Spring Break

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring Break French Edition:

Woohoo! A whole week off of school! But do I even study abroad anyway? ;) 

I began my vacation by visiting Amsterdam in the Netherlands with my close friends. It was about an hour plane ride from Grenoble and we stayed for 2 and a half days. 
Amsterdam is a really cool city with beautiful canals, bicycles, good food, and interesting attractions. My friends and I discovered the famous and risque Red Light District, took pictures by the classic I AMSTERDAM sign, and visited a lovely Dutch musuem featuring Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and other talented artists. The weather was not ideal; it rained the entire time and was gloomy outside. However, this did not stop us from walking throughout the city where we did a 3 hour free walking tour, went through a flower bulb market, and explored a beautiful park. I treated myself to a delicious strawberry frosted waffle and their well-known thick cut fries with a mayo dip. Since flowers weren't in bloom yet, I bought a wooden tulip souvenir to take home with me that I will always remember the city by. 

One of my favorite memories was our last night there where we had fancy cocktails at a hip rooftop bar. The lounge was at the top of a hotel and seemed super exclusive but was totally welcoming to non-guests and apparently anyone who wanted to stop by. There were beautiful views of the city and even a rooftop pool which I wish we could have used. My friends and I enjoyed ourselves to the fullest playing cards, talking, and sipping at our fun drinks. Afterwards we went to an Argentinian grill for a late night dinner where I had tasty salmon and more of those fantastic fries. Even with the unfortunate weather and our mediocre hostel, it was overall such a fun trip and I took many memories back home with me.

Rooftop bar with a pool overlooking the city

Cool Vibes at the W Lounge
Back in Grenoble, I mostly relaxed and took time to myself. On Saturday, my friends from my exchange group all got together for a brunch to celebrate one of their birthday's. It was at my old home-stay house which is always nice to go back to. We all cooked together and sat outside on the backyard patio enjoying the sun. We had eggs benedict and a mouthwatering sweet banana bread.

My last day of break I got "lunch" aka dessert crepes with my classmates. It was fun catching up and sitting outside during the sunny afternoon. Afterwards we made our way to a park and lay out in the grass for hours. Grenoble is finally getting warm and springtime is in full bloom! I'd say it was the perfect way to end my break. I'm so blessed that I could travel during this time, spend time with friends, and have time for me.

Caramel banana crepe (:

Solo Travel

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A few weeks ago I embarked on my first solo trip abroad. It's definitely a much different way of traveling and experiencing a new place. I was a solo traveler for 6 days where I visited Prague, Czech Republic and Vienna, Austria. I really wanted to visit these cities and since nobody else could come along, I decided nothing should stop me from seeing them. Luckily, I had all postive experiences and stayed safe.

I surprised myself about how well I navigated through entire new cities all on my own. It was unquestionably exciting and thrilling. I managed to make it from the bus stop to various trains/metro systems and eventually to my hostel. There are directions and signs everywhere which prevent from confusion or getting lost and if you need any help there's always people around to ask. I realized it just requires some common sense and focus which I was entirely capable of. Whenever I traveled in groups before, I usually let other people take over to navigate maps and transportation, but I finally got to experience it for myself.

I spent my days entirely according to my own schedule. I woke up fairly early each day around 7:30-8am to walk around and sightsee. I did 3 hour walking tours in the late mornings where I enjoyed being part of some organized group. I additionally walked so many miles on my own, wanting to see it all. I took lots of pictures, treated myself, and enjoyed where I was in every moment.

One of my favorite memories was meeting people in my hostel in Prague. I met 2 fellow travelers who were sisters halfway through an 8 week journey through Europe and Asia. They were so nice and friendly and never before had I gotten to know anyone in hostels; usually everyone just keeps to themselves. One night after walking the entire day and I was absolutely exhausted, the 2 girls invited me to sit down to dinner with them. There was a kitchen in our hostel and they had made pasta with sausage. After a long day it was so nice to have company over a warm meal. I was so appreciative of their welcoming attitude and openness. The next day we had a delicious brunch together and walked around in the sunshine. I am so happy I met them and had comraderie on my solo travel.

My new friends Kela and Melia

Brunch at Cafe Savoy in Prague

Selfie at John Lennon Wall in Prague
Overall, I learned that I prefer to travel with other people. It's a much more pleasurable experience to be with friends and it's much less lonely. When traveling, there's a lot of waiting in lines, far distances to walk, and lots of free time that I would have much rather filled with the accompaniment of friends. The memories are far more meaningful when shared with others. I'll never forget my solo trip and all I got to experience, but I think in the future I'll refrain from traveling entirely alone. 

Faith Abroad

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Today is the most beautiful, sunny day in Grenoble and I sit very happily with my window open and the enormous rays of sunshine flowing in. It's a completely captivating atmosphere and I haven't seen this nice of a day in Grenoble in a long time. Spring is finally showing and I'm very content. 

Today, on this gorgeous afternoon, I feel that God is showing Himself to me. I admit to lacking in a relationship with God lately. I haven't been attending much church, my Bible has been unopened, I am not active in my daily devotional, and I find myself not praying. I have many distractions here in Europe and don't have a core Christian circle that I can lean on during this time. With that being said, God has provided for me in so many ways and has given me amazing opportunties and experiences that will last a lifetime. I am definitely grateful, but I haven't put God first recently, and it has been quite apparent. I have always had a strong relationship with God so when I am faltering, I can feel it. There comes a point when I know I need Jesus back in my life and at the top. So my lifestyle is changing today.

Last night I felt a change of heart. I have felt something missing for the past month or so not knowing exactly what it was but had an inkling that it was, and is indeed, God. It's been quite obvious, but I have either avoided or ignored it. I haven't felt the joy I normally do in my everyday life, I've been down for no apparent reason, and just felt empty. Instead of sulking in my internal grief any longer, I made room for Jesus again. I messaged my sister in Christ/best friend Madi to pray for me and told her my predicament. She showed compassion and was proud of me for recognizing the state I was in and the desire to make a change. 

Today is a new day. I woke up and immediately prayed to God for giving me this beautiful new day full of opportunity. I read my daily devotional and felt God speaking to just me. It said:

March Fifteenth

But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him. -Psalm 103:17

I am the Lord who healeth thee. The adversary meant evil to you, but I mean it for good and for life. Put aside the distractions that pull you from My chosen path. Take each day as a gift of love from the Giver of love. Purify your mind and thoughts with simple cries and prayers. Prove me by the waters of Meribah. Let me turn the bitter into sweet and trust that I can ever do so. None know this save those who choose to become "little children" before their heavenly Father. The oil of My mercy never runs out.

I got great joy and peacefulness after reading these words and was ready to start my day. My friend Madi also sent me verses & devotionals from 3 different sources that she reads every morning. I am so grateful to her as a friend and am glad she intervened to help me hear God's voice again. God is shining His light so brightly today and I am immensely overjoyed.

To all my fellow study abroaders, it can definitely be hard to keep a strong relationship with God when traveling and seeing the world, I would know, but it is so important to keep close to God. We never ever have to feel or be alone because we have God. If you have any troubles, give it all to Him. He is almighty and powerful and will guide us if we let Him. I hope my mini testimony sheds some light and shows just how crucial we need God's presence every minute of our lives. God bless!


Saturday, March 4, 2017

I've always wanted to visit Germany for 3 reasons: 1 being I'm 25% German and I wanted to observe my heritage, 2 since it's the home of the best Christmas markets, and 3 because of Neuschwanstein Castle. When I found roundtrip tickets to Munich for $40 this February, I was stunned and knew this was my opportunity. After 2.5 days in Germany this week, I'm so glad I made this trip to Bavarian country.

Munich, Germany is a lively, bustling city that's both modern and historical. I was surprised by how vast it was and the amount of people walking the streets. My first impressions was that it was kind of plain, flat, and industrial but that's before I found my way to the center of town. It's a huge city with countless shops and stores and I found myself walking a ton. There are so many neat medieval towers and buildings with gorgeous German calligraphy, fun beer houses, and traditional restaurants everywhere.  I definitely felt the culture from the moment I walked into the main square. From what I gathered, Germany is best known for their beer, cars, sausage, and pretzels.

The most effective way of getting to know a new city is: 1, to figure out their transportation system, 2, to walk everywhere to see the sights, and 3 to do how the locals do. First, my friend and I did a Sandeman's free tour to gain a real sense of the city which is always a rewarding experience. The Sandeman's organization offers free tours that are provided in most major cities. The guides are upbeat and knowledgeable that provide you with all the local history, tips, and other resources. I enjoyed our tour a lot and now feel much more informed about Munich. 

I'm a person who tries to stray far away from the tourist traps and like to find my way into the local's world. I'm always surprised by how many people end up in these "traps" since they aren't even authentic and you can tell. I love doing research on a place before I visit and the blogs I went on all seemed to point to these popular tourist places. I was disappointed and would love to make my blog be a place for travelers to look and find local treasures among the famous monuments. On this trip to Munich, my friend knew of someone newly local to the city and he showed us around. I was so happy to do an authentic beer tour with him who had his favorite local spots and introduced us to his friends there. It was a much more fulfilling and unique experience.