21 Trips Around the Sun.

Hey hey party people! I know I have been absent from the blogosphere for a hot minute, but I’m back, I’m one year older, and I have much to share.

Welcome back to the Netherlands, the country that immediately started decorating for the holiday season once the clock struck midnight on November 1st. In the past three weeks, I traveled to 3 countries, started new classes, and celebrate both my birthday and a friend’s. My phone also stopped working on the first day of classes. That’s a fun side story. For now, since I am suffering from a lack of pictures from a whole week of travel, I am gonna hit some highlights and then talk a little bit about finding community abroad, and how my goals changed since arrival. Okay? Okay.  Let’s hop to it 🙂

Fall Break: Hungary, Slovakia, and the French Riviera

The day after I sat for my EU Law final I flew to Budapest to visit Alex for 4 nights and 5 days. The back half of  fall in Europe is moderately miserable, and it rains all the time now. I’m gonna hit those highlights now! (Sans pictures because you know- I was a dumb dumb and forgot to backup my phone).

  • Slovakia- We got up at 7AM the morning after I landed in Budapest to take a 3 hour train to Bratislava, Slovakia. It rained the entire day we were there, but that did not stop us from exploring the city at least a little bit. We ducked out of the rain and ate traditional Slovak food with a bunch of old people. I don’t understand how both the Hungarian and Slovak people survive on so little vegetables. Bratislava was a super artsy city, and I really want to come back when it is not raining. I’m in love with the entirety of Eastern Europe, and I already have plans to spend some time living in Sarajevo in 2019 (sorry Mom and Dad). I am so intrigued by the influence that communism had on these countries, and how that complicates politics now, but that is just the nerd in me.
  • Budapest- It also rained THE WHOLE TIME I was in Budapest with the exception of the morning that I left. Alex and I spent a lot of time ducking into buildings to escape the rain. I have been to Budapest before, and I went to new places this time, which made the visit super special. Also, I was with my love so that always makes traveling special. We ate the best Israeli food I have eaten thus far at a fabulous restaurant, Mazel Tov. They also have a great wine selection. 10/10 would recommend if you spend time in Budapest.
  • The French Riviera- Within 48 hours of touching down in Maastricht, I turned right back around to hop on a plane to Nice, France with my parents. We spent 3 nights together in this beautiful apartment that had a balcony overlooking the ocean. You could access this path that ran along the ocean and walk forever, basically. It was so peaceful and so necessary after a stressful finals week. Ya’ll would not believe how crazy beautiful it was there. I straight stood in the ocean fully clothed (wearing shorts), and just let the waves wash over me for a while. We also traveled to Ezé and Menton, some smaller towns close to the small village we stayed in, Cap d’Ail. I would highly recommend traveling, especially to popular destinations like the French Riviera, during the shoulder season. There were plenty of people, and I cannot imagine it with more people. It was plenty warm still as well, at least compared to Maastricht: 70s and sunny every day we were there.

Paris

I actually have pictures from this trip! Woo! My program took us to Paris on the first weekend back after break. I visited Paris twice in the past, so this trip felt a little old hat (I know how snobby I sound when I say that), until Sunday, the best day. I had the chance to take my friends to one of my favorite places in the world Shakespeare and Company, a bookstore in Paris that basically makes me cry every time I go inside. Famous writers like James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway hung out at the original Shakespeare and Company which was opened by Sylvia Beach, a gay, American expatriate. This shop was shuttered in 1941 during the German occupation of Paris. Sylvia Beach was such a rad lady, that the founder of the current Shakespeare and Company named the current bookstore in her honor. Sylvia Beach also wrote a book, Shakespeare and Company, about the American expatriate community of writers that congregated in her store. The atmosphere in the shop is amazing. Peep some pics I stole from Google since photography is not allowed.paris_shakespeareandco_02o

Sources: Image 1- Source the Station//Image 2- Thalo Artist Community

On Sunday, I visited Montmartre, where the surrealists used to hang out, and the home of Sacré-Coeur. Sarah and I grabbed some quiche and sat on the steps overlooking the city. I am discovering this is my favorite way to travel. I love wandering around, grabbing food, and absorbing as much of a city as possible.

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After our snack, we met up with another friend, Alyssa, and climbed to the dome overlook. It was breathtaking.

We then raced back to our bus before the 6 hour drive back to Maastricht. Below are some photos of friends enjoying the previous gray day during our walking tour.

Change is necessary for growth

Before I went abroad, I was part of the collective thinking that study abroad would only be worthwhile if I hung out with international students. Additionally, I thought that study abroad would only be worthwhile if I traveled to as many countries as possible. I wanted such different things coming in than I want now.

I live in a hall with international and American students. I have gotten to know people of different nationalities, and I was the only American in one of my classes last block. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know different cultural traditions, but the most meaningful friendships I have made so far have ironically been with people from my own country. My friends and I celebrated my friend Madison’s birthday at the end of October, and my birthday this week. I was surrounded by so much love, and I am so thankful to have found that.

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I traveled the last 6 weekends in countries other than the Netherlands, and today was one of the first Fridays I was in Maastricht. I am traveling so much less this block, and I am so thankful. I want to feel like I can leave Maastricht confident in my knowledge of the area to pass on my recommendations to the next class. Stay tuned for a Google Doc on Maastricht compiled by us DU kids. Exploring so many countries has been rewarding, but the actual planning and organizing is exhausting. I started to panic a little bit when I re-booked my flight back home for an earlier date, December 17th. I realized I had so little time left in Maastricht, and I feel the need to savor every moment. This feeling is made stronger as I watch my friends abroad starting to leave for home. I cannot believe how fast time has flown by, and I want to take advantage of all the opportunities that come my way in the next 5 weeks.

I am so grateful for the process, growth, and community I have experienced so far. The moments I’ll remember forever were spent with the people I love, drinking beer on a dock in Dinant, or waking up early to sit on a 13th century wall with pastries before class.

To those of you in the process of applying for study abroad, look at your choices with an open mind. I can guarantee surprises and challenges await you, not matter how “supportive” DU classifies your program as. If you are willing to step outside your comfort zone, you will grow so much.

Finally…

BIG SHOUTOUT TO AMERICA AM I RIGHT. God bless the results of the last elections- I feel like there is hope again in state legislatures. This girl is not looking forward to returning to a land where politics aggressively infiltrates your life. My current situation, living in a country that had the fastest growing GDP in the Eurozone during the time when the coalition government was still being negotiated (aka we had no government) is much better. I guess I am going back to fight the good fight? That might be too optimistic.

Stay tuned for celebrating more 21st birthdays, CHRISTMAS MARKETS, and Erin starting to get emotional about leaving. 5 more weeks friends. Let the countdown begin.

Warm wishes to you and yours because it got really cold here really quickly,

Erin

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