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The Unspoken Challenges of Studying Abroad

The glamorous side of studying abroad that most people see.

Let’s get real for a minute. Studying abroad is amazing, and the glamorous pictures shared with family and friends and on social media may make it seem like a breeze. However, there is a side of studying abroad that many people do not talk about much, and others don’t know about. The cramming in the days before the test after a weekend of travel, grinding out homeworks quickly or even not turning it in on time, and stress of planning trips and staying focused in school all at the same time. The balance is what makes studying abroad challenging at times.

I’m definitely a coffee drinker so sometimes the caffeine helps with the long study days!

Since being at Georgia Tech Lorraine, I have had my fair share of highs and lows when it comes to my school work. However, I was able to quickly learn from my mistakes, and understand what I was personally capable of being able to handle when it came to traveling and school. The purpose of studying abroad is to enjoy being abroad and make the most out of those opportunities – and to be successful in your studies. One of the biggest challenges about studying abroad is being equally committed to both throughout the semester. By being organized, keeping a schedule, working hard, and remembering to do the best I can throughout my studies I have been able to decently handle this challenge, and would like to share some things I did to do so.

A good example of what a typical Thursday night before travels looks like for me: Netflix, dinner, and homework!

When I did have some low points in semester, I realized it was because I was straying away from what works best for me when it came to studying, and was not focusing on understanding the material. During the beginning of the semester I had the mentality that as long as I finished my homeworks each week, I would be perfectly fine. However, after the first round of tests I saw where I could improve: focusing on understanding the material throughout the week, and then letting my homeworks be a way to practice. Something I would highly recommended to save you stress while cramming for a test is to understand the material as much as you can while it is being taught.

Day trips with friends means being able to study more during the weekend.

Some other things that helped me stay on track with my studies was sticking to my old study methods; I tried changing them and regretted it. Personally what works for me is writing on whiteboards my notes and problems, but I know that doesn’t help everyone. Always make sure to do things that work for you! That is key. When other people may go back to the dorms to study, eat, and nap, you may need to be in a more structured environment to study or vice versa, and know that’s perfectly okay. Some other things I recommend doing is eating healthy and decent meals, keeping a checklist or weekly plan of all the things you need to get done, and getting all homeworks and important studying completed before leaving for weekend travels.

I believe balancing school and travel while being abroad is important to have a conversation about. The challenge is a real one, and I feel often isn’t discussed among our peers either out of embarrassment or self regret. It is also important to stay in close contact with family and friends while studying abroad, not only so can discuss your travels, but also to maintain your support system. Regardless of the distance, the people you are closest to will always be there to encourage you and may even help pinpoint ways to help you do better. I know it can be easy to get sucked into the whirlwind while studying abroad, however, I realized that’s where I find my greatest comfort and motivation at times. Also, remember that others studying abroad are going through similar things; you are not alone. While you are studying and grinding out those homeworks, don’t forget to check up on your fellow classmates as well because at the end of the day that’s all we have while abroad –  each other.

A Very French Lunch

At the very last minute, I was able to join the group from GTL going to the Very French Lunch. I was excited to join as I wanted to try some top-notch, classic French dishes. The purpose of the lunch was to give students at a waitress and culinary school the opportunity to get evaluated for their class. As our herd of GTL students walked into the university banquet area, we were greeted by the waitressing students and their directors. Walking past them, you could see the excitement and nerves as this would be a big moment for them: getting their waitressing certification.

Once everyone sat down at the tables, bread, still water, and sparkling water was served. At my table, we all looked around as if the water and bread was untouchable; we weren’t sure if we could eat start eating or not. Being the hungry college students that we are, we decided the latter and began eating; the bread was gone within a span of 5 minutes. One of the waitressing students was going back and forth through the kitchen so much, that they began to run out of bread and told us to slow down on the bread eating as we wouldn’t have enough for our meals.

The first dish with the perfect egg.

The first dish that came out was a perfect egg with a pea purée, mashed potatoes, bread, and a small slice of bacon. The dish looked lovely; however, not being a fan of unscrambled or unfried eggs, I gave my egg away to another student. Next on the list for the course was the main (entrée in France means the appetizer!): grilled chicken with risotto, vegetables, and a corn fritter. I think this was my favorite part of the meal as the chicken was cooked to perfection, and the risotto was very savory.

After our entrée, many of us were feeling very satisfied with the food, and then suddenly we were given a warning that the next dish we should not touch with our fingers. We all exchanged curious looks as we were all given varieties of cheeses with strong odors.

Being carried by the students sauntered in the last dish, dessert! Beautifully drizzled with a fruit sauce on top was a sweet, crunchy nougat glacé. The very French lunch was very good and very French. After lunch, the GTL students and I went back to our classes with grinning faces and full stomachs.

Nougat glacé

Before coming abroad, I always took a great interest in others cultures. However, since being abroad, I have gained a new level of respect for people’s cultures and lifestyles. In France, waitressing is not seen as a lower level occupation like often times in the United States, and I think that is awesome. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what someone chooses to do with their career, as long as they are happy and enjoying life. In conclusion, it was really nice to share with the French waitressing students a monumental moment in their career goals , seeing the relief on their faces at the end of the lunch, and getting to eat a very yummy lunch!

The Tale of Two Countries: Waffles, Fries, Bikes, and History

 

Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp

This past weekend, I visited not one, but two countries near France! The first stop of my weekend trip began in Antwerp, Belgium! In Antwerp, I was able to eat some of the most amazing waffles I ever had in my entire life, munch on crispy Belgian fries, go shopping, and embrace the different architectural styles of each city. Something that fascinated me about Antwerp was it had the bustle a big city while still maintaining an old town vibe. Even though there were many tourists visiting all the restaurants, museums, and shopping, it seemed as if the locals were enjoying big tourist spots just as much as well. Another thing I really appreciated about Belgium is their craft for making the best waffles in the world, as I not only had one waffle, but two during my stay!

Architecture in Antwerp

 

After checking Antwerp of the list of places to visit, next on the list was Amsterdam, Netherlands. Walking out of the Amsterdam Central Station the next day, I was immediately hit with The Fault in Our Stars vibes and was surrounded by tourists

Me in front of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam

early in the morning. The first item on the list of places to see that day was Bloemenmarkt, the famous flower market in Amsterdam. Walking to see the market made me more aware of my safety and the safety of the massive amount of bicyclists in Amsterdam! Bikes where everywhere: cruising down the street, chained all along the canal, and on the sidewalks. As I made it to the street of the market, I saw tulip buds for purchase everywhere, cute cafés on the other side, and a Christmas shop. While the flower market was beautiful and the scents from the flowers wafted through the air, the Christmas shop stole my attention with the “66 days until Christmas sign”! After buying an Amsterdam themed Christmas ornament, my stomach was growling and I knew it was time for lunch. At lunch, I ate a savory chicken curry sandwich from Toastable, a very cute and non-touristy café. After lunch, I saw The Anne Frank House, where Anne Frank lived when she was in hiding with her family during World War II.

 

Amsterdam

Amsterdam had great sights to see, things to do, and museums to visit, however, I was slowly running out of time to do many of the great things the city has to offer. As a compromise, I decided to learn more about the history of Amsterdam and see sights at the same time! That day, I took a free classical tour of Amsterdam that covered many gems of the city, social classes during different times, changes in the industry, and architecture of the city. During the tour, it was interesting to learn more about the history, such as squatting and the Dutch East Indian Company. After my tour, my time in Amsterdam came to a close as the train back to Antwerp would be leaving soon. Once I made it back to Antwerp, I did the one thing I knew I had to do: eat another Belgian waffle! 

Delicious Belgian Waffle

The next morning began a bit frantically at the train station once I looked to see which platform my first connection train would be on and it saw “afgeschaft” under the train time. Do you know what that means in Dutch? It means abolished! My first train of the day was canceled, however, thankfully there was a train leaving in 10 minutes that went to the same connection station. Besides that little mishap, making it back to Metz was a breeze. I truly did enjoy my trip to Amsterdam and Antwerp because it was relaxing, fun, and involved quick thinking when it came to changes in travel plans. I also greatly appreciated the amount of knowledge I was able to gain from learning more about the history of Amsterdam. Amsterdam and Antwerp truly were great places to eat delicious food and have some good times.

Madeleyne Vaca Is Constantly Rising

Madeleyne at the fruit picking excursion at the farm with GTL

When I first met Madeleyne Vaca, it was when I was shouting in a room full of GTL students for her to come meet her host for the French family dinner. I sat down to interview Madeleyne the next day, and then I learned that she is not a fan of the nickname Maddie, was born in Columbia, and moved to the United States with her family to Georgia when she was younger. Before coming to GTL, she completed her undergraduate studies at Georgia Tech in Atlanta; at Tech she doubled majored in electrical engineering and computer science and minored in Mandarin. Currently, Madeleyne is completing her Masters at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in electrical engineering.

Before coming to GTL, she studied abroad in China and interned with Microsoft four times before completing her undergraduate degree. Currently, she has a job lined up with Microsoft as a Software Developer and will become a Firmware Developer next year. Next year, she is excited to start her new job role because she will be able to use all of her degrees and knowledge of electrical engineering and computer science. Since being at GTL, Madeleyne travels every weekend to different places and has made an impressive list of countries she has visited including Amsterdam, Germany, United Kingdom, Ireland, and Switzerland. While traveling, she also tries to step out of her comfort zone and be adventurous by doing extreme sports.

Madeleyne went canyoning in Slovenia, and this is her jumping off a 10m waterfall!

Since I began interviewing graduate students, it has been interesting to hear their different stories and favorite part about GTL. I was interested in hearing from Madeleyne was her comparison of all the places she has lived considering how vastly different they all are in culture. Being from Columbia, she often misses being closer to her extended family, and the warmth and community focus of the culture. When I asked Madeleyne what her favorite part about Georgia Tech Lorraine has been so far, she said, “The way French people greet each other reminds me a little bit of home. They have the double kiss [on the cheek], and in Columbia, we have the single kiss [on the cheek]. I always stop halfway and then remember it’s two here! It’s nice being somewhere that reminds me a little bit of home.” She also says that it is exciting to travel and see how people in France know many languages and understand other cultures well. Madeleyne also says that it is nice meeting people who speak different languages, as she is trilingual herself!

Taking a picture near the Atomium in Brussels, Belgium

Madeleyne is one of the coolest people I have ever met – and not only because has she been successful with getting a full-time offer with Microsoft. She also listens to Ariana Grande on repeat, has traveled to many places, played handball throughout her college, and yet she is still pushing towards the goal of achieving her Masters. It goes to show how regardless of how physically, emotionally, and mentally challenging life is at times, that she will continue to push through adversity and rise above the challenge. As she rises to the goal of getting her Masters, traveling the world, and salsa dancing and jamming to Ariana Grande along the way, Madeleyne continues to go with the flow of life and keep a positive attitude through it all.

Driven By Passion & Appreciation – Meet Yacoub

Everyone has a story to tell, and the students at GTL surely do have great ones to share. I met Yacoub the first week at GTL, and the first two things I learned about him were that he is getting his Master’s in mechanical engineering and that he is from Morocco! After that first week, I was able to get to know Yacoub’s story more and more over time. He studied aerospace engineering in his undergraduate career at the Université Internationale de Rabat. Driven by his passion for research, appreciation for his parents, and goal to work in the aerospace industry, Yacoub has worked hard since his undergraduate years to be successful at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. 

During the interview, it was interesting to find out about Yacoub is that he is an only child, and is very close with his parents. When I asked him about his life goal, we discussed how we would like to become an aeronautical engineer, and that he would like to work hard and give back to his parents and make them proud. It was also interesting to learn that for him to come to Georgia Tech-Lorraine and be considered for admission, he had to stay in the top of his class at his undergraduate university. During his undergraduate career for four years, he worked hard to be where he is today. With his dedication and hard work for the past couple of years, he can proudly say that he has made it to where he has always wanted to be. I am grateful to listen to graduate student stories like Yacoub’s because being an undergraduate it is inspiring to hear how hard-working, motivated, and all the different journeys they have taken to get to where they are today. It also reminds me that even though it may get tough during the undergraduate years, it will only make you stronger.

When I asked him about what he sees for himself in the next 5 years, he said that he plans on finishing his Master’s at Georgia Tech, doing research, and working full-time in Europe doing work in the aerospace industry. His dream is to someday be an aeronautical engineer at Airbus. During his time at GTL, he also hopes to get more involved in research and get some internship experience with a company in the aerospace industry. In his spare time, he enjoys sightseeing and trying different spicy foods from new restaurants in the city. Since being in Metz, he has interacted with French students in the city playing an escape game at a university-wide event in Metz.

Since I have started interviewing graduate students, it has also been interesting to hear what their favorite part about GTL is. I asked Yacoub what his favorite part about GTL is, and he said, “The friends that I have made all come from different countries, different cultures, and have different ways of thinking which is very exciting because you get to discover a new culture everyday. The opportunity to travel is great as well; since we are in the center of Europe it is very easy to catch a bus or take a train ride somewhere.”  He says that his thoughts and perceptions about different nationalities and cultures have changed from the time spent meeting and getting to know people and has positively affected the way he now thinks about other nations and cultures. Even though homework and projects have been a lot to handle at times from Yacoub’s perspective, he says that he plans on traveling a lot more in the near future while at GT-Lorraine. Currently, he has already visited Trier, Germany, and is looking forward to traveling to the Chocolate Festival in Paris and Switzerland.

How to Enjoy A Travel-Free Weekend in Metz

Centre Pompidou-Metz

This weekend, I decided to stay in Metz and take a break from traveling. While traveling at GTL is great and thus far has been the highlight of my experience, I realized I needed to hit pause and take a break to refocus on school and finances. While studying abroad at GTL, I would highly recommend taking a couple of weekends to relax in Metz, and explore the city even more. While doing so, I was more productive with my schoolwork and has new experiences.

While taking my first break from traveling in a month, I decided to explore more that Metz has to offer. This weekend I went to the Centre Pompidou and saw the amazing, vibrant artwork that decorated the museum. To my surprise, the museum was a lot more than seeing artwork on walls; it was an interactive experience as well. Throughout the museum, they had interactive exhibits such as walking in a dark room with blinking lights, a room called “Little Cafe” where you could write and draw on the walls of the exhibit in chalk, and a purple hued room playing piano tunes.

Little Cafe in the Museum (an interactive chalk artwork display)

As I entered the purple room exhibit, all of my senses were intrigued as my eyes were seeing dimly lit purple lights and walls, my feet walking on a plush purple-hued carpet, and my ears hearing erratic, yet strangely calming piano sounds. As I sat in the room, I was overcome with a sense of peace. After I experienced a bit of what the room had to offer, I made my way to my favorite part of my visit. At the entrance of the Centre Pompidou, there was a giant metallic ball in which I walked in and was surrounded by a layout of the constellations. I enjoyed the museum as I was able to not only see artwork, but also interact with it and be a part of creating it.

My favorite part about visiting the Pompidou Centre was that I was able to standing inside of this giant metallic globe and see a portrayal of the constellations.

After visiting the Centre Pompidou, I walked to the nearby mall, the Muse, and went shopping until my hunger and account balance put me to an end. So much for me looking out for my finances this weekend! The mall was stunning and filled with high-end brands and department stores alike. My favorite part of my shopping experience was going to Primark; I was in shopping heaven as I was able to catch their fall sale of the year. After shopping and making my bank account just a little more depressing to look at, I ate lunch at a local Chinese restaurant near the mall. The best part about staying in Metz for the weekend was experiencing different things, and being able to go back to my room and study and complete my homework for the week without the guilt of attempting to do homework in a new country or city.

As my weekend in Metz came to a close, I decided to go on a hunt for the chicest and most comfortable café to get some more studying done. While staying in Metz for the weekend is fun, it can get boring stay in the dorms doing work or watching Netflix. The best decision I made was to get out and about and change the scenery in which I would study for the day. When entering Fox Café, I was greeted with the vintage chic, coffeehouse vibes I dearly love. The café was great, and the food and desserts were tasty as I decided to get lunch there! I would highly recommend checking out this little café if you ever need a change of scenery because they have wifi, is close to the train station, and the best part, for my non-French speaking peers like myself, is they speak English!  

Lunch and studying at Fox Cafe

Overall, I had a satisfying weekend staying in Metz, and catching up on some things and work. The benefits of traveling are incomparable, however, make sure to recognize when you may feel stressed or need a break from travels to regroup. It is difficult at times to keep a balance of studies and trying to reap all the opportunities of being abroad at the same time; always make sure to maintain a good mental health and grades through it all. While staying in Metz this weekend, I was able to visit a museum, go shopping, finish my homework for the week, study in advance for a quiz, do laundry without competing for a washer and dryer, and find my new favorite study spot. You never know what you can discover if you just take a minute to press pause.

Nice is Nice!

The picture speaks for itself!

I stepped off the train in Nice, France and was greeted with moisture in the air, people walking around wearing summer clothes, and surrounded by multi-colored buildings and bustling streets. The city is a dream summer location spot. And the deeper we made it into the city, the more I started to smell the beach breeze in the air. I was so happy to be in a place that did not frown upon shorts and sandals, being able to dive in the cool water, and just have a great time.

Even though the train ride to Nice was 9 hours long, that did not stop my excitement. The first thing I did was eat delicious homemade Italian pasta, and go on the pebble-covered beach! The beach was beautiful: the water was a glistening turquoise color, it was surrounded by vibrant colored houses and rocks cascading up the rocks, and people of all ages walked along the beach. Later on that afternoon my friends and I ate the best gelato ever, saw a street show with a man jumping over fire, and enjoyed the nightlife in Nice.

The next day, I took a monumental step in my traveling journey as I visited another country on my own. After basking in the sun at the beach and eating even more Italian food, I walked into the train station in Nice alone to head to Monaco! The train was less than 30 minutes away from Nice; I began my little journey to one of the most beautiful, expensive places in the world. Getting off the train in Monaco, I felt independent, happy, and nervous about what to expect exploring the city on my own. I didn’t have anyone else making suggestions on which ways to turn or what to do. It was just me, and what I wanted to do! It felt great walking down the streets seeing hidden monuments along the way, stopping and taking pictures, soaking in the scenery, and wandering around. Never once in my life have I felt so unattached from the rest of the world and complete at the same time. It felt awesome to be able to discover something new on my own!

The famous casino Monte Carlo in Monaco.

While in Monaco, I passed by the famous Monte Carlo Casino, walked through the Princesse Grace Rose Garden, walked past people casually cruising around in Ferrari’s and walking around with Gucci logos dripping from every piece of clothing they were wearing, asked other tourists to take my picture, and sat on the small pebbles of Larovette Beach. My favorite part of my solo travel day trip was that I never felt out of place or uncomfortable; I felt like a tourist enjoying my surroundings. While I was there, I even went to Starbucks to get a peach citrus green tea! Something I was surprised to see was the plant life being a combination of desert plants and lush greenery.


As my trip in Nice came to a close, I was able to shimmy my way throughout dinner as a musician and singer performed in the Mexican Restaurant we ate at, eat more gelato, hang out with other American students traveling abroad, and go shopping along the main strip. Remember how I said I fell in love with Paris a few weeks ago? Well, Nice comes in as a close second. I loved the culture of the city as it felt fun, carefree, and peaceful! When leaving Nice, I rolled past the clear blue water, white and orange houses, cacti, and rocky mountains covered in a lush green terrine. Heading back to GTL, I felt more relaxed than I did when I left. I had come to realize that even though planning trips can be stressful at times with having to make reservations, finding places to stay, and getting studying and coursework is done before leaving, it is relaxing to get away and truly fulfill the study abroad experience.

Who Is Cherlyn Chan?

Cherlyn in Brussels, Belgium

Is there anything that Cherlyn Chan can not do? Upon meeting Cherlyn formally, I was used to seeing her posts about hiking or travel locations in our student group chat. Little did I know how great and accomplished she is. Cherlyn is an aerospace engineering Master’s student at Georgia Tech Lorraine who will be graduating this December. She received her undergraduate degree in general engineering. While studying abroad may be a new experience for many students at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, this is not Cherlyn’s first time studying abroad! In her undergraduate career, Cherlyn had the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand while pursuing her general engineering degree. Currently she is doing research in emissions at GTL, and as a part of the process of her research, she quantifies and analyzes the information she finds.

After completing her Master’s, Cherlyn hopes to work in the aerospace industry on the west coast. Having grown up in Seattle, she is in love with the west coast and hopes to settle down somewhere in that area. When I asked her about why she would like to work in the aerospace industry, she said that, “My undergraduate degree was in general engineering, so it was mainly a focus on civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering. Aerospace engineering wasn’t really touched in much in my undergrad. I decided to do aerospace to get exposure to it, and I have always been interested in planes. So I was like aerospace, let’s try it!” What makes her story even more interesting is that growing up most of her life in California, Seattle, and Florida, she was constantly exposed to the aerospace industry throughout her life by living in places near Boeing and NASA for example.

Cherlyn hiked in Appenzell, Switzerland

When she is not doing research, traveling, or doing classwork, you may be surprised to find her in the kitchen! She is not only passionate about the aerospace industry, but she also is passionate about baking.  One of her life dreams would be to open her own bakery or shop someday. She is also interested in hiking, mountaineering, ballet, and food photography. Since being at GTL, Cherlyn has visited: Switzerland twice to hike up the dare-devilish mountains, Belgium, Nancy, and Lyon.  Ever since she was young, she would go on hikes and walks with her parents. After her study abroad in New Zealand, she really began to challenge herself as a mountaineer and hiker. With hiking being one of her favorite hobbies, she plans to take the opportunity of the hiking trails in Europe and challenge herself as a hiker. While on her hiking trips, she enjoys taking pictures of her performing some of her favorite ballet moves at the peak of the mountains she hikes.

Cherlyn doing one of her ballet moves after hiking up the mountain in Schilthorn

Cherlyn is a person that is brave, active, and full of positive energy. As she finishes her time at GTL this semester, she plans on traveling to more countries (including Slovenia, Italy, and Portugal), hiking up mountains in Spain, and completing her Master’s degree. At the end of this semester, Cherlyn will be twirling her way off the graduation stage and continuing her dream professionally as an aerospace engineer.

Stepping out of My Comfort Zone in London

The London Eye and The London Aquarium

The best thing that I have learned to do since being in Europe  is stepping out of my comfort zone when traveling, realizing every place I travel to is unique and incomparable and going with the flow of things. During my trip to London, I had the opportunity to remind myself of the lessons I have learned over this semester about not being afraid to step out of my comfort zone. London is a place I always dreamed of traveling to since I was younger; I dreamed of peeking my head out of a quaint, red telephone booth and being surrounded by British accents. From my visit, I was able to live my dream and also be faced with a few realities that come along with traveling such as rainy days and changing plans.

My first day in London was jam-packed with tourist locations, sightseeing, and yummy food. Arriving in London, I expected to be surrounded by thick British accents while standing across from the Elizabeth Tower, commonly known as Big Ben. What I did see and hear was slightly different from what I expected: Big Ben was completely covered in metal ladders and construction equipment, and the British accents I heard were nearly what I thought they would be (they were the usually more diverse accents of tourists). Even though I was not able to see Big Benin its full glory, I did see the London Eye, Parliament and Parliament Square, and take my cliché picture in a telephone booth. It was also exciting to visit the Buckingham Palace and see the British flag flying high above the palace, indicating the Queen was home. The best part about the first day was going to Chinatown! I walked under the little red lanterns that decorated the sky, and saw Asian cuisine and shops and live street performances. That first night, I was able to see London come alive at night. Another fun thing that I did that night was going to M&M World! Even though I am not much of a chocolate person, I could not resist creating my personal multi-colored M&M goodie bag.

Buckingham Palace (the Queen was home!)

When visiting London, I was able to eat delicious food and experience the best that the city has to offer. Some of the most relaxing and interesting places to visit were: Hyde Park and Speaker’s Corner; seeing Harry Potter fans walk around with glee at Platform 9 3/4; visiting an exhibition on women’s suffrage in Parliament; browsing through Liberty, the shopping center that inspired Oscar Wilde; seeing infamous artwork in the National Gallery; and strolling in Piccadilly Circus. While I was there, I ate food from different cuisines; I had sweet and sour chicken at a highly rated Chinese restaurant, a traditional flavored infused Sri Lankan lunch, and breakfast in a modern café near Leicester Square.

Chinatown

Liberty Shopping Center

When traveling to different places, I highly recommend finding hidden gems in the city and not being afraid to ask locals what to do! The second day of my trip in London started out gloomy, rainy and slightly disappointing as the places I visited either were booked, expensive, or obstructed from a good view with the rain. Here is where going with the flow and exploring different activities comes in with traveling! That morning after regrouping with coffee, I decided to break away from the group I was traveling with for an hour to visit Leadenhall Market. As I walked under the overhang of the closed market, I was in awe at the beautiful architecture of the market, photographers taking advantage of its emptiness, and embraced the peace of the market. While I was there, I able to get a picture of myself taken by young filmmakers and photographers, and also get advice from them on the best things to do in London from a local perspective. As a result of having a 10-minute conversation with some people and asking for a picture, I was able to figure out what to do for the rest of the day in London!

While London is known for royalty, Winston Churchill, and landmarks like Big Ben, it has a lot more to offer than just that. This trip was good for me because it reminded me to not compare places that I travel to on a ranking scale. Every place, culture, and experience is different and that is what makes traveling such a great experience! At the end of my adventures in London, I was able to realize this and overall look at the experience as something unique on its own.

Did You Know Interlaken Means Between Two Lakes?

I was rushing after my Thursday classes to go to the grocery store and make sure I had everything packed for my trip to Interlaken. Making it the train station in time, some students and I began our five-hour journey to one of the most peaceful and sweetest places I have ever been to: Interlaken, Switzerland. Traveling to Switzerland during the night made waking up the next morning jaw-dropping. We woke up to the sunlight beaming through the windows, and I walked outside with a dewy mist in the air to see lush green and rocky mountains, a crystal blue river, and a quaint city with houses decorated by little red and pink flowers.

Woke up to this view of the Interlaken Mountains!

My first day of adventure in Interlaken consisted of me sitting in a wobbly kayak as I paddled in Lake Brien. When I stepped into the kayak, I did not expect it to sway so much or be so difficult to paddle quickly. This was not my first water excursion, as I have para-sailed, jet skied, and white water rafted before; however, kayaking was something that truly tested my strength and endurance because if I wanted to move to go anywhere, I had to paddle myself. This experience was so much fun, tiring, and hilarious as I struggled to paddle for the first twenty minutes because my paddle was backward!

Kayaking in Lake Brien.

mass of turquoise water that stretched beyond eyesight, beautiful mountains, and the small towns in the mountains surrounded me. While racing other GTL students in kayaking competitions, wading in the water, and soaking in the sun, I was able to think about all the things I was able to do since studying abroad. After making it safely back to shore, we ate a traditional Swiss dinner at the restaurant next to the kayaking place; there I ordered fried eggs and ham for the first time.

Fried eggs and ham dinner.

At the top of Harderkulm!

During this trip, I truly stepped out of my comfort zone! The next day I went hiking in Grindelwald, Switzerland. I was glad that I came ready with hiking shoes, snacks, water, and a light jacket. The scenery was breathtaking – quite literally, as my lungs and legs were challenged hiking up the mountain. About halfway through the hike, we realized that the hike was a medium skill level and a lot longer than we thought it would be. With my overdramatic self, I made my way up the mountain and was greeted with a much-earned view. When I say Interlaken is beautiful, it truly is as no picture could ever capture its full beauty! After lunch, I was able to check something off my Interlaken bucket list as I slid down the mountains on the Alpine Slide. Later that afternoon, I also took the daring, steep eight minute ride to the top of Harderkulm, the tallest mountain in Interlaken, to see the most beautiful view of the city and watch the sunset. If you ever go to Interlaken, Harderkulm and hiking are a must! Interlaken had a lot of adventure to offer, with skydiving, zip lining, paragliding, hang gliding, and kayaking all offered.

A traditional Swiss performance in the middle of the streets of Interlaken.

While leaving Interlaken, I realized that since starting my study abroad experience I was able to travel to three countries and a handful of cities within a span of less than a month. Studying abroad has not only changed my outlook on what other places look like and the history of them but also how people are so different culturally everywhere you go. Interlaken was nothing short of breathtaking, relaxing, adventure-filled, and culturally educational. I would highly recommend anyone to visit here as the opportunities of fun and adventure are limitless!

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