Smiling in Stockholm (March, 2016)

It has been nearly three years since I wandered the streets of this amazing city. Our class trip, a cruise around Sweden, Russia, Estonia and Finland, commenced here and we couldn’t get enough!

Study Abroad Reunion: Chicago (March 9-11)

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 🙂

My Favorite Study Abroad Photos

The majority of my photos were taken from my Canon Rebel, but I still have some from my iPhone that I haven’t really shared! 

Here are my favorites in chronological order:







I didn’t have a smartphone last time I studied abroad, so I’m thankful I had one this time 🙂 

Askøy & Bergen, Norway (Part I)

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!

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My view for two weeks!

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.

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Norway’s islands are connected by several bridges 

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.

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How could I miss this view?!

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.

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Courtyard in Bergen
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Traditional, iconic wooden homes (Bryggen)

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.

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Historic cruise ship boarding near the Bryggen

I will be sure to share more stories and photos in other blog posts!  This is only a mere sample of my Norwegian adventure.

 

 

Adventures in Edinburgh, Scotland

Once Johanna and I parted ways with our friend Taylor in Dublin, we ventured off to Edinburgh!

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The above photo is our view from the hostel we stayed at!  Who else could say that they slept across the street from something as beautiful as this?!

Johanna and I are both of Scottish heritage, so being in an area of such rich history and culture meant the world to us.

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Being able to casually and conveniently stroll within the castle walls was one of my favorite parts of the trip; this is something that is extra special as an American!  Our country is so new that castles are alien to us, thus why it is on many of our bucket lists to visit them in Europe.  The Edinburgh Castle is one of my personal favorites not only because of its size, but because of its deep-rooted history with England and so on.

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Mary Queen of Scots is one of my ancestors; being in the location where she and her family lived years ago is something I will never take for granted. I am truly proud of my Scottish and French heritage on my mom’s side!

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The following day, the two of us went on a free walking tour recommended by our hostel staff.  I wasn’t surprised to see two stereotypical things about Scotland on our tour: whisky and scotch signs, as well as cashmere scarves!  I had to try some and buy some…

Although I saw what I imagined in Edinburgh, it was refreshing to see things that I didn’t anticipate, such as colorful, bright buildings.

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Our tour guide was so knowledgeable (Sheldon Cooper status) and was extremely passionate about J.K. Rowling’s influence on Edinburgh, and vice versa.  He showed our group the places in which Rowling received her inspiration(s) while creating her infamous Harry Potter characters; she took character names from this here cemetery!

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Of course we had to visit where Rowling sent her sons to school (aka: Hogwarts’ inspiration)!

This little puppy statue is lucky, only if you rub his nose though!

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The above photo was taken as Johanna and I had tea in the cafe in which Rowling penned her ideas for Harry Potter: Elephant and Castle.  The bathroom was filled with what I’ll call “Potter Postings” from fans; her brother-in-law who owns the cafe tried covering them up at first, but fans are “too” passionate for Potter!

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The two of us also climbed (part of, a VERY small part of) Arthur’s Seat.  We were ratchet and didn’t feel like climbing the entire thing; all the rich and sweet food we ate must have had us out of shape!  From what we did see, it was as incredible as expected!

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Simply wandering around Edinburgh was enough to make Johanna and me happy; the contrast between the day and night in the city is parallel to Edinburgh’s light and dark sides (of history, culture, etc.).

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And obviously, the food was solid in Scotland.  If only this macaron place was in my hometown…

We meet again, Big Ben!

I visited London during the summer of 2014 and left a piece of my heart there!  The charm, the elegance…all of what London had to offer attracted me and made me want to go back!

I was supposed to visit London with a friend at the end of March, and although our plans changed last minute, I am thankful I was still able to see the city that captured my heart nearly two years ago.

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At night, everything seems to be glowing and prestigious!  I love the contrast this city has to offer: busy at night, and calming during the day.

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“Do one thing a day that scares you.” Simple, truthful, brilliant…

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Whether I was drinking at my favorite pub, strolling through Regents Park, or seeing shows on Broadway, London Round II did not disappoint!

Växjö, Sweden in a Day

As an American student studying in Kalmar, Sweden, I need a residence permit for my five-month adventure.  Unfortunately, Kalmar doesn’t have a migration board office; fortunately, the six Americans had to travel elsewhere.

Vaxjo, Sweden is a small town, but much larger than Kalmar.  We definitely packed a lot into one day!

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The vibrant colors of the cathedral and the unique architecture cannot be beat; however, the Swedish slides are very confusing, even for twenty-something year-olds!

Umami Monkey was perhaps one of the best burger joints I’ve ever been to…and I’ve been to some good ones in Germany and Ann Arbor, Michigan! To think we were mad that the Mexican place was closed…

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The glass museum in Vaxjo really brought out how modern the town is, as well as how innovative they are with their creations!  As an American who really knows little about Sweden (excluding Ikea and the famous ice hotel of course), these unique creations were exactly what I imagined Sweden to have!

The Vaxjo town model and Ice Man replicas were neat to see in order to put all I’ve learned from National Geographic in perspective!

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The Loranga part of the museum was interesting at first, but then it really brought out our inner child-like behavior!

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All in all, we had a great day at the museums, bookstores, cafes, and restaurants in Vaxjo!  A day of chores seemed to turn into a day of fun instantly!