That is an excellent question. Why in the world would I leave my wonderful family, friends, and boyfriend to live in another country by myself (well, with a host family) for almost five months? I’ve been asking myself that pretty much every day lately.
Here’s what I’ve come up with:
- Costa Ricans (ticos) as a whole are relaxed and happy with life the way it is. As a constant planner, I could use a dose of pura vida! (literally meaning “pure life,” but used as a greeting, farewell, an expression that things are going well, and/or saying good luck and with connotations of living well in general)
- I get to try a whole bunch of new foods! From traditional Costa Rican food I’ve only read about (pinto gallo, fried plantains) to things I know, only fresher (coffee, chocolate, fruit); I can’t wait for this part!
- My Spanish needs mucha ayuda! For the English speakers reading this (Mom and Dad), that means “a lot of help!” If I want to teach other people Spanish, I know there is no better way to take in the language than by dropping myself into one of its natural habitats, even if it is really terrifying.
- Costa Rica is ridiculously beautiful. Even though I’m not there yet, the pictures I’ve seen are telling me that I’m making an excellent choice to spend my time surrounded by some of the most amazing scenery in the world.
- Meeting new people, extending my comfort zone, being enlightened, etc.
- Honestly, the idea of leaving tomorrow is BEYOND scary, but I want to push myself to do something I once thought was only a picture on my Pinterest bucket list (see below). Here’s to being able to put a big “DONE” underneath it come June!
My first trip to Italy was everything I could have imagined and more. Aurora and I spent five days with her Aunt and Uncle who graciously hosted us in Naples. Our time was spent eating, exploring and relaxing on the balcony. The weather was a beautiful 60-70 degrees all weekend and we took full advantage!
My first gelato experience!
An entire rainbow of espresso choices.
A very American breakfast of pancakes and eggs. Oh how I missed this.
The excavated site of Ercolano (once under 60 ft of volcanic ash).
The frescos at Ercolano are incredibly well preserved because natural elements weren’t able to reach the ash-covered city.
My first Italian pizza. It was love at first sight.
Our hosts set up an elegant dinner at a restaurant literally built on top of ancient ruins.
The Fiat 500 that stole my heart. I’ll be back for you, love.
Exploring the site on the other side of Mt. Vesuvius: Pompeii.
Mt. Vesuvius erupted so quickly that people were cast in stone before even being woken up. This is a man that was sleeping when the volcano erupted.
The view of the Amalfi coast while heading to Positano.
And my favorite part of the trip: Positano!
Aurora and I had such a nice time in Naples and we are thankful that there are people like Don and Dorinda, who welcomed us into their home with open arms. Their hospitality was heart-warming.
I am counting down the days until I return to Italy. Next stops: Rome and Florence.
It still doesn’t seem real that I was lucky enough to spend an entire week with my family on the Greek islands of Santorini and Naxos. We rented a car on each of the islands and made the most of our time. Santorini was smaller than Naxos and had tons of beautiful houses, churches, and beaches. Naxos was equally incredible, but a bit less touristy and offered unique landscapes filled with local farms. We enjoyed each island immensely, and I can’t wait to see these goofballs again in May.
I will begin with some pictures from our time on Santorini:
The front of Atlantis Books (a very cute bookstore worth the search).
We toured a wine museum which turned out to be a pretty creepy experience…
Complete with talking (and moving) characters.
The wine tasting at the end made up for the whole creepy side of the museum.
Anne Marie found a snail!
Although the weather was a bit chilly, Anne Marie convinced me to hop in the infinity tub with her. We stayed in for about 3.5 minutes before running back to our villa.
And on to Naxos!
We stayed at Naxos Resort which was beautiful!
I miss my family so much, but the trip was a great reminder of how close they will always be to me. This past week I was in Naples, Italy and I will try to put up a post soon! Today is Greece’s independence day and I have the day off from classes. Aurora, Ashley and I went to a parade and tonight we are going out to dinner with friends. Miss you all!
This past weekend the roommates and I packed our bags and jetted off to our first Greek island; Zakynthos. Many thought we were crazy for wanting to go to an island so early in the semester (the weather is still far from tropical). Although we knew the island was going to be quiet, we decided to make the most of the short time that we have in Greece and booked the trip anyways! Our hotel was in the port of Zakynthos and just a short walk from Solomos Square. Carnival is being celebrated over all of Greece at this time and the town of Zante held a small festival in celebration. Floods of families, food vendors, and games popped up around Solomos Square. It was really fun seeing the kiddos in their costumes and we strolled around the square trying to avoid being covered in silly string and confetti. The island was beautiful, the people were welcoming, and the food wasn’t too shabby either. I envy those who get to visit Zakynthos in the summer season!
The first night was spent eating food and snuggling while trying to translate Greek television.
On Saturday, we headed out and spent the day exploring the town of Zante.
In the middle of our exploration, we came across a horse who looked beautiful and lonely all at the same time. I guess his view isn’t too bad though.
We played a mid-afternoon game of Uno in a sports cafe. I never thought Uno could get so intense, but you haven’t met my roommates.
Sunday was rainy and gloomy, which brought on some feelings of being homesick. This picture is something that is worth looking at from time to time to help remind myself that my friends and loved ones aren’t gone, just a little further away than usual.
Aurora noticed I was feeling down and escaped to the kiosk near by for my guilty pleasure; cheetos. While munching on my cheetos and sipping hot cocoa, we played card games and kept cozy while watching the rain. I am so thankful to have been given roommates that are as fun as they are caring.
This is for taking selflies on my phone when I thought you were taking a picture of me…
My parents and sister will be here in one week and I couldn’t be more excited! I have decided that they should skip packing and just put my friends and boyfriend in their suitcases instead. Sounds reasonable to me. All of my favorite people in one place!
Thursday of this past week was a religious holiday for Athenians which means no school for us! My three roommates and I decided to make a day out of exploring the Acropolis and accompanying Acropolis Museum. The day began around 9am with a short metro ride to the Acropolis entrance. We explored the grounds surrounding the Parthenon and enjoyed some fabulous views along the way. Although thousands have visited the ancient sites before, standing in front of the Temple of Athena, Erechtheion, and the Parthenon took my breath away. After a morning of “ooing” and “awhing” we headed to the Acropolis Museum which in itself is a work of art. The modern and industrial architecture of the museum is a beautiful housing for the ancient artifacts that it contains inside. After wandering through the museum, we decided it was time for some fuel. The Acropolis Museum has a great cafe with lots of yummy dishes. The best part of the whole experience? You can see the Parthenon from your table.
Until next time!
After the first week of classes, a scavenger hunt, and finally tackling jet lag I am enjoying my lazy Sunday in Aghia Paraskevi. The week went by pretty fast and my classes are already in full swing (whether i’m ready or not.) Here are a few exciting parts of my week in Athens!
On Tuesday a group of students went out to eat where I ordered my first of many Greek Salads. It was fresh, colorful, and delicious. After dinner we headed next door for some Crepes.
On Wednesday I visited the school cafeteria and was pleasantly surprised. I ordered salmon, an eggplant dish, steamed veggies, and a Perrier. Not too shabby for a cafeteria! In my Art History class we had a surprise guest; one of the campus dogs. Although the dog was previously believed to be old, blind, and arthritic, he opened the classroom door on his own back legs and entered the class to smell around a bit. I was pretty impressed.
After eating a filling lunch, I headed home to do some laundry and catch up on my journaling. I felt pretty dang European drinking my sparkling water and sitting on my balcony. Oh and here is a shot of campus that I took while walking to class!
To show that I do more than just eat food and lounge around, here are a few other pictures from my week.
Tonight I get to Skype my Mom and Dad and then I will do some reading for my classes. It has been a long first week, but I think I am finally getting the hang of things. Hopefully I will be even less clueless by next Sunday. Oh, and one of my favorite parts of the week was getting to Skype with my boys, Caleb and Payton. Look how handsome they are!
Yaisas (hello) from Athens! I have only been in Greece for three days, but it has been nothing less than amazing. There is a large group of study abroad and international students at the American College of Greece this semester. Although we are all different, and even from different countries, I have already made many friendships with wonderful people.
On the night of our arrival we were welcomed with a traditional Greek dinner and a few tips to help us settle in. This is the view from my balcony in Aghia Paraskevi!
Friday was our orientation where we were welcomed to our beautiful campus. We received class schedules, a tour, and a few presentations. The Deree campus is breathtaking. On our tour of campus we visited their Starbucks, Olympic training facility, campus dogs, outdoor theatre and more. This is the soccer and track field at Deree. Amazing, right?
Saturday was a tour of downtown Athens! We got to see the National Gardens, Plaka, the Olympic stadium, and the temple of Zeus. At the beginning of the tour we watched the changing of the guard at the Parliament building.
Plaka is the area surrounding the Acropolis which was really fun to walk through. The houses are beautiful and there are tons of stray cats like the one in this flower pot… look closely!
Today I got to sleep in because we didn’t have any organized events. When I woke up, I made a yummy breakfast and ate on my balcony. My roommate convinced me to go hiking with a group of students and I am so glad that I went! It was a little cloudy here this morning, but a hike was the perfect way to spend my Sunday.
Well, that’s all for now! I miss and love my family and friends a lot, but I am so thankful for their support that has enabled my study abroad experience!
Last weekend I participated in a trip to Slovakia. The few people I talked to about it back home seemed to think Slovakia sounded unsafe. In actuality, it may be my favorite place I have been since I left home three months ago.
We spent three days in this wonderful country enjoying nature for the most part. The first day we went to two different castles and then went to the hotel we would be staying at. The castles were hidden and set onto the tops of mountains. They were absolutely beautiful. The Hotel was in the Low Tatra Mountains.
The second day we saw a small village and then hiked in the High Tatra Mountains. It was absolutely beautiful and fantastic to get out into nature after not having too much opportunity to escape the cities. That was the last thing we did for the day because we did quite the trek.
The third day was really quite laid back. We went to a small cave system and explored that. I didn’t really enjoy that much. I don’t know if it was because caves are all over Missouri, or if it had something to do with the fact that I saw caves that were more impressive when I was in Japan. After this we went on a four mile raft ride down a river. The boat we were on was similar to the ones that used to be used to take large loads of logs from the mountains to other areas of Slovakia. This was very enjoyable and a great way to end the trip.
I do not think I’ve made a food post yet, so I will talk about this here. Most of the food in the Czech Republic is very heavy and not something I would usually eat daily in the U.S. The main traditional meals include potato or bread dumplings with some sort of meat. The main Slovakian meal is a plate of potato dumplings with sheep cheese and a tiny bit of bacon. Ultimately the meals here are heavy and it is hard to find a restaurant that serves salads as a meal.
The grocery shopping has been a very interesting experience for me. Fruit and vegetables are the cheapest thing that you can buy here, where in the U.S. it seems to be some of the most expensive. I also have noticed that the groceries in general are very cheap when compared to prices back home. Essentials are super cheap because they actually see them as essential here. I think I will have a hard time going to the grocery store when I get home because prices will make me cringe. I also go to the store almost every day here because it is not a big deal to run in and run out in less than five minutes just to pick up a few things. Back home I can’t get out of the store in less than 30.
I leave in about 3 weeks.
Hope everyone is doing well,