Halfway update: lessons learned abroad

Since my last post I’ve been to Italy, Poland, and back to enjoy Prague for the weekend. Getting caught up in the whirlwind of studying abroad is easy to do, so I finally took some time to reflect on my experience and catch up on some much needed sleep.

I’ve been living abroad for over a month and a half now and I am constantly amazed by how much more of the world I’ve already seen. But now I know that there’s so much more I want to explore. Every place I go, I make a mental list of all the places I need to see on the next trip.

So far, after visiting five new countries and eight cities, and attempting to understand at least four new languages, I’ve learned a couple things.

One, the places I go to with the lowest expectations are by far the best. Vienna, Austria turned out to be an amazing city with interesting culture, great food, and more amazing parks, but I only went there because my friends were planning a trip and invited me to tag along. That weekend showed me how fun it is to be spontaneous, and prepped me for the upcoming travel.

Mozart Statue in Vienna.
Flea market in Vienna
Vienna, Austria.

Krakow, Poland was another surprise that I’m so thankful i got to experience. My study abroad program hosted this trip which drew me in because it was covered by the program, so it was “free.”

Krakow was such an amazing city. I don’t know what I was expecting going into the trip. I definitely did not research the city because we had the weekend planned out for us. But wow, it was a surprise. The beautiful city has remnants from the tenth century, mixed flawlessly with architecture from every era. And then the food was insane. Vegan burgers, chicken schnitzel, Polish goulash and street food. Everything I ate was so delicious.

Main square in Krakow
Wawel Castle, Krakow
Street performer, Krakow
Vistula River, Krakow

So, if Poland taught me anything, it was to remember the places off the beaten path. London, Paris and Rome are all amazing cities, but the hidden gems in smaller, less popular places are just as great and feel even more special.

I’ve also learned that it’s equally important to spend time in your host city as it is to travel. This weekend in Prague was great and I remembered how much I love this city. That seems a bit dramatic since I’ve been in Prague since August. But for four weekends straight I was spending only a few days at a time in Prague for school then leaving for the next city.

My time in Prague was mostly spent sleeping, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and going to school. So, taking time to try new coffee shops, go out with friends, see the Festival of Lights reminded me how much Prague has to offer.

I look forward to spending more weekends in Prague and immersing myself further into the culture, and the upcoming Christmas markets!!


Learning to be spontaneous

Teaching my type-A self to take a step back and go with the travel flow.

Now that I have been living abroad for about a month, I have learned quite a bit about myself and about traveling. After my weekend in Vienna with some new friends I realized the beauty of being spontaneous in a new city.

As a self-identified type A person, I love a good plan. Knowing where I’m going and what to expect is extremely important for me. But when a group of friends from USD said they were headed to Vienna for the weekend and asked if I wanted to join them, I jumped in knowing practically nothing about where I was going. (Except that Arnold Schwarzenegger is from Austria.)

The weekend consisted of many miles walked, approximately 40 by Courtney’s iPhone, and many more unplanned discoveries. This adventurous group of girls got up the first morning and equipped with a map headed to the streets of this foreign city. No plan, no agenda, just walking toward whatever looked cool.

Volksgarten, Vienna.

I decided to go along with it because A: I had no other option, and B: I did not want to be stranded alone. Much to my amazement we were able to cover the city quite well, and see beautiful sights.

When trying to find the parliament building we stumbled upon the circus that was in town for a few weeks, bringing back childhood memories of Ringling Bros. with my cousins. Then, behind the circus was a gorgeous building, the Rathaus, and wanted to look inside. But there was a Game City convention going on, so we managed to sneak in, telling the security guards that we just were visiting the building, and got to witness the juxtaposition of 19th century gothic architecture and teenagers trying out the new Nintendo games.

Circus Roncalli set up in front of the Rathaus building.

By that point I realized that not having a plan for the city allowed us to make fun memories that would not have otherwise been made. And it just kept getting better.

That night we were walking around near our hostel and heard strange orchestra sounds coming from a nearby park/courtyard between two museums. When we got closer we found that the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna was celebrating it’s 125 anniversary with a giant exhibition projected on the building from dusk to midnight.

“Infinite Screen” exhibition projected on the front of the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

We spent about an hour chatting and watching the multimedia show displaying “The Tower of Babel” by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, along with readings from famous literature and pieces of classical music in a cyclical “Infinite Screen”.

The weekend continued in this nature from stumbling upon delicious food at the Open Air Market, and gazing over the whole city from a hill behind the Schönbrunn Palace, to getting on the ferris wheel at Prater Park right during the most gorgeous sunset.

Vienna open air market. On Saturdays there is an extensive flee market.
View from the top of a ferris wheel in Prater Park.
Vienna from the hill behind the Schönbrunn Palace.


Overall, my previous apprehensions about traveling have (mostly) disappeared. (I’m still uneasy about the actual travel after missing my bus home from Munich.) But without a little adventure, how will can I find the perfect park to take a midday snooze?