Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm not a fan of this in-between

So it is Monday, December 13th and I am writing this update from Strasbourg, France! I guess Strasbourg is known as the Christmas capital and I will be going around town tonight and tomorrow to see it for myself! My mom is here! She arrived Saturday morning and we spent Saturday and Sunday showing her the city of Brussels, she also got to meet Kelsey and see the city that Kelsey lived in all semester, that was a lot of fun!

So far Strasbourg seems like a really nice city. We got here and found out that our hotel was not as close to the downtown as the website had implied and after some contemplating and luck we found a hotel downtown and were able to cancel our previous booking without any penalty! Since we got this new room we have just been warming up and trying to breathe, my stupid cold is making that a challenge!

Right now I am wanting to be home. I am not sure if it is because I am sick and just want a normal bed, be that the one back in Kraainem or back in the US, I just want to wallow haha. But I also think it is because the people that were the norm here are all dispersing, most are already home, and those that aren't home are spread out throughout Europe. It is reassuring to see other people with confused facebook statuses, at least I know that others are feeling just as confused about what to feel as I am. I am not looking forward to leaving but I am definitely much more prepared for it than I was a week ago. I am missing everyone so much already that I know it is going to be tough getting back to the "home" life, however I am beyond excited to see everyone from home. I can't wait to enjoy just sitting around with my friends again and laughing about the most random things and then making impromtu Starbucks trips!

So with 4 days left in Europe, and leaving in 5 days I would say this is a good place for me to be. I am happy to be experiencing Europe again with my mom, but I am also ready for the next step, although if I had a rewind button I might rewind and slow down the last couple weeks just in order to enjoy everything here for a little bit longer haha.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why did it go so fast?

This is not going to be my normal cheery post, but I hope it makes sense once it is done. I am very excited for my mom to get here and seeing how excited she is makes me all the more excited. I am also extremely excited to be going home for Christmas and my birthday, this is my favorite time of year! However, for both of these things to happen this experience has to end and that thought is just not okay. The studying abroad process is one that is like a roller coaster, you start off nervous and just trying to prepare yourself for getting to your location, you get there and realize, "Wow, I am going to be here for a long time," and then all of a sudden you are comfortable in your location, have friends, and are just happy. Yet then change happens again, you start to realize how quickly time is going by and try to make the most of every event. I am able to recognize that this process has to be like this because if it wasn't short I don't think we would appreciate it as much, people that study abroad for a year or even longer probably have an even more complicated process.

I have loved almost every minute of my time spent in Belgium, I did not love my first couple hours with the children when they were attacking me and not happy that I am a girl, but since then it has been great. I am currently a never ending string of thoughts, one second I am sad, the next excited and thinking about home, and who knows where my mind will be the next second. I am sad this is ending, but it must and I know that everyone in this situation and others like it will always have their memories and the friends that were made during these times.

A little update:

This past week was the last week of classes so it was full of end of semester projects and final reviews. It was also a week full of snow in Belgium, something that I have heard never happens this early in Brussels. It was so pretty at first, but that was from inside and everything changed when you had to walk in it. I am not sure exactly why but salt for the snow and ice is not a popular thing here and walking around like normal became an adventure with every step. Although this morning when I woke up I was happy to see that rain all night had caused most of the snow to melt :-)

Last night Eddie and I made American Mexican food for the host family. We had soft tacos and chips and guacamole, and other than the kids not liking the guacamole, everything else was a hit! After dinner the family gave us each a book with pictures of Brussels or of Belgium, it was a really nice evening.

Now I need to get to writing my internship report and studying for finals. It should be a good week, only 3 exams and then enjoying Brussels and the host family.

I will write back soon!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Eeeck, I waited too long to write this one...

Okay well, it looks like the last time I updated my blog was post Paris, and woah, that was a long time ago, so first things first.

IRELAND!!! The Thursday after fall break was over Eddie, Kelsey, Ryan (a guy Eddie met from church), and myself all went to Ireland. Eddie, Kelsey, and I traveled together and Ryan just met us in Dublin. The trip there went okay, we were flying into some really strong winds but the flight went fine, especially with a couple Dramamine in my system haha. When we got into Dublin it was 7:30 or so, and since we had a really early day the next day we went to the hostel to drop our bags off, walked around and then went to dinner. Dublin is a really nice city because it is very easy to walk and our hostel was in a really good location! A little after we got back to the hostel Ryan arrived and then we just hung out until sleeping. The next morning we headed off to Galway, its about a 3 hour train ride to get there, but it was great because we all got to see part of Ireland that we really wanted to, sheep and green! Galway was another cute city and again we had a really nice hostel. The first day we just walked around, went to the main pedestrian street in town and just saw different things, the river, museum, cathedral, it was nice. Saturday we went on a tour from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher, it was an all day tour and we had a super cute tourguide named Desmond. We had numerous stops throughout the day and we were lucky enough to actually make it to the cliffs at a moment when the sky was clear! After the tour we went to dinner and then back to the hostel, it had been a long day. Sunday was another bright and early morning in order to catch a train back to Dublin! We wanted to give ourselves as much time as we could in Dublin, and we got into town at 11 am or so. We split up for lunch, the boys to Burger King, and the girls to a restaurant for an Irish breakfast. We met up after eating and walked around to some of the touristy places by Grafton Street, the main pedestrian street in Dublin. Then we all split up again, Eddie and Kelsey needed to go back to the hostel and Ryan and I both wanted to see the city so Ryan went off and I did as well, I took a bus tour because I wanted to see as much of the city as I could in the couple hours I had, and it worked out really well. After our little split, which did include Starbucks for Kelsey and I, woohoo, we all met back up at the hostel and went out to dinner. Again, it was a pretty early night because we all had early flights back to Brussels Monday morning. Ireland was a great trip! The group got along really well and having 4 made it really easy when we couldn´t decide on something, we would just split up. The country was amazingly beautiful and the people were very nice, it was a dream come true to visit Ireland and I definitely would like to go back!

The week after Ireland was pretty relaxed, I had classes and one day at AGE before heading out on another trip. This time the WWI/WWII tour to Luxembourg and France.

I´m not sure how to really describe this weekend, it wasn´t fun, but it was really interesting and something I think everyone should at least learn about if not see for themselves. We started off by going to the American and German cemetaries in Luxembourg, they were both very different but did show just how devasting WWI was for the soldiers on both sides. After a stop at one of the many forts along the Western Front, where we rode a train inside to get around, we headed to Metz, France where we saw a bit of the city before having the night off. Saturday was the hard day, we started off with heading to Verdun, a WWI battlefield with terrible loses. We started by going to the museum and then to the Douaumont Ossuary, this was the worst part of the weekend. This building is the tomb of 130,000 German and French soldiers that died during the fighting at Douaumont/ Verdun, they know the names of the soldiers but were not able to identify the specific bodies of each man. The ossuary is has all of the bones in what I guess can be called a basement, and there are little windows in where you can see the bones, I´m not sure I would recommend it and in the inside are all of the names and a little chapel. The ossuary is also situated right across from a very large French cemetary, and the image in its entirity is just heartbreaking. After that difficult moment we went to the Douamont Fort, it was again not super uplifting but interesting to see another instance of how soldiers defended themselves, but how the men in charge of the fort would switch throughout the war. We then had lunch, and it was a much needed break from the really depressing day so far. After lunch we headed to Reims, France, along the way, and as was done most of the time in the bus we watched movies or documentaries on the war, mostly all on WWI. In Reims we had a champagne tasting, and that was a very nice way to bring up the day, I even bought a bottle :-) We had the night free and all did dinner in small groups. The next day was Sunday and with the hope of making it back to Brussels early, we headed off. We saw the cathedral in Reims, where kings of France had to be crowned to make it official, and then we headed off to another fort, but this time they were really just caves. The tourguide in the caves was fantastic, he had so much passion for what he was teaching us about and he knew so much, you could tell that he did his own research on the subject and he just made it incredible. After the caves and lunch we began our trek back to Brussels, with a quick stop at the train car where the Armistice was signed, and we also saw the room in Reims where the WWII peace treaty had been signed earlier that day. We made it back early and after a good dinner of Chinese I made it back to the house.

It was a long weekend but it really did show the horrors of what the first and second world war did for the world.

Since then I have been busy at homework, with my present computer problem, it has a virus and isn´t working, I have been at the school computers or on Eddie´s (he is very nice in letting me use it when I need to) in order to finish a paper that was due yesterday, and now i have 2 more due this coming week. Neither of these papers will be too much work luckily.

I am in shock that December is almost here, I honestly feel like I just arrived in Europe and happened to do a lot of traveling in the first week, the fact that I have been here for almost 4 months is crazy to me, and I am not ready for it to end. Going home will be amazing, and seeing everyone will be great but I am going to miss Brussels, my host family, roommate, and all my friends I have made here terribly. Well maybe I should get to working on my papers, or buying train tickets for when my mom gets here, I´m sure everyone can guess which one is going to happen. I am really excited for my mom to get here, and I can´t wait to show her the city I have grown to love!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Paris, why are you so amazing?

Okay so this is my post Paris blog! A lot has gone on since my last blog, not so much school stuff, but a TON of AGE related functions, and even more traveling!

First off, after the stressful return from London with the lack of knowing where Eddie was for a while I needed a good nights rest so when Monday morning came around and the need for me to wake up for class, I just decided my first skipping might need to occur. I missed a presentation over the conflict in Georgia, but loved the sleeping in part. After my little sleep in I went into AGE for what I was planning on being just a couple of hours of making folders for the conferences later in the week, but my boss wasn't in to tell me what to do. Instead, I just ended up working on some projects I have ongoing throughout the semester and once she arrived getting some things ready for the meetings that were later in the week. On Tuesday the entire trip to Ireland was planned! It felt and still feels so good to have everything that needs to be booked and to know what we are doing, at the same of the Ireland planning Eddie and I were still undecided about what to do after Paris, but that will be talked about more later.

Wednesday I had my morning Art class, and then Kelsey and I went to go buy scarves before I had my first big AGE event of the week. Wednesday's event was a conference on seniors using equity from their mortgages to offset any funds they weren't getting from their pensions. Just the subject was over my head, but it was still an interesting conference. The best part of it was getting to meet so many different AGE members and to see inside the European Commission building, it was a very hi-tech building and very cool. Thursday and Friday were AGE Council of Administration meetings. This meant 40 of the members of AGE that have been elected to work on the more administrative issues at AGE and the staff issues of the Brussels headquarters would come to Brussels and discuss the issues. It was really neat because I was able to go to both days events and to meet so many of the members. The members are from all across the European Union and have so many interesting things to say. They were long days filled with a lot of information that was completely new to me, but it was interesting to see just a piece of some of the bigger work that AGE does. After these meetings I came back to the house to pack for Paris!

Throughout the week Eddie and I had been trying to make plans for after Paris, and pretty much decided to take a 13 hour bus to Geneve, but it wasn't able to be booked so we were hoping to buy the tickets in Paris and just go from there.

We left for Paris early Saturday morning and started the trip the trip immediately. We saw a ton of things from the Louvre, the Conciergerie, Versailles (where we rode bikes around the gardens), Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay, Les Invalides, Tomb of Napoleon, a Monet museum, any many more things. It was so strange though that visiting sites like the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triumphe were not planned but instead were mentioned as possible options on our free nights. It was great though and seeing so many things with a professor that I swear could talk about any subject for two hours minimum. On our evenings off I was able to go see the Eiffel Tower and go to the stop, it was soooo pretty and just amazing to be at the top. We also went to the Arc de Triumphe, that was really cool too and it was neat to see the comparison between the height there compared to the Eiffel Tower.

After numerous hours spent trying to make plans and having continued issues with booking tickets or finding inexpensive options Eddie and I just decided to stay in Brussels for an extra night and then to take a bus back from Paris to Brussels. That plan worked out really well because we were able to see the Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triumphe and then the French countryside on the bus ride back. The funny thing was that the bus driver actually got lost or something on the drive back because we kept going back to this one gas station, it was very bizarre.

We finally made it back into Brussels and since then have just been haning out. Our host family left tonight for a trip to the sea, and they invited us last night but both Eddie and myself have papers due in the next couple weeks so we need to work on them and will hopefully see a bit more of the city. Upcoming trips include Ireland and the WWI and WWII trip with the art class, other than that it is just hanging out and hopefully and experiencing any other things that I can.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The travel season is upon us!

I cannot believe it is already October 26th!??!?!?!? I feel like my time here is going by faster than I ever would have thought, and I know that these next few weeks will most likely go by even faster. As of this past weekend I will be out of town 5 weekends in a row! This past weekend myself and my roomie Eddie went to London and Oxford, England! It was great! I left for London early Thursday morning, so that I could get some of my research done in the British Museum before Eddie arrived at 7pm. When he got into town I already felt pretty good about knowing my way around; I had taken the underground with no problem and after completing my research after a couple hours had gotten onto a couple of the touristy buses to see as much of London as I could. After Eddie arrived we just walked around, got some dinner at Subway haha, and then headed back to the hostel to just hang out since we wanted to figure out some stuff for Friday. On Friday we left the hostel and went first to Starbucks! It was right across from the British Museum, and our hostel was right beside the museum, so of course I had to go to Starbucks three times while I was there!

So after we went to Starbucks we headed over to the British Museum so Eddie could see what it was like. We didn't stay very long, its so big that I feel like you could spend days there and we had other things we wanted to see so it was a quick visit. From there we went to the more famous tourist attractions: the London Eye, Big Ben and Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. We took a ride on the Eye, no matter how many times you do it it is still such a cool experience to see that much of the city! We then walked over to Big Ben and the Westminster Abbey area. After that we went to Wembley Stadium. Now I think everyone that knows me knows I am no super sports fan, I enjoy watching a game here or there but other than that get pretty bored, but Eddie is a major soccer fan and has played his whole life so this was a big attraction for him. We were going to go on a tour of the stadium but it was going to take too long so we just walked up to and then left, with plans for Eddie to return on Sunday when we were back in London. After that we had to start watching the clock because we had to go see the Phantom of the Opera!!!! We went back to get my backpack at the hostel, got dinner, and then went to the show! The theatre was relatively small and everyone was really close to eachother, but it also made you feel closer to the actors.

The show ended and with giantic smiles on our faces we headed off to the train station for out train. We had a while to wait so we got a McDonalds snack and then just waited, our train didn't leave until 12:22am, but it only cost 4 pounds a piece! We arrived in Oxford and got to our hostel by about 2 am and then just called it a night. The next morning we went off to find the next museum for my research. Luckily Oxford is a small city and very easy to get around so we found the museum with no problems and I got to work. This sort of stuff was not Eddie's idea of fun so after about 20 minutes of just walking around he sat down in a chair and settled in for a nap haha. I was able to find some items very similar to the ones found in London, and when I am able to review all the images I think I will be happy with my results. After that we got on a tour bus to go around the city. We got off and on the buses like that all day and would stop to go into different locations. That night we were pretty tired so after a dinner of "Mexican" burritos we headed back to the hostel to be super cool kids and charge cameras and ipods haha.

Sunday we left for London at 10:50 so we didn't do much before leaving other than just getting ready and checking out of the hostel. When we got to London we had a quick lunch of McDonalds again and then seperated, Eddie to go back to the tour at Wembley and myself to go visit the Tower of London. Unfortunately for both of us the London underground was very messed up on Sunday due to different line updates. This meant that without taking a taxi I wasn't going to make it to the tower and Eddie ended up taking buses and going on an adventure that I will discuss a bit later. I ended up just going to a starbucks like place and getting an awesome gingerbread latte writing postcards and then heading to the station. It ended up that these underground updates really messed up Eddie's hopes to get to Wembley and see the tour, he ended up getting there but had no time to do the tour and had to turn around once he got there. He actually ended up missing the train back to London by less than 10 seconds because of all these issues and the unfortunate part of all of this was that his cell phone was dead! He wasn't able to tell myself or anyone what was going so after a nerve racking train back to Brussels and several frantic texts to my host mom I made it back to the house and hoped Eddie would too. He luckily made it back just about an hour after I had, he had caught the train an hour and a half after mine and other than missing the first train had no problems.
Overall, this past weekend was great! It was great to have Eddie there as a research aide haha and as a travel companion! Plans from this week on include Paris with the art class, a yet to be determined destination following Paris, Ireland, and a WWI and WWII battlefields tour with the art class! It's all going to be a ton of fun but I think its going to make the time fly by!

I will try to update about where we are going after Paris once it gets decided and booked!


Sunday, October 17, 2010


This week went well, I attended two different AGE meetings, both on transportation. I feel like I have learned quite a bit about transportation issues and goals within Europe that I had never before considered. This coming week I will only be at AGE for two days because of my trip to England next weekend, but one of those days will include another out of office function, although I'm not sure what it will be haha.

Eveything is going great right now! Classes seem to be going well, although I haven't received any midterm grades yet so that might be changing soon. The weather has certainly turned to fall; coats and scarves are now must haves but its not bad and nice to see all the different scarves, I want to buy them all! Hopefully soon my travel companions and I will have figured out all of our upcoming trips. England planning is done, but after that nothing has been finalized.

All week I have been planning on working on a paper today so I would be ahead, but so far this isn't working haha. I woke up relatively early but then started watching "The Big Bang Theory." Yesterday was a good day. I met my friend Mario downtown and we went to an African area of the city with a bunch of restaurants. Lunch was good and not too expensive, which is always a benefit. After lunch we started walking around town and ran into another Vesalius student named Jane. It was great to see her and all three of us started walking around town. I saw many areas where I had seen on the tour our first week here but since then hadn't been around those areas. There are so many cute areas around Brussels and I was very happy to have seen them.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dragons, Countryside, and Castles, oh my!

So this has been a great week! I mean it was midterm week but I am really talking about past Wednesday haha. I had two days at AGE one that was mainly spent on catching up on everything since I hadn't been there in almost a week. It was a good day, but I got bored in the afternoon lol. Friday was great though! I started off updating some assignments I had already been working on and then I received what I think will be my big job for the rest of the semester. AGE recently sent out a questionnaire to all of its members and as they are starting to be returned I am going to be compiling all of the data. Now this will probably be pretty be monotonous in time, but it was an interesting assignment to create the spreadsheets for it and was a nice change from the normal database updating. After a great day I came back to the house and had a very calm day with the family and roomie. Saturday I ended up meeting up with a friend for lunch and then meeting up with Eddie and some of his friends to go to a castle outside of Brussels. It ended up being quite the adventure to get to the castle. We missed the bus by about 15 minutes and the next one wasn't going to be coming for 2 hours!!! On weekends the buses slow down a lot haha. So after about an hour and a half of walking, we never got lost but did have to ask for directions a couple times, we found the castle. The first thing done was to find the returning bus schedule and with just over 2 hours to enjoy the castle we set off. We were expecting a tour of the history of the museum, but that was definitely the case. I have copied in the link for the exhibit below.

The exhibit was about dragons. It was ...interesting haha Throughout the museum were clips of different movies featuring dragons, from Harry Potter to Alice in Wonderland. There was even a dragon in the basement haha. The audio guide we had told us all about this cardboard dragon being very angry if is didn't get fed. It was pretty funny. The tour guide said they change the exhibits for the museum 2 or 3 times a year because if not the people that get their get bored. It was a really fun experience and I think quite unique. The castle was really pretty and was situated around a lot of land and it had great views of the countryside. We did make it back for the bus and when we made it back downtown all went out to a Greek place for dinner. It was a great and tiring day. When Eddie and I returned we just hung out for a while and then called it a night. Today has been very relaxed. I have been slowly working on hw and watched/ am watching french Disney movies on youtube with Alice.

This week should be pretty good. I have a presentation tomorrow morning and have to work on some other projects. However, I also have a lot of AGE functions this week so it should be a fun bunch of things to go to!