I remember having zero expectations of Tallinn; I simply thought this was a “break” from the rest of our cruise rather than a city I would love. All of my friends and classmates LOVED Tallinn and had the greatest time! We went on a pub crawl to a few very unique places, including a science lab-themed bar (one even had shots that you snorted and one had the coolest pool table area)! The last photo below proves how much fun I had… Even walking in the streets late at night with my friends are memories I’ll never forget. I will always cherish “The Times we had” in Tallinn!
The cold, windy air hitting my nose and cheeks in Michigan reminds me of Swedish Lapland. We visited Abisko and Kiruna, and even crossed the border into Norway for an afternoon. From visiting the ice hotel I saw in Nat Geo as a third grader to sledding in the town after bar hopping, riding on the back of a dog sled, feeding the reindeer and seeing the Northern Lights (three times!), Lapland was probably the happiest week of my life…
In 2016, I made the best decision of my life: to study abroad in Kalmar, Sweden.
I made THE BEST friends I could’ve asked for! We all decided to have a reunion in Chicago because Alice (to my right in the above photo) was student teaching in Illinois for one month. Mitch and Bethany (to my left) are from Colorado, and Taylor (far right) is from Texas. We HAD to take a selfie at the iconic bean, obviously 🙂
During our first afternoon/evening, we were catching up at dinner, the hotel bar, and even played Uno for awhile in our room. I hadn’t seen Taylor or Alice since I left Sweden in June, 2016, so seeing them meant the world to me. Bethany and I, thankfully, have been able to see each other twice since we returned home (once in Chicago in June, exactly!) and will be going to one of my favorite places, Iceland, this May! Spending time with Mitch is always great, and seeing him meant the world to me as well!
On our only full day together, we went to the Sears Tower (I STILL need to call it that…) and we took some obligatory Sky Deck photos! It was worth it, but the crowds and heat were too much for all of us. Thankfully, Giordano’s was right around the corner 🙂
All of us (except for Taylor – he needed a major nap after the deep dish!) spent time near the Water Tower place, specifically at Nike and Ghiradelli! Mitch and I were OBSESSED with the store. I have probably been in there at least 10 times and it never gets old! Mitch, Alice, and I all got ice cream after, which also put us into a food coma, much like our dear friend!
You can’t go to Chicago without going to a comedy show, am I right? I am in love with Second City and Zanies; I have been to both three times I believe. Bethany and I went to Zanies in June, and I’ve also been there with another friend from studying abroad in France. I decided on Zanies this time because 1) the tickets were cheaper, 2) stand-up is hilarious and is rarely ever bad (in my opinion), and 3) it’s located on N. Wells Street, where all the best bars are!
Of course, we picked the best night to go! It was Zanies’ 40th anniversary so we were able to have some mystery shots, more stand-up comedians, and many more laughs! I would tell you some of the jokes; however, they were NOT appropriate for this blog 🙂 Take my word for it: Zanies is the funniest club in Chicago!
Bethany and I are always thuggin’ it on Wells St…
Our coats got switched at Benchmark…oops!
Fun fact: Bethany and I took a similar photo here back in June. Once we found the same bar, we obviously had to recreate our masterpiece 🙂
This goes without saying, but this was probably the best weekend I’ve had in a long time. Seeing old friends felt so rewarding and I haven’t laughed that hard in SO long (both from the comedians AND my best friends)! I can’t wait until our next reunion together.
I can’t wait for Taylor to have a Guinness at every bar he passes, for Alice to be as stereo-typically French as possible, for Bethany and I to laugh over nothing at all, and for Mitch and I to have the best conversations again 🙂
Truth be told, I have been avoiding this post for a long time. Norway was the second-to-last country I visited while abroad, and I have been home for a little more than two months now. Things haven’t been the same upon my return; this post solidifies the idea of my big adventure being over. I finally gained the courage to write about my time in Norway because I have to face reality. Although the best chapter of my life is now closed, I know more opportunities will come! I miss Europe, traveling, and my life abroad, but this drives my determination to find a job overseas even more!
I left Kalmar, Sweden extremely saddened; I was leaving not only the best part of my life behind, but also several new friends from around the globe! However, with that said, I knew that my two-week stay in Norway would be a great transition into my normal life back in Michigan.
I visited Norway for two main reasons: 1. It has always been my “dream country” and 2. While my mom was in high school, her family hosted a Norwegian exchange student! His name is Kjell and I was FINALLY able to meet him and his (entire) family! It was such an incredible experience to meet a family I have been connected to through my mom’s stories, letters back and forth, and a montage of photos and Christmas cards over the years.
When Kjell and his daughter, Martine picked me up from the airport, I instantly felt at home. I remember walking with my heavy backpack down this long flight of stairs to pick up my luggage, and as I looked down I could see them waving up at me with Norwegian flags (was it THAT obvious I was an American?)! My heart was full in that moment.
Kjell and his family live on the beautiful island of Askøy, which is about a half-hour (not even) from Bergen. It was a surreal feeling to drive Kjell’s boat to Bergen and several other small islands in the area.
When I travel, I often find parallels between cities I have been to. Oddly, I found similarities between the countryside of Southern France and the route to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. I cannot compare Bergen to anywhere else; it is truly one of a kind…just like my time in this beautiful country.
The first few days of my new adventure consisted of visiting mainly Bergen, and you know, the typical tourist-y stuff. Although I try to avoid cliche attractions and events, there are exceptions. I had to visit Bergen’s famous fish market and visit the highest point of the city! The market didn’t smell the greatest, but the taste of the fresh fish from the North Sea made up for it.
With Martine and Kjell, I was able to take the Ulriken cable car to the top of Mount Ulriken. Because of all the islands and mountains in this part of Norway, the Ulriken wasn’t the only cable car/ski lift I traveled on.
The city of Bergen itself has a rich viking history, something Kjell takes much pride in. During my first visit to Bergen, Norwegian royalty were near Parliament and university buildings. Kjell is a police officer in Bergen and Askøy, so he was hoping we would have a better chance of seeing the royalty if he was talking with his friends and coworkers! It was a good strategy, but unfortunately I didn’t meet a prince or anyone close.
I would have to say that my favorite thing about Bergen (aside from the food and people) are the Bryggen that greet you as you ride into the city by ferry or boat. Inside the wooden buildings, there is a famous nightclub and also a traditional Christmas shop. I live near Frankenmuth, Michigan (a faux-German town with a world-famous Christmas shop), and I was impressed with the Julehuset in Bergen!
My boat rides with Kjell were some of my most cherished memories of my time in Norway; I was able to learn more about Norway, his family, and even my own family through Kjell’s stories.
I will be sure to share more stories and photos in other blog posts! This is only a mere sample of my Norwegian adventure.
Öland: where stereotypical Swedish stugas and breathtaking views come to life! Öland is a large island off the coast of Kalmar, Sweden where I was studying overseas. I nicknamed it “the Mackinac Island of Sweden,” but Michigan’s island is much smaller!
Three of my closest friends and I decided to spend the weekend relaxing, playing cards, having BBQs and making s’mores here; we mixed our American ways with traditional Swedish life.
The stuga was barn-colored red and was much bigger on the inside than it appeared on the outside! There were five bedrooms in this tiny place, but somehow it still felt spacious. The only thing that didn’t feel so spacious was the ceiling in the kitchen area; it must have only been four or five inches taller than me. Now I know how players in the NBA feel on the daily.
The outdoor patio was by far my favorite part of the Airbnb. I loved how cozy, comfortable, and “summery” it felt. It was like this square of no stress about school, no drama, and lots of laughter. The four of us all have mixed feelings about heading home in June, so the weekend getaway was just what we all needed.
The ONLY bad part of our location wasn’t that it was on a main road or that the bike ride took forever (that’s what makes for the best stories)! It was the bugs that found their way into our home away from home. Bees and wasps kept swarming into our kitchen, as did two huge beetles! I have never seen beetles quite that large in my entire life, and I live in Michigan (where the summer bugs are enormous).
Nevertheless, the creepy crawlers didn’t hold us back from having a relaxing weekend. We all needed some R and R, and I would highly recommend visiting Öland someday!