Studying Abroad - Take 2
It’s been a while since I last blogged…over two and a half years to be exact. But, I have returned to be more diligent in documenting my next set of adventures. Most of you may know that I am incredibly lucky to be able to study abroad again, this time, during my last semester of my undergraduate career. One last hoorah before I am forced to graduate and enter the truly daunting ~adult world~ and I am returning to one of my favorite cities – Madrid! Some asked ‘Why Madrid?’ if you’ve already been there? Yes, I got to visit Madrid when I travelled during my time in London, but I adored Madrid and the other cities in Spain I got to see and wanted to find my way back. I vividly recall the time when my flatmate, N’Dia, and I were exploring on our last day in Madrid over 2.5 years ago, and we found a market in a smaller plaza. We split this large mojito and sat on the steps for I want to say 2 hours, drinking our mojito, talking about our lives – past, present, and future – we laughed, we cried, we laughed again at our crying and said ‘Man, what was in that mojito?!’ It was easily one of my favorite days of those five months and we still talk about it to this day. But during our talk, I told her “At some point of my life, I don’t know when, but I want to live in Spain. This place is amazing.” And now look at me! I didn’t know it’d happen so soon, but I get to live in this beautiful country for the next 4-5 months. There’s no other time in my life where I think this could be possible. I am one lucky girl.
This time around is a little different. When I first studied abroad in London, I went without knowing anyone, and now I’m surrounded by great friends I’ve grown close with during my time at USD and I got my guy a couple countries away in The Netherlands (our date nights in new cities are gonna be GREAT). I loved tackling London on my own and loved growing so much with my flatmates at my side, but now that I’m graduating, I’m glad to have some of the people from USD by my side for our victory lap. I also will be living with a host family where last time I lived on campus with my own room. It’ll be interesting to see how this experience will be different than my first (other than being in another city) – I feel way more comfortable travelling; yet I am a little less impulsive than I was at 19. I just need to make sure I don’t confine to only my circle and find the happy medium between getting too comfortable with 57 other USD students in Madrid and pushing out of my comfort zone too far. Andrew and I wanted to travel to a city together before our programs started; his in The Netherlands, and mine in Spain. So here’s what we did, we just found the cheapest European city to fly into from home: Copenhagen (Thanks Norwegian Airlines)! I was glad it was Copenhagen because I had heard good things about the city and it was a new city to explore right off the bat. I was especially excited to be able to experience Andrew’s first trip abroad by his side. Plus, how many couples get to travel this far at our age? I was so excited. Anyways, I don’t know how I’ll be formatting these blogs or if I’ll be consistent with it the formatting, but I think I will want to go through each day of my travels when I travel outside of Madrid, and I’ll post photos and galleries within each day. I’m also going to try to post my snapchat stories from those days as well, as some stuff was captured without my camera. So here we go, first stop: Copenhagen, Denmark.
Copenhagen, Denmark (Day 1) – August 8, 2017
We arrived into the airport, and by the time we checked in and settled into our hostel, it was about 5 or 6pm. (Sidenote: Copenhagen’s cobblestone broke my suitcase’s wheel which made it so incredibly difficult to carry to the hostels and then again in Madrid – I’m glad I’m not hauling it anymore.) So we set off to walk around the area and found a cheap canal tour in which we got a cool introduction to the city and its history. I remember one of my best friends Rachel telling me something about Copenhagen, she told me that the world famous statue there, The Little Mermaid (the original author lived in Copenhagen and wrote TLM and other fairytale stories there), was rated as one of the top overrated statues/monuments of all time. And she was right. I will say, I love that I got to see the statue from the back on the cruise so I could grab the photo below. Even in it’s small, simple stature, tourists surround it to capture its photo. And being that I love (Disney’s version at least) The Little Mermaid, I was glad that we at least got to mark it off our list. Afterwards, we walked to a food market we saw on our tour and grabbed a bite. Our walk back was great because we got to see the area light up at night in which Copenhagen is most known for, Nyhavn. Click through the slideshow to see the photos from our day:
Snapchat video from the day:
Copenhagen, Denmark (Day 2) - August 9, 2017
Our second day consisted of a 3-hour free walking tour – if you are planning on travelling, I offer a word of advice. Most cities offer free walking tours in which you can tip the tour guide rather than pay a fee from the beginning. I’ve had so many great experiences from these tours and the guides have been incredible – I’d like to think because the people who really love the city are the ones who sign up to give these tours and they want to do a good job to impress you for their tip. It’s the best way to get to know a city by foot and there’s so many fun facts sprinkled in along the way. Our tour guide James was really funny and helped us dive into Copenhagen’s story on a deeper level. Afterwards, we walked to Our Savior Church and climbed to the top of it. What’s really interesting about it is that the spiral staircase at the top where you continue climbing is on the outside of the tower, not the inside. So on your way to the top you already get to see some incredible views of Copenhagen. After that, we went to a ‘hippie’ area of Copenhagen called Christiana to check it out. This part of the city has it’s own operating system; they literally have their own set of rules as well. From what I remember, they allow no violence/guns in the area, and no hard drugs. There was a third one but I forget it. It was also so crazy because once you enter, there are just stands of people selling marijuana even though it’s illegal in the city of Copenhagen – like I said, Christiana is it’s own place within the city, they have their own flag and everything. I didn’t take any photos with my camera because I didn’t know if they’d give me crap for it so I just took some snapchats haha. By that point we had walked almost 12 miles in the day, our feet killed so we starting making our way back to the hostel. You can see photos from our tour and from the top of Our Savior Church below:
Snapchat video from the day:
Copenhagen, Denmark (Day 3) - August 10, 2017
I was really sad because this was the day Andrew had to leave to start his program in Maastricht. So I went with him to the airport, said goodbye for the time being, and headed back to check out of the hostel to move to another hostel in the city. I stuck around the hostel for a while as I couldn’t check into the next one until 2pm so I started working on editing photos for my nephew’s first birthday photoshoot I did when I was in Green Bay. After settling into my new hostel, it was around 5 or 6pm so I grabbed a map of the new area of Copenhagen I was in – Vesterbro. The area is a very cool/hip area that’s not in the city center so it is a place with less tourists. So I grabbed bite and walked to a park and people walked for a while. Once I was ready to go, I saw on my map that a recommended bar/hangout spot for locals was on my route home. So I made myself step out of my comfort zone and walk to a place called Absalon, order a drink, and introduce myself to two Danish girls and asked if I could sit with them. It’s always hard to do something like that, especially coming from the States where I feel like we are very individualistic. I think we would find it strange if some random person just came up to ask to sit with us and make conversation. But I guess I get gutsier here in Europe, and it’s not as weird. I had a blast. The girls I met were so nice and taught me how to play the Danish version of bingo and helped translate what the hosts were saying. The coolest part was that the hosts were hilarious, even without knowing at all what they were saying, they were cracking jokes and making faces that made the room laugh. I wish I had a google translate for all language programmed in my brain so I could have known what jokes they were telling. After a few hours I thanked the girls for being so welcoming and walked back to the hostel. I’m really glad I did that, it was a ~local~ activity and it made me appreciate the city more as well. On my walk back, I made a definite decision to my myself that Hey, you know what. I’m gonna go to Sweden tomorrow. I had seen flyers in the hostels about day trips across the bridge to go to the city of Malmö. So I got back, booked my trip, smiled and shook my head at the situation. I was casually going to a new country tomorrow.
Snapchat video from the day:
Malmö, Sweden - August 11, 2017
The main thing I wanted to do in the city was a city tour. I had no historical context of the city, or the country for that matter so I wanted to make sure I tried to learn the most I could about its history. I had a few hours until the tour started when I got into the Malmö train station. So I exchanged some Danish Kroners to Swedish Kroners and walked around with a map after googling some sites to see. I made my way over to the castle first built in the 1500s that had served from a guard castle to a prison to WWII refugee housing. Walking up to the castle, there was a white Swedish van that was used in WWII to bus refugees from concentration camps. What was crazy to me was that the Swedes had to negotiate with Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the Gestapo at the time, to allow the vans to take the prisoners away from the concentration camps. Sweden was neutral during the war so as long as they kept exporting to Germany, the vans would be allowed to drive through without getting bombed during the war. They were to only bring back only Scandinavian prisoners, but after seeing all the horrific things the Nazis were executing in the concentration camps, they filled the vans with as many people as they could. Eventually they saved up to 15,000 lives.
I started making my way back to the city center to meet for the tour and walked through the park and gardens surrounding the old castle. I noticed that there was a sort of festival happening. When our tour started, our guide told us that we got lucky because it was the first weekend of Malmö Festivalen – a festival celebrating the Malmö all over in different parts of the city. Some rides were by the station, a kids area in the park by the main library, street food and concerts centered in the main plaza and spread across the city. I was so excited because it added a cool new layer to learning about the city. After the tour, I walked around the festival some more, took some photos and got some street food. It was well worth the day trip to visit to Malmö, it’s extremely walk-able and has a nice charm to it.
On the train ride back, I said I would take a short nap and take one last walk around Copenhagen before flying out to Madrid the next day. I slept for 4 hours – some nap huh? I should already know myself by now… but I forgave myself because I had been on my feet all day and 9 miles later, I needed that rest. I organized my bags for my flight, and got ready to fly to my home for the next several months.
As I finish this post, I am spending my first night in my home-stay place here in Madrid. We just wrapped up and I’ll be posting a blog about our 10-day travel seminar course we are taking through our program. It was an amazing trip where we got to see 5 of Spain’s great cities in 10 days, and it made me fall in love with this beautiful country even more. If you read this entire post, I thank you for following me in this awesome adventure. Adulting is coming fast and I want to make sure I make the most of this last bit of freedom to live in another country for a couple months. I mainly write this for myself to gather my photos and thoughts in one place, but it also makes my heart flutter if someone enjoys the photos (mainly) and thoughts alongside with me. Until next time!