When in Rome

IMG_8511Earlier this month, I spent 3 days in Rome with my good Swedish friend, Kajsa. As anyone would be, we were ecstatic at what our weekend would hold.

It got off to a bit of a rocky start. We flew out of Paris Beauvais, so we had to take a train from Poitiers to Paris, and then another train from Paris to Beauvais. (Beauvais is on the outskirts of Paris and took about 4 hours by train to get there.) We knew we would have to spend the night in Beauvais to catch our 7:30am flight, so we booked a B&B to stay at near the airport. After explaining our plans to our host via email, she was kind enough to send us a map of her home and how we would be getting to the airport. (Unfortunately, the map didn’t include the train station.) We didn’t realize the train station was about 45 minutes away from her home AND the airport, and at 11:00pm, we were lost with no wifi or maps to help! We stepped outside the train station and noticed a bus stop, so we caught the last bus running that evening (so lucky!), and the driver ensured us we would get to the airport. From the airport, we knew how to find the B&B. I’ve always told people that “when you travel with me, it’s more of an adventure”. This was definitely an adventure! Complete with pitch darkness and enough fog to film a horror movie, the environment wasn’t exactly ideal for 11:30pm in an unfamiliar town.

Arriving much later than we expected, we got settled into our B&B and got a couple hours of sleep before heading to the airport. After checking in and going through security, we had to find our gate (which was easy, because there were only 4), and waited for our flight to board. This was my first time flying within Europe, and I’m not sure if this is common everywhere, but I noticed it in Rome too… airports are confusing! There were no signs at the gate saying “Rome Flight 8987”, or really help of any kind. It was nearly impossible to find an employee to help, so we followed the crowd since our flight seemed to be the only one leaving that morning. Another fun fact about airports, there is very limited seating. There were maybe 20 chairs for the 100+ people on our flight. Something that this American isn’t used to. Also, don’t expect to plug in your phone or iPad while you’re waiting, unless you’d like to pay. There are no outlets or charging docks next to the seats. There is a charging station where you can plug your phone in, but you have to pay by the half-hour. (Man, Americans really are spoiled!).

Waiting for our flight, and hoping we were in the right place, we started talking about how unorganized it was and heard a voice behind us say, “Hey, you speak English!”. (I’ve noticed here, that if I hear someone around me speaking English, I almost assume that I know them since it seems I know every English speaking person in Poitiers!) I turned around to see two relieved Americans! Lauren and Tiffany are from Ohio and were studying in Paris for a week. They decided to travel to Rome and Barcelona before heading back to the states. After talking with them for about three minutes, we knew these girls were fun! We spent the reminder of our waiting time chatting with them in the terminal, and they joined us on our 40 minute bus ride from the Rome airport to the Termini station (near our hostels). We even reunited for a glass of wine one night while we were there! They are two amazing women, enjoying Europe as well! Everyone’s heard the expression “what a small world”, here comes another story: While talking with Tiffany and Lauren, I mentioned something about ‘when I lived in Alaska’, and got the usual “wow that’s amazing!” response. Tiffany mentioned she knew someone in Alaska and when I asked what city they were in, she said to herself “Ughh, what city did Jamie live in?” *Click* I knew her friend Jamie, in fact, I had actually been to Ohio and met Jamie’s friends and family. Now, I meet another one of his friends, but this time in Europe! The ‘small world’ theory is proven again!

Once we arrived in Rome, we took a Terravision shuttle from the Campino airport to Termini station. This was about a 40 minute ride which gave us the opportunity to see the city of Rome right from the start! We weren’t exactly “thrilled” when we arrive at Termini. Although we were very excited to be in Rome, it seemed that Termini wasn’t the best place to be dropped off. There were many crowds of people and the area was quite dirty, so we quickly made our way to the hostel and settled in. We stayed at the Four Seasons Hostel in Rome and I recommend it to everyone! Great value, clean, and a very nice impression of what’s ahead of me in my future travels!

In efforts to change our first impressions of our surroundings, we left our hostel in route to the Colosseum. After walking for only five minutes, we found ourselves much happier with our surroundings, and only a few blocks away from the Colosseum. Kajsa and I enjoyed the beautiful views of Rome slowly walking down the streets, with no map, and no place to be at any certain time. We had deep conversation while taking in the architecture and beauty of Rome. It was one of my favorite moments and a really great end to our first day in Italy!

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Making a wish at the Trevi Fountain

While in Rome, we saw the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Trevi fountain, and  the Spanish steps & shopping district. The weather was beautiful! It was in the 60s and 70s, and the sun was shining which was a nice change from the rain in Poitiers! We took the opportunity to do some shopping in the local markets and I got myself a genuine Italian leather purse (note: the terms genuine and leather are used very loosely), as well as a turquoise ring I fell in love with.

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Spanish Steps

 

IMG_8615Kajsa and I agreed that the food was our favorite part of Rome. We ate a ton of pizza, even more pasta, and so much gelato, I’m still not sure how we managed to fit into our clothes by the end of the trip! The food was ridiculous! The ingredients were all so fresh and full of flavor is was difficult to leave any on your plate no matter how full you were! Italy definitely knows what they’re doing when it comes to food!

We also met some amazing people on our trip. We shared a room at the hostel with Cory and Yvette from Australia. They are cousins, touring Europe together for a month. We shared a lot of laughs and made some truly great friends. Coincidently, they happen to be in Amsterdam the same time I am, so we will meet up again there! We also met some Spanish police from Barcelona that were definitely loving their time in Rome! They didn’t know much English, but they had the words “party” and “vodka” memorized! It was fun to really use my Spanish with them and translate the hilarious things they were saying!

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Gelato with Cory & Yvette

On our last night in Rome, we spent some time with our Canadian friends we go to school with in Poitiers. The five guys did a tour of Italy and landed in Rome about 12 hours before we had to leave. This was not planned. It just so happened they would be in Italy the same time as us! We made the time count and spent the night talking & laughing in our hostel over a few cartons of wine (yes, cartons).

Our time in Rome was amazing. The architecture and history was everything I thought it would be and I find so much enjoyment in traveling to different cities and countries, and seeing all the different landmarks and eating all the different foods each place has to offer.

Follow this link to see all the pictures from my trip! https://thetwentysomethingtraveler.shutterfly.com/

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At the Colosseum!

 

Once the travel bug bites there is no antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.

-Michael Palin

Jet Lag is for Amateurs

My most recent travel has taken me to Amsterdam, Netherlands and Copenhagen, Denmark. This was the first trip I booked when I started studying abroad. Katie, Alex and I booked this trip in late January so we’ve been waiting for it to come for about two months. Although Katie, Alex, and I were the only original travelers, we had some friends who tagged along in Amsterdam, as well as other friends who met up with us in Copenhagen. I’ve found that many of the trips I have booked with one or two other people, have now turned into groups of 7-12 travelers accompanying us. It’s great being able to travel with so many people!

After taking the train to Paris, (which we have to do for almost all of our trips), we took an overnight bus to Amsterdam. We arrived at our hostel around 7:00am and relaxed in the lounge until breakfast was available. We stayed at St. Christopher’s Winston and I highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Amsterdam. It’s a younger crowd, but a lot of fun with a great lounge area. Because we couldn’t check-in until 2:00pm, we put our bags in a storage locker and headed out to explore the town after breakfast. We joined the free walking tour of the city at 11:00am and after about 45 minutes of standing in the freezing rain, these tired girls were ready for another coffee! We skipped out of the tour and headed to a place called Crepes & Waffles, which quickly became one of our favorite places in Amsterdam.

When 2:00pm finally approached, we made our way back to the hostel for a much-needed nap. The little sleep we did get on the bus, was frequently interrupted and uncomfortable so we were happy to lay our bodies horizontal in our temporary bed at St. Christopher’s. After a nap, a shower, and food, we were as ready as we could be for whatever Amsterdam had in store for us! We ended up walking around and exploring the town which was much more beautiful when it wasn’t raining! We met up with my Australian friends Cory and Yvette, who I met in Rome a few weeks earlier. We toured the streets and walked through the famous Red Light District.

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At the “iamsterdam” sign.

On our second day in Amsterdam, we headed to the Anne Frank house/museum and spent a few hours walking through the house and hiding place that’s known so well throughout the world. It was very heart wrenching to be where so much tragedy took place. After the Anne Frank house, we had lunch, then met up with some of our friends at the “iamsterdam” sign. From there, we strolled along the even nicer part of Amsterdam, taking pictures and window shopping.IMG_9032

Our hostel was in a really convenient part of town and just a block away from the bar district. We joined in on a pub crawl that night which took us to six different bars within walking distance. It started out nice, but we found that the bars got smaller and more expensive as time went on. After leaving the 4th bar and on our way to the 5th, we passed Crepes & Waffles. Katie, Alex and I decided we would have more fun there than at the next bar, so we said goodbye to our friends and ended the night with some delicious food!

On our third and final day in Amsterdam, we went out to a nice brunch and spent the rest of the day shopping and getting souvenirs. Amsterdam was much more than I expected. For the reputation it has, I presumed it would be much more touristy and dirty, but I was happily surprised to find it as one of the prettiest places I’ve been to yet! I would recommend to go there if you have the chance, and hope I’ll get to return someday as well.IMG_9046

From Amsterdam, we flew two hours to Copenhagen. I will say that both Amsterdam and Copenhagen have really awesome airports. I was very impressed, and a bit relieved, to see it was much bigger and organized than prior airports I had traveled to in Europe! Both of these airports had a lot of options for food, as well as shopping. I’m talking full on grocery stores, H&M’s, Pandora’s, etc. in addition to all the people watching, (which is probably my favorite thing to do in airports).

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Hello Copenhagen!

Upon arriving in Copenhagen, we headed straight for our hostel. Nina and Keya, who we met up with in Amsterdam, also joined us in coming to Copenhagen, and we met up with Kajsa, Michael, and Gloria at the Downtown Copenhagen Hostel so our group grew from three to eight! After settling into our hostel, we went exploring for a few hours. We knew from our journey from the airport to the hostel that Copenhagen was beautiful and had great shopping! It was very quaint, the buildings were colorful and the streets filled with bicycles. The housing architecture and bicycle transportation were very similar to Amsterdam, but there was a much bigger ‘city-feel’ to Copenhagen, lots of shopping and restaurants. Venturing out after dark was fun in a larger city with lots of people and things to do. I was very excited to see a 7-Eleven, a taste of home I’ve missed. (Although after some investigation, I learned they do not have slurpees!) We finished off the night back the Downtown Copenhagen Hostel which has a great common area; live band, bar, coffee bar, foosball, board games, etc. It’s a great place to hang out and meet fellow travelers.IMG_9158

IMG_9175The next day was our only full day in Copenhagen. We didn’t realize how little time we had devoted to Denmark, but it turned out to be fine. Although the city was beautiful and there were more things we could have done, it was very expensive (specifically to eat), so we were okay with only spending a little bit of time there. Let me put ‘expensive’ into perspective for you: when we went out to dinner, at a mediocre restaurant, the bowl of chili my friend ordered for dinner was $28.00, and my nachos were $21.00! I think you can tell from the menu items, nachos and chili, that this place was no suit & tie establishment! Being in the 50s, it was cool outside, but many of the restaurants had outdoor seating and every chair had a blanket. It was really cute and almost made you want to sit outside. Unfortunately, the wind and rain had other plans so we spent most of our time indoors.

We made the best of the good weather when we could by visiting a famous street with very colorful houses, as well as visiting Freetown Christiania. Christiania is its own town inside of Copenhagen. The government gave them the land, and they have their own law/rules, and even their own currency! After reading many reviews on TripAdvisor, we decided it was worth seeing and went for a look. We were cautioned that since they are their own town, they are free to do what they want. There is a board with rules posted as you enter, and if you choose to disobey these rules, the locals of Christiania have been known to attack travelers and throw them out. These rules included “Have Fun”, “No Photos”, “Buying and Selling Hash is Legal” and “No running because it causes panic”. Here, drugs are legal, and there are no standards. My friend described it as “what the world would look like if it ended”, and I think she summed it up perfectly! The streets were dirty, buildings were man-made out of all different materials (sheet metal, tire rubber, etc.), there was much graffiti, and everyone looked as if they hadn’t showered in a month. Although it might come off sounding horrible, I was glad we went. It was really interesting to see how a beautiful, upscale town like Copenhagen, has its own world inside it behind a wall that explains how running causes panic!

Walking back to the main street from Christiania, it started to rain so we took the opportunity to do some indoor shopping where it was dry and warm! Being a group of girls, all in our twenties, I’m sure you can understand how we managed to survive a few hours inside some stores, but I think you’ll be surprised to learn that our afternoon started at the Disney store with a Tea Party!

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Tea Party

We are all still very much kids at heart so we couldn’t pass up the Disney store, in which we found the movie Frozen was playing, and there was a table and chairs set up (for five-year-olds) to have a tea party. Obviously, we took the chance to be children again and spent some time watching the award-winning animated movie. We spent the rest of the rainy day going from store-to-store mostly looking because everything was pretty pricy. We found some very cool shops though and enjoyed our time even though the weather was unpleasant.

Surrendering to the wind and rain, we returned to our hostel around 5:00pm and warmed up while everyone enjoyed the free wi-fi. As some hotels and hostels offer free breakfast, we learned that our hostel offered free dinner in order to help travelers with the prices of the town. We stayed in that night, ate some free spaghetti, and relaxed in the common room of the hostel again. (FYI: The hostel also offered a continental breakfast, the cheapest in town, costing you $12.00 USD.)

The coffee bar was one of my favorite things about the hostel. I really enjoyed having Chai Latte’s at night while enjoying the company around me. Chai has been something I’ve missed dearly from home and I was very happy knowing I could have it whenever I wanted in Copenhagen, (even if it did have a ridiculous price tag!)

Our weeklong trip was great! Amazing places with even better company made these six days very enjoyable! I would absolutely recommend everyone go to Amsterdam if they have the chance. It’s one of my favorite places, so far, for its beauty and architecture. Look at all my pictures from Amsterdam and Copenhagen here: https://thetwentysomethingtraveler.shutterfly.com/IMG_9003

I’ve spent a lot of time recently on buses, planes, and trains and speaking with my fellow travelers, we’ve all agreed that we feel we spend as much time traveling to the destination, as we do actually IN it! I’ve always been a good flyer and have no trouble in buses, cars, or trains, but I actually don’t mind the traveling part so much. It’s part of the journey and part of the story. Fortunately, I’ll have a lot of good stories at the end of these five months! (That are already 60% over!)

After returning home from Copenhagen, I spent one day (okay, 36 hours) in Poitiers before traveling again. I’ll tell you about my trip to Marrakech, Morocco in my next post! Stay tuned…IMG_9135  IMG_9171“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment” – Hilarie Belloc

A Parisian Adventure

I spent February 27th-March 2nd in Paris. I had flown into the Charles de Gaulle airport when I first arrived in France, but had to run to meet my train and had no time to spend in the city. I’ve been in France now for two months, and was finally able to make a trip & spend a few days in Paris. Seven friends and I planned a four day weekend in the city, and it was absolutely amazing!

My housemate Elizabeth has a friend in Paris named Lorelei. Lorelei is from France and met Elizabeth when she was studying abroad in South Carolina. Elizabeth let her know we were planning a trip to the city, and asked if she could recommend some of her favorite places that we should see while we are there. Lorelei took it 10 steps further and got us all rooms at the Novotel hotel where she works! A four star hotel, a 15 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower, for less than we would’ve spent at a hostel…. Yes please! The Novotel hotel was amazing and I recommend it to anyone traveling to Paris. We were also able to get vouchers for breakfast which you must pay extra for if booking as a traveler, but it was a great spread, and my American friends were all very pleased to see bacon! (A rare commodity here in France.) The rooms at the hotel were great, and the lobby area was very impressive! There were computers available to the guests and many nice sitting areas for tired travelers. I hope to stay there again with my family, when they come to visit in May.

Checking-in to the hotel took a few minutes because we had three separate rooms booked, but were only checking into two of them at the moment. (The others had class and would meet up with us later.) As the receptionist verified all of our information and started programming room keys, she started going through (what I like to call) “the check-in spheel”. She proceed to give us the information to connect to the wifi, pointed us in the direction of the breakfast room, and then smiled, handed us the keys to our rooms and said “You’re in rooms 1301 & 1303. The elevators are down the hallway to your right.” The words she said had stuck me like someone walking into a glass doorwall… 13th floor?! They do exist! It was the first time I had ever been in a hotel with a 13th floor! There’s a first time for everything!

IMG_7554Remarkably, Lorelei’s generosity didn’t end there. We knew we wanted to do something special for her for getting us such great accommodations, so we asked if we could take her out Saturday night. We asked her to take us to her favorite place in town so we could treat her, and also to see where the local’s like to go! Not sure what to expect, we started out on our adventure. When we asked Lorelei where we were headed, she replied with “it’s a surprise!” My excitement was growing as we took one metro, to another metro, and started walking around the town we eventually settled at. Following the leader, Lorelei led us around a corner where we faced a huge, steep road. It was one of those ‘out-of-breath’, ‘feel-the-burn’ type hills. Once at the top, we walked another 30 feet or so, and found ourselves battling an even longer, steeper hill! I have been up and down many hills in Poitiers, but these were exceptional! I was waiting for someone to award me with a Girl Scout hiking badge! (Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic, but you get the picture!) We were all a little curious if this was going to be worth the treacherous hike. Let me be the first to say it was absolutely, 110% worth it! We found ourselves in the center of a small Parisian town square with the most perfect ambiance you could imagine! Complete with caricature artists, live music, restaurants, and a beautiful church, I can’t think of anything that could have made the mood any better! We had dinner at one of the bistros in the square, which was absolutely fabulous. I had beef bourguignon, and it was by far the best meal I’ve had since I’ve been in France!

IMG_7575After dinner I walked around with a friend to see some of the shops. We got about 15 feet outside the restaurant before we were approached by artists that started drawing sketches of us. I was completely aware that I was a typical tourist/target, falling into the trap, but at the moment I was content with it. The night was already amazing so why not make it even better?! I came home that night with a souvenir sketch, (that looks nothing like me, by the way!), but it’s a fun memory of that night. After dinner we took a walk and exited the square on the opposite side of where we entered. Lorelei took us to a lookout point of the entire city and it was absolutely breathtaking! If you’re ever in Paris, take the metro to Abbesses and walk up each hill until you reach the top. You will thank me, I promise!IMG_7612

IMG_7412Of course, one of the biggest highlights of the trip was getting to see the Eiffel Tower. With our hotel so close, we were able to see it pretty much anytime we wanted to, and made many trips there to take pictures & just enjoy the view.

IMG_7782We also visited the Louvre, and hung out with Mona for a bit. 🙂 My best friend in Poitiers, Diego, didn’t plan to come on this trip, and as we were leaving & saying goodbye, I said “I wish you were coming!” I was chatting with him online the next day, and told him how I missed him & that he should be here with us. He took it all to heart and surprised me Saturday! He met us at the museum and spent the rest of the day with us. Such a great friend! It made my trip so much more enjoyable! From the Louvre, we walked past the shopping district to the Arc de Triomphe. After standing and walking for the entire day, we wanted to sit down for a while. Finding a Starbucks, we grabbed a cup of coffee and sat in a McDonald’s just talking and relaxing. I know what you must be thinking, “You’re in Paris! Why are you at Starbucks and McDonald’s?” Believe it or not, it was delicious and missed on my part. I don’t go to either of these places very often at home, but having them available to me was a nice change. Don’t worry, we ate at plenty of great French places in Paris as well! We made a trip to see Notre Dame and entered just as a mass was ending, very powerful and simply breathtaking. From there we walked to the famous Love Lock Bridge, and also visited the cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried.

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IMG_8268On Sunday, our last day, we took a boat tour along the River Seine. Our hotel room had a great view of the river so it was nice to end the weekend with what we had been looking at for four days. The tour was an hour long, and cost 13€. In my opinion, completely worth it! We were able to see Paris from a different angle, and there was commentation in French, Spanish, and English that was very interesting! I learned that the White House was build with inspiration from the building in the picture below. I also learned that their Statue of Liberty was originally facing the Eiffel Tower, but was turned in 1889 so that the Statues of Liberty in New York and Paris (the sisters) would be facing each other! It can also be seen in the movie “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”!

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Can you see the resemblance?

 

Overall, the weekend was amazing! Visit https://thetwentysomethingtraveler.shutterfly.com/ to see all of the pictures! We were definitely exhausted when we came home, but it was totally worth every minute! I will be returning to Paris in April for a 5K, and again with my family in May. It’s crazy to think that I am traveling to all of these places and seeing all of these landmarks that I’ve only dreamed of. I am definitely taking in every second. I realize this is a chance of a lifetime, and am not taking anything for granted. To think I am already halfway through with this experience is sad, but if it ended tomorrow I would be so happy with the places I’ve seen and the people I’ve met.

*Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory* – Dr. Seuss

Me = Busy Bee

In the time since my last post, a lot has been going on! I started a ‘class’ called “Company Project”. This was described to me as a type of internship I’d be able to participate in. Basically, instead of sitting in a classroom, I would be working with an International Company, based in Poitiers, and help them execute a project. I thought this would be a great opportunity, because not only will I get the experience of going to school in France, I will also be able to say I interned with a company there! I’ve had a few meetings regarding this project, and it turns out that there are not any companies in Poitiers who do business internationally that need interns. I will actually be working for the school I am attending while I am here. Although it didn’t seem to be what I had anticipated, it is turning out even better! As part of my project, I will need to help students who are based at France Business School, and are going to study abroad at UM-Flint! I will be helping them adapt to everyday life with things like housing, transportation, food, etc., as well as planning 6 trips/excursions for them while they are in Michigan! I will need to organize, arrange, schedule, and budget these trips so it is easy for students to see what is offered. I am so excited to be able to show everyone what Michigan/US has to offer! It’s turning out to be a really fun project! I’ve learned that there are currently two French students at UM-Flint, and I was able to make contact with one of them. Unfortunately, the winter doesn’t seem to allow for much fun right now (with record breaking temperatures and snowfall!), but I hope they will get to enjoy the spring! I am really excited to work with future exchange students once I return home as well!

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I took a day trip to Bordeaux on February 8th to go wine tasting! It was actually a ‘tasting class’ where we were educated on the wine, where it originated from, what to look for in the taste, etc. We tasted 8 different red wines, all from France! It was a lot of fun and after being in the class I feel like I really know how to properly drink and taste wine! I went with 4 other friends, and after the 2 hour wine class, we roamed around the city and found this HUGE market! It was one street for as far as you could see filled with vendors selling everything from sausages to shoes!

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Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating, and the wind and rain drove us into ‘The Blarney Stone”, an Irish Pub (whad’ya know?!). We enjoyed a beverage, a cheese tray, and a game of soccer before making our way back to the train station. I felt like a horrible friend that day because I begged my friend Kajsa to tag along with us, ensuring her there had to be white wine at the tasting class (she does not care for red wine). Of course, to our luck, all red wine! To make it up to her, the 5 of us each got a bottle of white wine from a local store, a few baguettes and some cheese, and had our own wine tasting on the train ride home! It was probably the best part of the day. We had a short train car to ourselves, where we were able to drink, eat, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company! Bordeaux is a beautiful city with so much to offer, that we didn’t get to take advantage of because of the weather. We all agreed that once the weather gets nicer, we will do another day trip to Bordeaux, and recommend that anyone in France make that a mandatory stop! (As always, visit https://thetwentysomethingtraveler.shutterfly.com/ to see photos!)

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Last week I finished my first class! I had three days of this class in January, and finished it last week with a presentation on Thursday, and exam on Friday. I am confident that I did well and am relieved (and shocked), that I already have one class down! In addition to the classes I am taking here, I am also enrolled in an online Calculus class at UM-Flint. I am taking this class so I am able to continue with my curriculum plan on schedule. The online class is going quite well so far (*knock on wood*), and luckily doesn’t take up too much of my time here! 🙂

20140214_130106 I’ve been asked by many people “Do they celebrate Valentine’s Day in France?”. Of course they do! It’s home to the “City of Love”! Although I spent most of my day in class, and preparing for my final exam, a few friends made it a great Valentine’s Day! I’ve always had the notion that Valentine’s Day hit it’s peak in 3rd grade, where you were able to decorate a shoebox, and received candies and cards from all your classmates, (sort-of a second Halloween). This year, a few friends made this day very special for me! My good friend Michael, who is like a little brother to me, surprised me and two other friends with tulips we had been talking about seeing around town all week. (He got the hint 😉 ). After lunch, my roommate Elizabeth had a donut waiting for me at my seat in class, which I ate during my exam 😀 . Later that night, we all headed to Kajsa’s house to get ready for the Valentine’s Day party a few other students were having at their house. Upon arrival, Kajsa had heart-shaped cakes, wine, and music for us! We had a great time and it turns out there is something to look forward to after 3rd grade! ♥

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A few weeks ago, I was contacted by my roommates mother. My roommate, Elizabeth, is from South Carolina (another American!), and one of the sweetest, most genuine girls I have ever had the pleasure of meeting! It is really a blessing that we were placed in the same house together! Her mother reached out to me, asking if I would help surprise Elizabeth for Valentine’s Day. Their church group had all gotten together, and donated some money to send Elizabeth to make her time here a little more enjoyable. Obviously, I was all-in! I LOVE surprises, and planning a creative reveal is my speciality! So Saturday, February 15th, Elizabeth thought we were going out to lunch, and catching up on episodes of Duck Dynasty. Little did she know, I planned a scavenger hunt around Poitiers! I had clues leading her to her favorite spots around town, and even had some friends waiting at each location. When she thought the surprise was over, and we were going to start watching D.D., she was shocked when she saw a familiar face on the screen instead of one of the bearded Robertson men! I was so thankful to be part of this surprise and so glad her mother reached out to me. Seeing the look on her face during each reveal was one of the best memories I’ve had since I’ve been here. Great day for a great girl!

My international friends have truly become my family and recently, we’ve had few family dinners! My Columbian friends, Germán and Paula, made me and a few friends their Meatballs! I’m not exactly sure how they cooked them, but… WOW, they were amazing! I brought a side dish, and introduced them to my mashed potatoes! The next night I cooked Shepherd’s Pie for 9 of us, and seeing as how I did it without an oven, I think it turned out pretty good! Everyone was quiet and there were no leftovers so that’s always a good sign! I love trying new foods from different cultures, and seeing how everyone makes certain dishes. The Colombians put cut up hot-dogs in their meatball sauce, and even though I don’t, I know many people put cheese on their Shepherd’s Pie. The variety of customs we have is amazing!

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Family Dinner

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I’ve been keeping busy in my ‘off’ days by… planning trips! A huge part of being here is being able to see different countries, and experience new cities. Even many of the teachers will say “let me know what day is good for you, I know you’re here to travel too”! It’s nice to know that the school encourages you to travel while abroad, and your schedule allows for some great trips! (But just remember, you work hard so you can play hard!) Last time I talked to my dad he asked, “So how is travel agent school going?!”… It’s going great dad! 😀 I’ve gotten to the point in my calendar where I need to start thinking about which trips are really important to me because there are so many trips planned, I don’t have enough time to participate in all of them! I have created a new page for my Calendar so everyone is able to see where I’m at and where I’m going! (Look at the menu bar at the top of the screen.) I’ve been so blessed with the opportunity of being here… you can bet I’m taking full advantage of it!

My next trip will be with 8 friends to Paris for 4 days at the end of the month to explore the city. Elizabeth knows a friend who was able to get us an AMAZING deal at a very nice hotel near the Eiffel Tower which will make the trip even more memorable! We will also be celebrating Katie’s birthday that weekend, and I’m sure she won’t forget this birthday party! I’m excited to spend a few day in Paris with some lovely ladies!

I am definitely keeping busy, planning trips for exchange students visiting UM-Flint, keeping up with my online course as well as courses here, and planning trips for myself! The next few months are going to fly by and I’m just trying to live in each moment and not blink for too long! I constantly find myself walking up and down the streets of Poitiers (or wherever I may be), and really take in the fact that I am living in France!

*This is the time for small paychecks, and big memories*