How Study Abroad Changed My Life-10 Years Later

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A lot has changed in the last ten years; my physical location, my career, my age (ick), my friends, my hair color, but one thing has remained constant; my desire to travel.

It’s hard to imagine that ten years ago I was just a scared College student about to fly across the pond to a world of unknowns. For many who know me, you would agree that I am more the type of person to have a plan and a back-up plan, and then probably another back-up plan. But for whatever reason I didn’t when I left and it all worked out beautifully.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget how it felt arriving to campus majorly jet lagged and full of anxiety. I get almost choked up now thinking back to that day. I lugged my suitcases up the stairs ready to embark on what would become the journey of a lifetime.

Looking back over the four months I spent studying abroad in London, it isn’t necessarily the classes I remember so much of, it’s the people and the experiences.

At the time, I had no idea I would go through study abroad and come out a different person on the other side. I figured it would be fun, but I never expected it to shape who I became as an adult.

In the last ten years I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to more place than I ever thought possible. None of which would have ever happened had I not gotten on that plane to London and experienced the world outside my familiar walls.

I made friends that semester that I will have until I die. We can spend days, months, or years apart, but it never matters, because when we are together we pick up right where we left off.

To me London is one of the most magical places in the world. My heart is there and probably always will be in some ways. I learned so much about traveling, myself, life. One could argue I grew up there.

It’s funny to think about milestones in a way, because they are often insignificant. If I hadn’t continued to travel, then maybe I wouldn’t feel the same way I do now about my time studying abroad. It ignited a fire in my soul and that is something I will be eternally grateful for.

I’m literally about to fly to Peru with some great friends, one of whom I met during my time in London and I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate.

If you’ve ever thought about studying abroad, I cannot encourage it enough. Just take a leap of faith and go. You won’t regret it.

Happy Ten Years Richmond STABS!

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Bars, Baths, and Beautiful Budapest

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This European trip was all about trains. So naturally we took the train from Salzburg to Budapest. I will warn you that figuring things out once you are in Budapest is very different. Hungarian is an impossible language, and even though we knew it was going to be Eastern Europe, it was still overwhelming. We ended up getting directions from a really nice guy and found our way to our apartment via the subway system. The apartment we stayed at was great, and we would recommend it for sure…but it was tough to find. You cant check out more information here. After we settled in, we had the front desk make a dinner reservation at a great spot on the river at a restaurant called Dunacorso. Go there, it’s delicious.

Our Dinner View

Our Dinner View

Our first full day in Budapest we scheduled a walking tour. I personally have always been a fan of walking tours, and I still feel like they are the best way to learn the pulse of a city.

Prior to our arrival in Budapest, we found a gelato place that serves gelato in the shape of a rose; Gelarto Rosa. It is located right on the edge of the plaza by St. Stephen’s Basilica. Our entire group would recommend making this a priority while in Budapest. So much so that it’s possible we had two in one day…

Gelato

Gelato

After walking all day we were starving. Luckily near our apartment there was an entire restaurant area with plenty to choose from. We ended up eating at Yiddishe Mama Mia and it was fantastic.

Side Note: Our food in Budapest was the best food of our trip.*

Once our bellies were full, we decided to stop back at the apartment before heading out to the ruin bars (also very close to our location). These bars are made up of random mismatched furniture, indoor and outdoor seating space, and cheap drinks. Some of them offer food as well. We had an absolute blast ruin bar hopping and only wished we had another night to experience more of them.

One of the Famous Ruin Bars

One of the Famous Ruin Bars

Our last day in Budapest half of our group went to the Szecenyi Thermal Baths in the morning. I would HIGHLY recommend this experience to anyone traveling through Budapest. It was amazing (I plan to write a detailed post about our experience and how we went about tickets, etc. because it can be confusing. So check back for more information on this day). We even had a fish pedicure!

The Baths

The Baths

That afternoon we did a peddle bar tour with our entire group. This wasn’t the best experience, but we made the most of it. Unfortunately our bike bar didn’t have any power, so we were manually peddling the entire thing. Our beer was also very tough to pour without a ton of foam and there were only four peddles to use and one of them didn’t work most of our tour. In the end we can agree that you can skip this activity.

Our last night in Budapest we had more rose gelato, another good meal and some drinks. The group consensus was that we LOVED Budapest and did not want to leave!

The Salzburg Adventure

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After our time in Munich, we hopped on a local train and made our way to Salzburg. We did not purchase our tickets in advance, since the trains run between the destinations regularly. What we did do, was board the train a bit earlier than normal, which turned out to be a great idea since we were able to get seats with tables. The train ride was easy and we made it to Salzburg with no issues. Our next task was to navigate to our hotel via the bus system. Salzburg isn’t very big, and the busses are great, but we did have a tough time figuring it out. Eventually we did and made it to our hotel. We stayed at the Star Inn and it was awesome. It has some of the biggest rooms I’ve seen in a hotel abroad. And with full rooms it was great to have the extra space. The shower and toilet were also separate from each other which was awesome when sharing a room with four people.

Star Inn

Star Inn

After dinner that night, we went exploring and enjoyed getting lost in the beautiful twists and alleyways that make Salzburg so enchanting.

The next day we rented cars to take a day trip to Hallstatt. That morning we caught the bus to the airport to rent our vehicles. They were manual transmission, so only thee of our group could drive, myself being one of them. In the end we split into a boys car and a girls car.

The Girls Car

The Girls Car

On our way to Hallstatt we stopped at a few places of interest and really enjoyed the scenery and having the freedom of our own cars. No one we were with had ever done that before, and I know all of us would do it again. Once we made it to Hallstatt we parked and walked into town to get some food. It is quite possibly the cutest town ever. We were there in October so sadly the ferry was not running but it didn’t impact us at all.

Hallstatt

Hallstatt

The one piece of advice I will give you is if you plan to go to the lookout point and the salt mines, do that first thing. We tried to do it at the end of the day but they close down the cable car much earlier than we had thought. Even without that, the day was fantastic. Driving through the mountains and just enjoying the country was something we will always remember.

While in Salzburg we also did the Sound of Music tour. Even if you don’t care about the movie, you get a great sense of the city.

I am 16 going on 17

I am 16 going on 17

The one strange part of the tour for us was when we were in this little town to see the church where Maria and the Captain got married. The air raid sirens went off. Supposedly they test them every so often, but it was truly terrifying.

Overall we had a lovely time in Salzburg, and the Austrian countryside was amazingly beautiful. We can’t wait to go back!

My time in Munich

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This past September I traveled to Munich for Oktoberfest with seven other people. Yes SEVEN. We stayed for about four days. This is my story.

Munich was the first leg of our two week adventure.

On our first evening we found dinner near Marienplatz, and per the suggestion of our server we decided to go down to Oktoberfest that night, since it was Sunday (Sunday’s are typically really good days to try and get in to Oktoberfest). Even though we were beyond exhausted, we threw our logic and reasoning out the window and went anyway.

Sure enough we found a table pretty easily in the Paulaner tent.

Welcome to Oktoberfest

Welcome to Oktoberfest

The Paulaner Tent

The Paulaner Tent

View From Our First Table

View From Our First Table

We had an absolute blast at that tent and after a while we began to wonder if we should find another table in a new tent. The problem was we weren’t guaranteed entry. The group decided to give it a try and sure enough we got in! Our second table was in the Löwenbräu tent.

Our View Inside Löwenbräu

Our View Inside Löwenbräu

Ultimately, we ended up making friends with the people around us and had a blast. One of the best things about Oktoberfest is making friends with everyone and meeting people from all over the world.

To say that the next morning was rough wouldn’t be saying enough. One group member did not make it to their tour and the rest of us were feeling the affects of a full night at the fest. We took it easy and went down to the grounds to get our tickets for a reservation later in the week. This also gave us a chance to explore. The last time we were in Munich we didn’t get to see all of the grounds. And let me just say, all of the tents are amazing. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Outside Spatenbräu-Festhalle

Inside of Spatenbräu-Festhalle

Inside of Spatenbräu-Festhalle

Outside Augustiner-Festhalle

Inside Augustiner-Festhalle

Inside Augustiner-Festhalle

Mind you, we did not have any drinks or food here we just looked around. This hardly even scratches the surface of tents since there are many, many more. It still blows my mind that these are all TEMPORARY structures!

Another thing we did was go to the grocery store. This trip we stayed in apartments with kitchens, and to cut cost we got breakfast food and drinks to have on hand. Our location was perfect and it was quiet which is a plus during Oktoberfest.

For dinner we enjoyed a meal at the original Hofbrauhaus. Having people with us who had never been to Munich it was a must see! I had an amazing meal. For more about my experience you can read my review here.

Our next morning we had a tour with Mike’s Bikes. It was a blast riding around the city and learning a bit about the history of Munich at the same time. A highlight for sure was the stop for beer and pretzels! That night we suited up and headed down to Oktoberfest to hunt for a table. Luck was not on our side as it was raining, and that makes getting into a tent MUCH more difficult. We powered through though and ended up finding a table at the last place we tried, making us undefeated when attempting to get a table in a tent during Oktoberfest no matter the day, time or size of the group!

Beer!

Beer!

Traditional Dirndl's

Traditional Dirndl’s

Our last full day in Munich was a rather lazy one. We wandered into the main square to look for some souvenirs and then headed back to get ready for our tent reservation. Somehow we managed to get a reservation at the Hofbrauhaus tent. Finding our table was easy and we had a great time. If you are planning to go to Oktoberfest check out my previous post for some tips and tricks!

Hofbrauhaus Tent

Hofbrauhaus Tent

Overall we really enjoyed our time in Munich. While we were there our group grew to ten which made the experience completely different than the last time we went.

After this trip I would really like to go to Munich when it’s not Oktoberfest to enjoy all of the other beer gardens and wine bars they have. I will definitely be back!

Today: The Natural World

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This photo is from my favorite travel experience so far. Last year I was fortunate enough to travel to Marrakech and take a three day camel trek. This particular picture was taken in the morning after we spent the night in tents in the desert. On our way out, we stopped to watch the sunrise, and during my photo session with my camel this shot was taken. Camels are very interesting animals, and it still amazes me that people really use them in their everyday lives.

Camel in the Sahara Desert

Camel in the Sahara Desert

Today: Mystery

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At first this was a tough one for me but after I thought about it for a  little while I came up with something that I’ve always wondered about. It is very popular in Europe to put a lock on a bridge to symbolize love. What I always wonder is where did the couple come from? Where are they now? Why were they here? Are they still together? Were they celebrating something special here? And so on. To me, the beauty lies in the mystery of their stories that I will never know.

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