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Otters & [more] Castles

As my time is winding down here in Copenhagen, Wednesdays get better and better as I get to go on some of the best field studies with my classes, hitting some spots that were on my list to visit before I have to say goodbye! 

My Sociology of the Family class went to The Blue Planet to observe family life in Denmark. The Blue Planet is rated one of the top family-friendly attractions in Copenhagen, so we went to see how they accomplished this.

We met with one of the event managers and heard about how the aquarium focuses on educating through story telling, rather than just giving the straight facts. Children retain so much more information if it is shown and told in an entertaining and exciting way. The aquarium staff has a group of storytellers that guide you through the different areas of the attraction, and there is a theatre with educational shows. 

We also observed the small things that make a big difference, such as locker rooms, wide spaces fit for strollers, nursing and changing areas, step stools for children to see, a touch pool to learn by feeling different small sea creatures, and spaces created for children to crawl through and explore.  
Bonus of the field study- Master Chef Denmark happened to be filming a seafood episode when we were there! Can't decide if it's cool or a little odd to be cooking up some fish in the aquarium… 
After watching the movie A Royal Affair (highly recommended!) that told the story of Danish King Christian VII, the royal physician Struensee, and Queen Caroline Mathilda, my Danish class went on a tour of Christiansborg Palace to walk in the footsteps of Queen Caroline. We walked through the church that stands in the location of the original church that King Christian VII and Queen Caroline got married in, and then we walked through the royal reception rooms. The most beautiful room was The Great Hall which holds amazing tapestries on the walls that tell 1000 years of Danish history.  
The Royal Stables were a highlight to me. They are the only part of the castle that still remain from its origination in 1745. We walked in the riding ring and then into the stables where we got to meet the horses and see some of the original stalls. The royal carriages are also kept in the stables, and they were absolutely beautiful. 
With my last field studies being completed, it's starting to sink in that I only have a few more short weeks left here in Copenhagen. It's time to take advantage of every day and to keep exploring the places that this historical city holds! 
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Travel Break 3: Paris & Aix en Provence

I’ve never experience such a wonderful greeting an airport than this one. My mom was finally here, and what better place to meet than Paris! Mom, it had been way too long!
Our hotel in Paris was like a dream (awesome find Mom). The walls were covered in French toile fabric with matching curtains, and the ceiling had beautiful exposed wood from when the building was first built in 1480. 
Off to brunch at the Louvre we went! And you can’t see the glass pyramid and not get at least one of the these pics…
We then went to my new favorite art museum, Musée de l'Orangerie, where we got to see Monet’s incredible Water-lily panoramas. Two oval rooms held 4 painting each that wrapped around the walls. This is a must-see in Paris!

Next stop had to be the original Ladurée. Macaroons and tea made for a perfect afternoon pick-me-up. 
The next day we visited the Sainte-Chapelle, a chapel built by King Louis IX of France to hold his Passion Relics, including Jesus’s crown of thorns. It was amazing to think that the crown had been in the building where we were standing. The walls contain 15 gigantic stained glass window panels, each beautifully telling a story from the Bible. The windows are still undergoing restoration, so it was amazing to compare the old, dark windowpanes to those that have been restored that showed us the most beautiful light we’d ever seen. 
Next up was Versailles. Beautiful is an understatement. Every single room displayed amazing historical paintings and furniture and the grandeur was overwhelming. I couldn’t believe that I was finally walking through that Hall of Mirrors that I had read so much about! As we explored the rooms we looked out the windows at the unbelievable gardens. 
That evening we got to meet up with one of my sorority sisters who is doing a two-year abroad program in France! It’s an amazing feeling to meet up with old friends in beautiful European cities.  
For our last day in Paris, we went on the best tour I have ever been on in the Palais Garnier, the opera house. We saw the famous Booth #5 where supposedly the Phantom of the Opera enjoyed the shows. The opera house was one of the most beautiful buildings I have even stepped inside, with its Grand Staircase, Grand Foyer, and beautiful artwork on the ceilings, including the auditorium ceiling that was painted by Chagall.
We said goodbye to Paris over a few nutella crepes and were soon on the train to Aix en Provence.

Aix was a dream come true. We wandered throughout the farmers market around the corner and bought the most beautiful produce, rich cheese, perfectly baked bread, and fresh fish that lasted us almost every dinner for the rest of our stay! 
We went to the famous Santon workshop where we got to see the family artists creating the figure that my mom adores and collects. The detail in the crafted people and animals was amazing. 
For one of our days we went on a village tour around Aix to four unique surrounding villages. The first stop was Cassis, which my mom and I are both determined to go back to. It was an amazing experience to see the bright blue Mediterranean Sea and the colorful boats that floated in the port. 
We then drove through the beautiful countryside to Loumarin where we wandered outside of the castle and through the charming streets. Mom introduced me to my first Kir Royale and we relaxed in the sun, taking in the view of the beautiful streets. 
The next stop was Roussillon, known as the Colorado of France. We walked along the Ochre Trail and were in awe of the red cliffs surrounding us. 
On the way to our last stop, we stopped by the Abbey of Sénanque. The stone abbey was gorgeous and lavender fields surrounded it. Cistercian monks still live at the abbey and tend to the lavender fields and honey bees. 
The last village on our tour was Gordes, where we entered the beautiful church and ate lavender cookies overlooking the valley. 
For our last day we went wine tasting in the wine region of Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire and learned about the local grapes and wine making process. Between two different wineries, we got to taste nine different wines. My personal favorite was the rosé!
France was more than perfect, and I couldn’t think of anyone better to spend my time with there. Mom, thank you so much for one of the most amazing weeks of my life!  
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Catching Up: Italia & An Adventure to the Arctic Circle

It is so crazy to think that I have less than a month left in the beautiful city of Copenhagen! These past few weeks have been so busy with school and traveling that it has been hard to keep up with the blog. Here is a quick recap of travel week 3 and my trip to Norway (sorry it’s so late!).

Part I:

Arhus Museum

Arhus Museum

First up was a visit from my family and trip to Italia. The first weekend of travel break three was spent in Denmark because my family was visiting. My host mother drove us to Arhus to visit a few museums and explore a city (other than Copenhagen). My family ended up spending a few nights with my host family, so we enjoyed some traditional dishes like frikadeller and a Christmas rice pudding. After exploring Denmark, we began our journey to Italy!

Top of the Duomo

Top of the Duomo

Monday morning we flew into Rome, and then took the train to Florence. In Florence we went to the Uffizi Gallery, saw the statue of David, climbed the steps of the Duomo, and enjoyed some well deserved gelato! After a few days in Florence we took the train back to Rome. I was actually surprised by how much I liked Rome. All I really knew going into the city was what I had seen in the Disney classic, “The Lizzie McGuire Movie.” I’m pretty sure that by the end of the trip we hit almost every tourist spot: a tour of the Vatican, the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. Unfortunately, the Trevi Fountain was under construction, so I didn’t get to take the classic coin-tossing picture. And of course no trip to Italy would be complete without indulging in a few plates of delicious pasta and a pan of pizza! I wish I had more time to do a few day trips outside of the cities, but overall the trip was great and I hope to go back soon!





Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Part II:

Italy was amazing and all, but this weekend I had the chance to check another thing off my bucket list: seeing the northern lights!!!! As I previously mentioned, this was one of my favorite trips (always save the best for last!). Before I even stepped foot in Europe, my friends and I had been talking about how all we wanted to do was see the northern lights; this was something I have always wanted to do, so we were determined to make it happen. After a little research, a group of five of us booked an Airbnb in Tromso, Norway. Keep in mind, this is probably after a week of knowing each other and we were planning for a trip at the end of November.

This is also a reminder of how fast time flies, I could not believe this was it, we were headed to Norway! Tromso is one of the biggest cities north of the Arctic Circle. We arrived at our Airbnb on Friday evening and were left with a set of three keys in the mailbox… We tried to get into the most obvious door, but it didn’t work, so we tried the second and success! Except for the fact that when we opened the door it literally looked straight out of a horror movie. We immediately knew that something was definitely off… Our friend Marie eventually found a third door which also opened, and lead to what was definitely the right part of the house (we figured maybe they rent out the downstairs??). We hung out for the rest of the night and made a plan for the next day.

Saturday morning we got up, and keep in mind, there isn’t really any daylight this far north. The sun rises, but not high enough that it can get over the mountains, so for the three hours it is up, it has a “dusk” type feel. We made breakfast and then headed into the city to book a bus tour to the northern lights. The guides told us we had a good chance of seeing them, so we bought our tickets and would be back a little before 6 to board the bus.

By the time 6 rolled around, we were all dressed (in probably three layers each) and waiting to board the bus. The way this specific tour worked is that we would go out around 6, and stay out until 1 “chasing” the northern lights. We would go to one spot, get out of the bus and wait, and then move on if nothing happened. To make a long story short: It was a pretty cloudy night, I fell asleep between stops, woke up to my friend freaking out that they were outside the bus, everyone on the bus was freaking out because we could finally see them, we eventually found a spot to pull off the road, the guides took pictures (because they do not come out on a regular iPhone camera), and it was the best night ever!! It was definitely worth the trip, and the next day we slept in and took a cable car up a mountain to the most beautiful view. Norway will forever be one of my favorite memories of the semester, and if I am ever lucky enough to get the chance, I will definitely go back!

(northern lights!!!)

Northern Lights!! (photo credit to Arctic Guide Service)

I cannot believe we only have 3 more weeks here in Copenhagen. I am finally done with all my travels, and look forward to making the most of the rest of my time here (and getting through finals/school)!

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This weekend Giancarlo and I went to Madrid! We visited our Spanish friends, who we met in Aachen this summer. They were so kind as to show us around the city and to take us to all the best places. Take a look at the pictures to see all of the cool places we went!

All of the street signs looked like this on the sides of buildings. Royal Palace IMG_4635 Cathedral de la Almudena Memorial for Nuestra Señora de la Almudena IMG_4643 Laura and Sara The gang is all back together. Gran Via - Madrid's version of Time Square Plaza de España Presidencia IMG_4675 Group gardens Palace gardens IMG_4683 Palace Gardens 2 IMG_4689 Aubrey palace IMG_4693 IMG_4694 IMG_4697 Sara Marta Laura Madrid Skyline IMG_4704 IMG_4708 IMG_4709 IMG_4718 Retiro IMG_4732 Bird territory If you are seeing this picture, don't be mad at me Marta! I thought it was too cute not to put on my blog! And you look beautiful! Paseo de Bolivia Fall lane Park bench Gazebo Park IMG_4748 IMG_4753 Puerta Giancarlo and I took a tour of the stadium Santiago Bernabéu. Real Madrid Stadium IMG_4768 IMG_4786 IMG_4806 Real Madrid Bleachers Changing rooms for the players IMG_4816 This is the tunnel the players on both teams walk down before the game. We got to sit on the team's bench on the field, except it wasn't actually a bench, but very comfy seats. Press box at the stadium: Giancarlo is sitting where the players would sit. Kilometer Zero is the very center of Madrid and located in Puerta del Sol. IMG_4838 IMG_4841 The train station had a small jungle in it with a pond for turtles and a small vendor area. IMG_4845 IMG_4846 IMG_4850 IMG_4852 GC Sara Aubrey Jungle train station from the outside
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Northern Ireland

Over this past weekend I went on my second and last Foundation of International Education (FIE) trip to Northern Ireland. Somewhat surprisingly many people are unaware that Northern Ireland is in fact it’s own country that still remains part of the United Kingdom unlike Ireland. We left early Friday morning to make the three-hour drive up to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. Leading up to this trip we learned a lot about the dark history of Northern Ireland. For decades Northern Ireland has been at war with itself between two sides battling for national identity. One side the Unionist support the belief that Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK while the Nationalist belief that Northern Ireland should return back to Ireland. This bloody warfare continued until recently when a seize of arms was passed. However there will still be occasional shootings and bombings in uprisings. Belfast is still a very divided city. Most communities are completely split between Catholic (Nationalists) and Protestant (Unionist). The schools, shops, and pubs everything is considered to represent one side or the other. Most communities are completely walled in with gates that close from 7pm-7am every single day. The gates wouldn’t even open for emergency vehicles. As soon as we entered Belfast you could physically feel the despair of these people who have lived their whole lives fighting their neighbors.

The first stop in Belfast our group made was a two-part tour led by members on both sides of the Northern Ireland divide. Our first tour guide supported the Unionist side. He showed us a long wall of graffiti that has pictures and messages of peace and hope for the country. Our first tour guide was very friendly and really preached the message of wanting peace between both sides. Our next tour guide was a member of the Nationalist side and a member of the IRA. He was a prisoner of war who was caught by the police while on his way to place a bomb in the city center 15 years ago. He spoke a lot about the sadness and loss of identity he felt by being part of the United Kingdom and said he regarded himself as Irish. He showed us a memorial site for 12 people innocent people who died during the war. Both sides were extremely interesting to listen to and you could really tell this wasn’t a black and white case. Nobody could say for certain which side they supported. After this tour we went and grabbed lunch in the city center and then visited the parliament building. We discussed the different political parties and how they represent both sides on the war and government’s role in the war. We then checked into our hotel and ate dinner there. Since it was Halloween we walked around the city then and watched the huge firework shows that were happening everywhere we looked.

On Saturday we spent a beautiful day outdoors! Our first stop was Crick-a-Rede Rope Bridge right on the coast. We were able to see the beautiful blue sea with rolling green hills as we walked around. We were also able to cross this rope bridge to an isolated Ireland, which was so fun and a little scary! After lots of photos we went to the Giant’s Causeway, a geological masterpiece. Formed by an ancient volcanic eruption creating octagon shaped columns. Legend has it that the rock formations came from Giants that used to inhabit the area. This day was my favorite of the entire trip because we were really able to see beautiful scenery in Northern Ireland. We drove to Derry to spend the night there.

On Sunday morning we got up early to have a walking tour of Derry. The tour was quite chilly but really interesting. Derry was famous for major fighting in the war and many died here in battle. There are Peace Walls spread throughout the city that were memorials to those who lost their lives. We then went to a small museum that spoke about the fighting in Derry. The man working at the museum was incredible to listen to. He himself fought in the war and his younger brother was shot in the street during the battle. The museum was completely heartbreaking to see all those who lost their lives during the war. After the tour we headed back to Dublin.

Our trip to Northern Ireland was a memorable one. I learned so much about Northern Ireland’s history and the hurt people still feel there. Even though most the trip was quite somber I also really enjoyed our time in Giant’s Causeway to lighten things up.

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I know it has been awhile since my last post, but I haven’t been traveling as much the past month since I have been in the full swing of classes and internship applications. Since my last post, I went to the Stuttgart Wasen, which is Stuttgart’s version of Oktoberfest, had my first German presentation in my finance class, travelled to Stuttgart again for a shopping day, and visited Heidelberg.

So far, I have applied to 15 internships in Berlin and am hoping to get one soon. Other than that I have pretty much settled in to Reutlingen and am focusing on my classes. This weekend, Giancarlo and I are headed to Madrid to see the city and visit some of the friends we made in Aachen.

I hope you all are well on the other side of the Atlantic! I miss you all very much.


Michelle in front of the Tübinger Tor. There are actually three in ground trampolines I like to go bounce on every once in awhile. Michelle, Erin, Maggie and Giancarlo: on our way to the Stuttgart Wasen. We took the train from Reutlingen to Stuttgart. We were stuffed in like sardines! I did enjoy seeing everyone in their Lederhosen and Dirndl. IMG_4440 Chocolate-covered strawberries...yum! IMG_4448 IMG_4450 Bier Tent IMG_4453 IMG_4455 We had the treat of reuniting with our advisor from Elon, Dr. Tiemann. IMG_4460 I went to the narrowest street in the world again during a scavenger hunt through Reutlingen with Campus für Christus. I got Burger King at the Stuttgart train station. How I miss American food! IMG_4472 Maggie Maggie and Giancarlo with matching coats at Urban Outfitters. IMG_4488 Stuttgart Mercedes-Benz tower by the Stuttgart train station. Erin and I were riding in the backseat with the top down and cranking the tunes! My Dutch friend Tommy: we drove on the Autobahn to get to Heidelberg. I kept an eye on the speedometer. We got up to 150km/hr, which is about 90mph so not too crazy, but still exhilarating. Schloss Heidelberg: one of the most beautiful views I have had since I've been here! Heidelberg sits along the Neckar River. Schloss Heidelberg IMG_4517 IMG_4526 Tommy and Erin IMG_4532 IMG_4536 Erin There were two giant wine barrels in the cellar of the castle. They must of had some pretty wild parties back in the day.... IMG_4549 I thought the mini door inside of the big door was pretty comical. I wonder who used this? Parts of the castle were hit by lightning or damaged during  wars and fires. Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Spirit) IMG_4563 IMG_4576 IMG_4582 I lost my heart in Heidelberg (Ich hab' mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren) was a hit back in the 1920s. Älte Brücke Neckar Sunset IMG_4599 I thought this house was so quaint with the ivy leaves changing colors for fall.
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Halloween Hygge 

Though Halloween is an American tradition, it has definitely crept its way over to Denmark! From spooky window displays in town to pumpkins pouring out of Tivoli, Halloween was sure to be a great experience. 

To share my obsessive love for all things pumpkin, what better way to share the pumpkin-love with my host family than teaching them how to bake pumpkin muffins? The concept of canned pumpkin was completely new to them, but I think it's safe to say I've got them hooked. After roughly converting cups and teaspoons to deciliters in my mind (at moments just guessing and throwing in yummy spices), the muffins turned out great. We then all decorated them with pink and blue colorful icing and topped them with bat gummies and sprinkles. They were ready to take to the party!
We then went ALL OUT for costumes. I got to go through their amazing bin of costume pieces and my host mom put together the perfect witch look (monumental moment that I dressed up as something scary and not a lady bug for the 21st time). Silja dressed up as a doll, Nuka as a vampire, and Katja as a witch too. Face paint, fake contacts, and stage blood were all involved…
We then made our way to a party with 2 other DIS host families in the neighborhood and had THE BEST time. We all sat around the table and had an amazing dinner of pumpkin soup, homemade bread and ginger salad, and we laughed the night away. We then lit confetti sparklers, greeted trick-or-treaters, and enjoyed one another's company by the candle light. This hygge Halloween has been one of my favorite Halloween's yet. 
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Craftsmanship & Communication

This Wednesday was filled with two incredible field studies spent with my Danish Design class and my Strategic Communications class. 

First, my Danish design class boarded a bus and drove to a surprise location. As we entered the building, the smell of oak and sounds of machinery hinted to us that we were in some sort of wood workshop. We walked inside and were surrounded by stacks of freshly cut wood waiting to be transformed into pieces of hand-crafted quality furniture. 
We were at the workshop of PP Møbler, a famous family owned workshop that creates furniture, including the designs of Hans J. Wegner, that will last through generations. 

We got to explore the entire workshop, from seeing the freshly cut wood to carpenters carefully manipulating the material into distinct parts and assembling them into the famous Danish designed chairs that our class has been learning about. The wood felt as smooth as silk and you could see the determined look in the carpenter's faces as they ensured that every component of the chair was perfect. We then got to meet the upholsters and see them carefully finishing chairs by inserting the springs and padding, and then covering the pieces with leather or fabric. 
The workshop gave us a firsthand look into how the Danes have mastered the art of balancing craftsmanship with production. I used to just see a chair as a chair. After my Danish Design class and seeing the entire process throughout the workshop, I now appreciate a chair and all of the steps that were accomplished in order to create something that combines functionality with quality and aesthetics. 
My Strategic Communications class venture to a digital communications agency called In2Media. We met with the CEO and got the inside scoop on one of In2Media's most successful projects. 

Danske Bank is one of the most used banks in the Nordic region, and they turned to In2Media to develop an innovate mobile banking app that focused on ensuring a quality user experience. We got to hear about the entire process, from brainstorming different mobile-pay ideas to designing the app pages to reduce complicatedness and ensure a quick and easy transaction. The project won numerous awards for its success in the e-commerce business. 

I couldn't believe that the CEO took us step by step through one of their most successful digital communications plans. As he took us through the entire process, it was incredible to connect their steps to what I've be learning in my strategic communications class. It's amazing what can become a product of the collaboration between strategic planners, designers, and digital gurus.  
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Hello again! Long time no see…sorry about that. But I’m working on getting y’all caught up on what’s happened this semester, starting with my trip to Romania!

At the beginning of October, I had a 4 day weekend, so I hopped on a plan to visit my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins in Targu Mures, Romania. It was so good to see all of the again!

We we able to explore Targues Maures the first few days I was there–they showed me all of their favorite sites and were great guides! It was so nice to have a few relaxing days hanging out, playing board games, playing with their dog, and exploring new sites.

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The last full day I was in Romania, we took a road trip to nearby towns. Our first stop was to an old salt mine that has been converted into an attraction. Breathing in the salt air is good for one’s health so the put in a bowling alley, row boats, mini gold, and more in the old mine so that people could spend the whole day down in the mine to breath in the salty air. Crazy! It was definitely a place that I never though I would go in Romania, but was definitely worth the trip. After a picnic lunch, we explored a nearby fortress that had great views of the city. A snack of “twirly” bread before heading to a hotel near the airport for the night was a great way to end my last full day in Romania.


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I have one more week of classes before exams — I can’t believe how fast this semester has flown by. It’s been a busy semester filled with group projects and mémoire work, but I’ll update at least once more before it ends. Until next time :)

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Wicklow and Glendalough

On Monday there was no class since Ireland had a Bank Holiday! Over the past few weeks I have been attending a small group at a Vineyard’s church in Dublin led by a couple named Ken and Jody. Ken and Jody recently moved here from America where they had been on Young Life staff previously! They offered to help me utilize my day off by joining in with them and their two kids on their trip to Wicklow and Glendalough just south of Dublin. So on Monday morning we all piled into the car and set out for Powerscourt. The best part of the trip was the amazing view from the car window as we drove through the countryside. Powerscourt is a beautiful mason located in Wicklow that is full of history. We got lunch here after walking around the interior and grounds for a bit. I got amazing seafood chowder that came with brown bread. We then went up into the hills and saw some beautiful mountains with a river running right through the center. We hiked up for a little and explored an old monastery that had once stood there. We then headed over to Glendalough which has two lakes located near each other. We walked through another old monastery that had a cone tower along side of it. The tower looked just like Rapunzel’s castle, which I was really excited about! We walked through the woods a bit and then came across both lakes. The view was once again spectacular! A mist was rolling off the mountains as the sun set in the distance over the lake. We ended the night by grabbing some ice cream and heading back to Dublin. I was so thankful for Jody and Ken taking me along with them on this spectacular adventure to such a gorgeous part of Ireland.

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