14 February 2014

Back to Reality

Well it's been five weeks since I have been back in good ol' Colorado. I have been meaning to post one last blog but as we know, life gets busy when you are back in reality. I am back to the same life that I once left five months ago. It's a love/hate relationship. I love being able to have a steady routine where I know what I am doing everyday, but I do miss the ability to hop on a train and head to a different city. One of the greatest things I have learned about myself while being back is that adjusting is hard, both leaving and coming home. People are not the same as when I left, I have a different perspective on the world, but mostly, I miss meeting new people.

Here is a fun fact about who has seen and read my blog in the four months that I was in Europe:

United States
Czech Republic
United Kingdom

Total Number or Views: Pageview chart 2302
The only country that didn't read my blog that I went to was the Netherlands and France!

I have been so lucky this semester! I have met exchange students from Spain, France and a friend from Trieste as well. It makes happy to know that they are experiencing what I just got home from. It's amazing how close Europe really is to me here in Greeley. While I may not be going to a foreign country for a little while, that doesn't mean I can't show how beautiful America really is. Although it was fun to see if the grass is greener on the other side, Colorado will always be my home.

My initial journey is over, but I am just in the beginning of the next.

“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote and I know that I shall be happily infected for the rest of my life.”


02 January 2014

I saw London, I saw France...

I departed from Paris Nord train station this morning at 9:01am. I have never traveled alone through such a large city before. Clearly I gave myself more than enough time, but it’s better to be early then late. I had to take the metro from my hotel and transfer to another metro to reach my destination.  The moon was still shining and very few people were out. The sun didn’t rise until 8:45am, two hours after I woke up. Now I am on the train, heading towards Brussels, Belgium where I will be able to navigate myself through the city to reach my hostel. Only a few more days and I will be heading to catch a plane to Dublin then finally one last long flight back home to Colorado. It has been an adventure for sure.  In Brussels there is an International Festival of Ice Sculptures ‘Ice Magic’ and the sculptures are comic book characters. Four hundred and twenty tons of natural ice will be transformed creating the worlds of Tintin, Quick & Flupke, the Smurfs, Gaston Lagaffe, Asterix, Boule et Bill, Thor, Spiderman, Lucky Luke and many more. I plan on spending a few hours there. I have never seen an Ice Sculpture before. I am most excited to eat a Belgium Waffle. I hear they are amazing. Along with ice sculptures and waffles I plan on seeing the giant atom and the Cathedral of Saints Michel and Gudule. Belgium was never in my plans to visit until I had to figure out what to do after Paris for four days so why not just go to another country before I head home! There is also a comic book path within the city where I can walk and see graffiti artists’ works of comics on the sides of buildings. I am excited to see what the murals are. Other then that, I plan on relaxing and preparing myself to go back to the States and reflect on what I have learned while being abroad. 

01 January 2014

New Years in Paris

Champs Elysees with the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile.
While my time is ending here in Europe, I can now reflect back on my experiences I had here. I celebrated New Years Eve in Paris, France. It was spectacular. I have never been in a large city before to welcome in the new year. Paris is by far an amazing city. The streets are clean and filled with small french cafes on every corner. France is something else. French Baroque is a form of Baroque architecture that evolved in France during the reigns of Louis XIII. The gardens of Versailles are grand even in the mist of winter. I haven't experienced any snow yet while being in Europe, mostly just rain. There has been a light shower every evening in Paris. The lights on the Eiffel Tower light up every hour and display a spectacular view for minutes. Every hour I just hope that I am in view of the tower. My favorite part of being in Paris is that I was finally able to visit the Louvre Museum and Rodin's "The Thinker" at the Rodin Museum. The Louvre really does take about five hours to walk through, that is if you don't examine every single piece of art. Obviously I crowded my way to the front to see the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. It was everything I had expected: small and not the best painting I have ever seen. Being an Art & Design Major, we have been told about the tiny Mona Lisa, but it was still cool to see in person. My favorite piece in the Louvre is the Lamassu (human headed winged lion) during the ninth to the seventh century B.C. in Northern Iraq. They were enormous in person. I saw so many of the most well known works of art and it was a little overwhelming. 
Eiffel Tower with the The Seine river in front.

I stayed the first three nights in the Louvre Youth Hostel about 3 blocks away from the Louvre. It was in the perfect location to see Notre Dame and hop on a metro and go anywhere. I took the metro out to see the famous " Mouin Rouge." There are markets all over Paris right now for the holidays. I think Europe in the winter is the perfect time to visit. The streets are all decorated and there is hundreds of things to do. There was outdoor ice-skating, concerts, delicious street food, and shopping. The french know how to have a good time. Last night, New Years Eve, I was able to bring in 2014 in front of the Eiffel Tower. Thousands of visitors and locals gathered together to celebrate the past year and look forward to the new year. 

I head to Brussels, Belgium tomorrow. It is my last stop before I finally head home back to the states. To see more photos from Paris, France please view Hannah Swick Photography- Paris, France.

Au Revoir Paris! 

The Louvre.

Fountain at the Palace of Versailles.

21 December 2013

Praha, Czech Republich

Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic
St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic
Traveling to Prague from Italy is actually cheaper then trying to get to Germany. It's amazing how cheap flying is here in Europe compared to trains. I didn't know how long I would actually be staying in Prague. We bought a one way ticket in hopes of eventually finding a train to Nuremburg, Germany about 40 minutes north of Ansbach, Germany where I will be spending Christmas. Prague was something else. I had never thought of going there before I started looking at ways to get to Germany the cheapest.When we landed at the airport the air was foggy and it was the coldest I had been since January of last year. I was excited. Something that I have been doing since we arrived in Europe is collecting the different currency's. I now have British Pounds, Euros, and Korunas. We took a
bus to the metro, then the metro into the city where we were staying at the Mosaic House Hostel. I did not miss dragging my suitcase around cities trying to find out where I am staying. If I could give advice, less is more when studying abroad. I wish I could just leave half of what I brought because over time I have collected memoirs from each country I have visited. Erika and I ventured off into the city while Kayla and Bryan watched our luggage. It's awful when check-in isn't until 15:00 and you arrive at 12:00. We walked aimlessly into the city, trying to find places not a lot of people have been. We ended up having lunch at Restaurant "U Sevce Matouse". It was a traditional Czech restaurant where I ate sausage and sauerkraut. I think my favorite part about the city is that I felt like I was apart of history. Gothic cathedrals and statues everywhere set the scene for medieval times. The Christmas markets were for miles and the food smelled delicious. The astronomical clock was beautiful. I had never seen such an elaborate clock.
St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic
While my time was short in Prague, I appreciated every moment of it. I met a few new friend around the would and I want to go back again someday. My trip is winding down and I only have three more countries to visit.   

If you want to see more photos from Prague, Czech Republic please click the link Hannah Swick Photography- Prague

15 December 2013

Over The River And Through The Woods... To Ljubljana We Go

Erika and I made our way to Ljubljana this weekend. It was a last minute decision I will never regret. There are no trains that travel from Italy to Slovenia, which made it difficult for planning. We had to take train from Trieste to Gorizia in Italy, walk 30 minutes to the boarder of Slovenia then get on the train from Nova Gorcia to Jesenice, transfer trains and then head to Ljubljana. We partially thought that we were literally going to have to hop the fence from Italy to Slovenia but we just had to continue following the sidewalk. In Nova Gorcia we waited for the train for about an hour and at the time of departure we had to run across the tracks to get to our train. In a weird way, I could tell that I was no longer in Italy. Thirty feet away was the familiar Italy and here in Nova Gorcia, everyone was speaking Slovene. Once on the small regional train in Slovenia, we could feel the cold drifting the train by the condensation on the windows. Until the dreary fog rolled into the Alp’s, we were able to see the perfectly clear rivers rushing down the mountainside. The river was turquoise. After four hours of train we finally arrived in Ljubljana, the capitol of Slovenia. We had no idea of what to expect. We began our journey to our hostel when stumbling upon old town Ljubljana. It was decorated like the North Pole. Little street booths covered the street with homemade food and handmade gift. The smell of hot wine filled our nostrils. Christmas lights covered every tree and deep blue lights illuminated the building facade. We stayed at the Sax Hostel, which was in the attic above a small jazz bar. We headed back out into the town after we left our bags behind at the hostel. Our stomachs gurgled for anything to devour. We had only eaten croissants and cappuccinos that morning. We found a street vendor selling giant hamburgers, only they weren't the typical "American hamburger." They smothered mustered and onions on top of the greasy sausage patty. It was phenomenal. We couldn't wait any longer to eat. After enjoying the sights and sounds, we decided to quench our thirst with the hot wine that we smelled earlier. 
The following morning consisted of street shopping and enjoying the traditional Slovenian dish of beans and sausage called "Pasulj s
Klobaso" with Kuhano Vino (belo/rdece) with lemon. I think Ljubljana was a lovely surprise. It was definitely a city I could see myself returning to in my future traveling excursions.

To view more photos from Ljubljana please view Hannah Swick Photograpraphy- Ljubljana, Slovenia

11 December 2013

Wrapping up the Season

While my time here is limited in Trieste, I have a lot of things to look forward to this week. I finished all my exams today, one of my best friends is coming to visit me tomorrow, and Bryan, Kayla, Erika and I all leave together to head to Prague on the 17th. Trieste is ready for the holidays. There are two huge Christmas trees now up, Christmas markets everywhere, lights down every road, an ice-skating rink, and delicious food everywhere. I officially have only 5 days left here and it's a little heart breaking. I have met so many new friends here and learned how to live abroad. While being away from loved ones has been tough, I think that it is something every young adult should do for a period of time. I can say that living in a foreign country as a 20 year old has changed my life. Meeting people isn't something I am afraid of. I have navigated my way across the world and allowed myself to open up to new experiences. I have eaten some of the most amazing food and I absolutely love creps. I have noticed that when you come half way around the world with only a few things you realize how lucky you are to have everything at home. I thought I was independent before, but I can say I have changed a lot. My heart is open to new people and I am going to miss everyone I have met here! Thank you Olymar, Nikola, and Danio for helping me get settled in here in Italy. Thank you Marco, Elio, Iacopo, and everyone else who has been a friend to me here for being so kind. Lastly, I was lucky enough to come half way around the world with someone who I can now say is a friend for life. Thank you Bryan for being the best first roommate, eating dinner with me every night, and just always being there to talk when I miss home the most.

Today Bryan and I finally got pictures of us in Trieste. It has been our "home" for four months and we never actually documented us being here. It's funny that I carried my camera everywhere except here. Maybe I thought that four months wouldn't go by so fast. I guess time really does fly when you are having fun!

- Addio miei amici. Mi mancherai.

03 December 2013

That’s a bunch of Turkey….Just kidding it’s Bologna

This Thanksgiving I was in Bologna, Italy spending it with two friends from back home. While Thanksgiving obviously isn’t celebrated outside of the States, most exchange schools put on a dinner for the Americans. Miguel, Ashlynn and I had dinner at a restaurant that made a “Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner”. They first brought out bruschetta, olives and other Italian foods. Next, came the pizza! I know, it sounds like I didn’t have Thanksgiving dinner at all, but that was just the appetizer.  Finally, after two hours of eating Italian foods and chatting with Americans and Italians, the turkey came out with an American flag sticking out of it along with sparklers. It might have been the most American turkey out there! Spending time with my friends on Thanksgiving was fun!Friday morning we woke up early to head to Florence. Miguel and Ashlynn had never been there, so I showed them around. We climbed to Piazza de Michelangelo and visited the basilica San Miniato al Monte. It was beautiful. The basilica overlooks the entire city of Florence at one of the highest points. The Romanesque basilica is said to be one of the most beautiful churches in Italy and I can confirm that it is my favorite so far. Although it is not the biggest, it is the most decorated by far. Geometric shapes cover the tiled floor and stripes are on all sides.

Every church that I have visited in Italy has unique characteristics. Some are simple, some are extravagant and some are big and some are small. What I love about Europe is that everything is old. We have very few places in the States that have such beautiful architecture and nothing is as old, clearly because we are the New World. I am lucky to have been able to see the east coast in the States. I’ve seen Plymouth Rock and Jamestown. The States has a different beauty that I love.

Being the adventurous person that I am, I led Miguel and Ashlynn through the streets of Florence not knowing where I was going. As we strolled thru the streets, we stumbled upon a Synagogue and decided to see what one was like. I have never been in a Synagogue before the one in Florence. There were palm trees in the garden in front of it.

Being thankful for family is something that I appreciate more now that I couldn’t spend time with them this year.

25 November 2013

The World of Technology in Europe - A Lost Adventure

When I arrived in Europe I never thought about how much I rely on technology being a photographer. During my time here I have been uploading photos to my website Hannah Swick Photography, Facebook, and of course this blog. Unless I have perfect Wi-Fi connection it takes hours on end to upload my photos onto anything. It makes it difficult to share everything that I want to.

Before I left Colorado I unlocked my iPhone to have world access via Verizon. I thought that buying a SIM card ahead of time through UNC would be great! It promised too much and sounded like it wouldn’t be very expensive but boy I was wrong. The SIM card that you can buy through the ICIS card that I got from UNC was one of the worst things I ever did. It said that you would be able to call at a low rate but it charged me more than anything else. I made only a few essential calls and it cost me over 150 euros in two weeks. I wanted to cry. When I arrived in Italy I bought a specific SIM card for Italy. You bought the SIM for 25 euros, which included the first three months as a down payment, then after, that it was supposed to be 9 euros. If I didn’t have to try and call my credit card company who kept hanging up on me, and the calls kept dropping I would have been fine, but that wasn’t my case. WIND, one of the Italian phone companies here charged me an arm and a leg and my minutes were gone along with my entire down payment. So my dad found the app where I could call through until I could pay again for the month and everything was fine. Phones are complicated here. Recently I prepaid for my last month here in Italy (10 Euros) and before my contract restarted for the month, a Slovenian phone company charged WIND 12 cents for me apparently using their phone signal, even though I haven’t even been in Slovenia. Because Trieste is so close to Slovenia, this happens a lot. So I went to WIND to see what happened and they told me that there was nothing I could do about Slovenia picking up my phone signal so I owed WIND money. I found this not my problem but theirs, but I couldn’t win the battle. The minimum payment to WIND is 5 euros so I had to pay the 5 euros even though I only owed 12 cents. It was ridiculous.

Free WIFI in Europe does not exist. That has been a trouble of mine with blogging and uploading photos onto my website. I decided to not pay for an Internet card for my computer in my apartment the duration I have been in Italy because it thought it was too much. So I have only used my computer for iTunes and editing photos at home then I go to the University for Wi-Fi, which bumps you off every 2 hours until I found a local coffee shop named Kulp in Trieste that has fast Wi-Fi and a big comfy couch that I spend most of my time on when I am not at home or at school. Paying 2 euros for a cappuccino for unlimited Wi-Fi for roughly 6 hours (the time that I normally am in the Kulp) is much cheaper than paying for Wi-Fi or Internet at my apartment and I also enjoy the coffee! Compared to home, I can upload about 30 photos in 6 hours here in Italy, but at home I can upload 30 in about an hour.

If you have Apple products I would recommend anyone traveling abroad to buy the specific outlets for mac products! They are interchangeable and fit better in the plug-ins throughout the UK and EU than the all-in-one big bulky converters. The best apps that I have found while being abroad are WhatsApp, iTranslate, Duolingo, Skyscanner, CNN, Linphone, The Weather Channel, FaceTime, and Maps. CNN is always nice for me so I can stay updated with the United States and see what is happening in the countries I am in. I also don’t have television or the radio to stay updated (even if I did, it’s only in Italian).

One thing that I found very impressive was that FaceTime is a billion times better than Skype. I tried Skyping back home and the connection was awful. I couldn’t hear or see my parents, so we decided to try FaceTime. I had never FaceTimed before I was here in Italy but it works 99% of the time. I also use WhatsApp to stay in contact with not only my friends and family back at in Colorado, but almost everyone uses it here in Europe as well. It is a free texting app that connects to your contacts that have the app. I have friends from Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Colorado, and Oklahoma.

My view on technology has changed while being here. I have learned tricks by experience and hopefully I was able to let everyone who wants to study abroad or just travel some in on insight on what to expect in not only Italy but also Europe.

21 November 2013

What I have learned in Europe!

People have asked me what it’s like to live here in Italy and I have a lot to say about that. It’s different. I have learned how to be independent and most of all what I really need to make me happy. No one needs everything that they have. Coming over seas and leaving almost everything you have behind at home is difficult. It took me forever to figure out what I wanted to bring but in all reality I brought too much. I wear pretty much the same combinations of clothing almost everyday here. I’m surprised if someone hasn’t noticed. I did buy 2 sweaters, a coat and a scarf here because I made the decision to buy a coat instead of bring one with me, and it was cheaper in the long run then haul a coat in September!

Changing my daily routine was overwhelming at the beginning. I moved into an apartment that wasn’t mine, all I had was a bed, desk, closet, bathroom, kitchen and utensils. I have changed my routines in the morning and have gotten used to not having a bathtub when all I want to do is relax. My comfortable home is half way around the world and nothing made sense the first few weeks living here. Going to the grocery store where nothing is in English can be difficult. It took me over a month to find milk that was lactose free, something that is so easy to find in the United States can be difficult when there is a language barrier everywhere.

I have never been afraid to go alone here in Europe. I feel completely safe. Never once have I felt that I was in danger (except on a train in Germany, but that is a long story). I feel more endangered in my hometown than in Europe. Yes there are some places in every town that can be scary, but so far I feel great, as long as I don’t speak or bring attention that I am a foreigner.

Traveling is so easy and relatively cheap to do. Many planes here in Europe are around 30Euros, it’s when you have luggage is what bites you in the butt. I can fly from Venice to many places on a low budget, if only I had more time I could take advantage of traveling further places. Unlike in the United States, no one relies on a personal car to get around. Most places have an excellent bus system and train system. I can get anywhere in Italy by train. I don’t think I can get to Nebraska by train or by bus from Greeley.

There are a few things that I do take for granted:

Health: I am I healthy and young. My legs have walked me around Europe, my lungs work, my eyes can see, my ears can hear the beautiful sound of the sea.

Wealth: I’m not talking about money. I am talking about the wealth of my experiences I am having and which I have had. My parents have taught me that there are more things in life than fancy clothes and expensive things. Traveling is considered wealth in my eyes. The more that I can see in this world is more important to me than anything that I can buy in a store. I would rather buy a plane ticket to Prague than spend that money on something that I won’t care about in ten years. 

Now that I have finally gotten to travel throughout parts of Europe, it doesn’t mend my itch for traveling. I just want to travel more. I have so many places that I want to see now, not just in Europe, but also around the world! I cannot wait to see where life takes me after I graduate from UNC!

19 November 2013

Rain Rain Go Away…

Trieste is very rainy. I would say that it rains five out of seven days but always on days I have class first thing in the morning. When it’s not raining, it’s windy. The wind here in Trieste is named Bora. During the winter it gets so windy here that people can hardly walk, buses cannot drive up the step streets, and trashcans slide into the road. Bora is only beginning now in November. Last week it was so windy, I didn’t go outside the majority of the day because I could hardly walk in it. A funny thought I had was that what if instead of snow days like we have in Colorado, they have wind days, where school is canceled. I don’t know if that happens here, but I could believe it because the shutters can hardly block out the noise tunneling through the narrow streets.

Today it rained. I didn’t have class until 2:30, my beginners’ Italian course. Being almost done with classes, this class has been the hardest for me. Learning to speak and write a language in eight weeks is difficult. I have people in my class from Turkey, Poland, Spain, Romania, Africa and fellow Americans. Maybe it is difficult because the only common language we have in the room is English yet the professor doesn’t know English very well so she speaks only in Italian to explain everything. I guess I jumped both feet at the same time into the language.

Academics here are very interesting. I was so used to either MWF classes or TR classes back at UNC, but here I have a combination of MF, MT, TR, WT with each class lasting either 2.5 hours 3 hours or 4 hours but a 10-15 minutes break every hour where you can either grab some coffee, a smoke break, or eat a snack. The first two weeks here I thought it was ridiculous to pause class to drink coffee but now I enjoy a nice break where my brain doesn’t have to pay attention to anything. I am going to miss my breaks in class when I return to UNC but then again, my classes are no where near four hours long, not even my studio art classes are longer than three hours. Of course in art class, we take breaks for coffee because one can only print in the darkroom for so many hours at a time.

Here in Trieste I am taking four courses: Intellectual Property Rights, Entrepreneurial Finance, Marketing and Innovations, and Italian language. I think the most exciting part of any of the classes is that I am the foreigner in the room. 99% of my classes, besides Italian where we are all foreigners, are from Italy. 95% of the students from Italy are from Trieste or small towns near by. There is a Russian, two girls from Slovenia, a guy from Taiwan and two students from Africa (I’m not sure of which country in Africa). I have always envied exchange students ever since I met my first friends from around the world my Junior year in High School but now I was walking in their shoes and being around the world studying.

If I had one piece of advice for students in college is take the opportunity to get out into the world. Not just studying in a different state, but to study abroad. I have learned so much just being away from home. Yes I do miss home, but home is where the heart is. Very cliché, but it’s true. My heart is here in Italy right now but it is also back in good ol’ Greeley, Colorado where my family is. I have made a nice little home here where at the end of the day, I can take off my shoes and know that I am comfortable. Also, advice for anyone studying abroad, make sure you travel outside of the country you are living in, especially if you are in Europe. Europe is a little bit bigger than the state of Texas.  Take advantage of being here. Not many people get to say that they lived in a different country for either a semester or a year to study. I am lucky that I have traveled with someone who knows how to get around. So far I have been to Dublin, Galway, London, Amsterdam, Bremen, Hamburg, Venice, Trieste, Muggia, Collio, Florence, Bologna, CinqueTerra, Pisa, and Rome. I am still going back to Venice, Bologna, and Florence and then after the semester ends I am going to Prague, Ansbach, Paris, and Brussels and back to Dublin. In total of 16 weeks, I will have been to eight countries. I only wish that I could go to more, but I still have the rest of my life ahead of me.

I am ready for the next six weeks of my journey here in Europe.