adventures was Frank and I walked down along a canal for around 2 miles to get to Camden Market. It was nice doing something the locals do on a weekend or a quite afternoon. It really gave us the feel of London not from a Tourists perspective. Once we got to the market we shopped around a bit and tasted some food! It was defiantly a fun way to spend our last day.

Thanks for reading about my first little European Adventure! I hope you liked hearing some of my stories! I will be updating about Paris soon =)


June 13, 2011

Stride Five: Things you should not forget before traveling abroad

There are a few things I have been reading about that you should not forget before traveling abroad! 

1. Check the electrical outlets in the country you are traveling to before you leave 
                 I purchased my electrical outlet converters at Target for under $10.00. There was a set with a variety of converters for various countries around the world! Also, if you are a girl or like to use heat producing appliances, then you need a separate converter for a higher voltage. At Target this converter cost about $20.00 

2. Make copies of your passport 
Make a copy of your passport to leave at your house, in your suitcase, and keep your passport on you at all times while abroad. I also received a great tip from the UC International Office to make a photo copy of your passport and send it to your Email so you will always have a copy readily available.

3. Make copies of your credit card
Make copies of any credit cards you are taking abroad and like your passport, leave one at home and keep one in your suitcase. I do not think it would be safe or necessary to photocopy your cards! If you need to cancel them for some reason, you will not need a picture of it! 

4. Register with the Department of State 
In case if there is an emergency abroad the U.S. Department of State will contact your family back at home. To register visit the website below:  

5. Call your bank to let them know you are traveling abroad 
Contact your bank through the customer service line and tell them you are traveling abroad so they do not put a block on your credit card while you are away! 

6. Check your Cell Phone plan to see if you will be charged abroad for using your phone
Personally, I decided not to take my phone abroad because it would be too expensive to call and text. So as alternatives, I have decided to buy a Pay As You Go Phone while I am in Spain and leave my phone at home. Also, I am planning on Skyping with my family while I am away. You can download Skype for free with the link below: 

7. If you are going to Europe, get a rail pass to travel 
I got my rail pass from Eurail. I found a pass on this website for France and Spain for 5 train rides for around $250.00. With these rail passes though, you have to watch because some have reservation fees for each train you need to take. These fees typically are just a few American Dollars though! They can be tricky though because you have to go through an outside agent to reserve your seats, you can not reserve them on the Eurail website! This was also a great website for students because for people under the age of 25 were classified as children so the ticket was given to you at a discounted price. 

8. Get your ISIC Card
Get your International Student I.D. Card from your study abroad office before you go! This costs $22.00 and is an identification card valid in 120 countries. This card can get you discounts as well ;o) 

Hope this helps, 

June 02, 2011

Stride Four: 21 Days and Counting


I CAN'T WAIT! I can not believe I am going to be leaving the country and going to SPAIN in under a month! With only three weeks left to plan, there is ALOT left to do! So this Blog entry is kind of to tie up the loose ends of planning and purchasing travel books. 

Since I am a first time international traveler, I have invested in some very expensive, but useful, travel books! I sat in Barnes and Nobel, a store I admittedly do not go into often, and stared at the travel book section for about an hour and came up with a grand total of five books I thought would be good purchases.

 Side Note: When you are planning a study abroad trip, there are a lot of unexpected expenses. Such as travel books, but I will go on to tell you about a few more things I have invested in recently to make my trip to Europe a great one! 

 So back to travel books, I picked up a few. First and foremost, I am going to two countries where I am not fluent in language, so I picked up two travel size pocket phrase books in French and Spanish. I got the "Eyewitness" brand basically because they were the smallest and I am a small girl so I do not want to be lugging around HUGE "pocket" dictionaries all day. 


 Then, as I sat and stared some more at the travel books, I found three different travel books where I really liked the format. 

The first, was the LONDON travel book, I found the "Rick Steves' Pocket LONDON" Book. A friend of mine told me to check out Rick Steves because his is a whitty traveler with a lot of good tips. He higlights shopping, food, sights, and nightlife in each area. My personal favorite touch that Rick Steves Travel guides have are the what seem to be Hand Drawn maps! Which as sooo cool to look at! I found this pocket travel guide at Barnes and Nobel for $12.99. 

CLICK HERE : Rick Steves' Website 

The second book i found at Barnes and Noble was "Frommer's Paris Day by Day" which is yet another pocket size travel book. (Do you see a trend with the pocket size books ;) ) This is personally my favorite book I purchased. It was $12.99. Some of it's highlights include 22 different itineraries that you can choose between to plan a day in Paris, a waterproof map attached in the back, and highlights of local restaurants, hotspots, and hotels. Something that Frommers does that I really enjoyed too, is they list prices, addresses, and phone numbers for each and every place you visit.  With each itinerary, there is a map with the route outlined, how long you should spend at each location, and even pit stops for food at local restaurants and bars! How cute?! Regardless, I have really enjoyed reading through this book and picking and choosing which iteanrry was best for me and I recommend this travel guide brand to any one who is traveling for a short amount of time in a specific area! 

CLICK HERE: Frommer's Paris day by day Guide
The third book I found was of course SPAIN! Woohoo! I can't wait. This travel book, is unfortunately not travel size. Since I will be spending a little over a month in Spain, I thought it would be fitting to at least by a full size travel guide! So I had a recommendation to get the "Lonely Planet Discover Spain" book. This brand in-particular is great for college students traveling abroad because it gives itineraries for broad areas of a country. For example, "Discover Spain" has highlighted and planned a trip called "Basque Spain & Camino de Santiago." This is the area of Spain where I will be at during my studies, so I flipped to those pages and found out a few places I would like to go. Some of the ideas that Lonely Planet offered were: a Pintxo Crawl (tasting all of the local food and wine in San Sebastian), Bilbao's Museo Guggenheim (Guggenheim Museum), and Leon's Cathedral. This is a great guide if you are staying in a general area, have the means to travel, and really want to embrace the culture of a country or region! 

Thanks for Reading!