Elon Study Abroad

16 Days Interrailing: Zurich & Vienna

After 2 fun days in Paris, we headed to Zurich to spend 9 hours in Switzerland. It was a very short stop – we got in around lunchtime and were leaving on a night train that evening – but we managed to pack a lot into our time there. We had a great time at exploring the city, eating Swiss chocolate, and taking a boat cruise around Lake Zurich. We were lucky that we had great weather in Zurich – it was nice and sunny and didn’t snow. 

   
 Our first, and only night train of the trip was definitely an interesting experience. The sleeper cars were fully booked so we had normal train seats for the night. So, it wasn’t the best sleep we’ve ever had, but did the trick and we pulled into Vienna the next morning. 

Our hostel in Vienna was a bit outside of the city, but came with an amazing view. After dropping our bags off at the hostel, we set out to see the city. First stop: St. Stephen’s cathedral. After finding 3 euro pizza for lunch, we went to see Mozart’s house. Since all of us are band kids, we had a blast! It was amazing to learn more about his life while walking around his old apartment where he wrote the Marriage of Figaro. 

  
  
Since Vienna was a music capital of the world, it was the home to many great composers. In addition to Mozart, we visited Beethoven’s and Haydn’s homes as well. Beethoven’s house was a bit of a bust because the museum only has 2 small rooms and historians aren’t positive that he ever lived in that particular apartment… But, on our way to see the Danube River from the museum, we stumbled upon a bust of Beethoven and I got to take a selfie with him. However, I throughly enjoyed the Haydn apartment – it’s definitely worth taking the time to go see. 

  
Our second day in Vienna, we were wandering around the city and went into a small church. It was a lucky stop because inside was a hidden treasures – one of the most intricate and beautiful organs that I’ve ever seen. We also stopped by the Sigmund Freud museum and learned more about how he influenced the field of Psychology. 

  
Right by St. Stephen’s cathedral, there are a bunch of people selling tickets to classical music concerts around the city. Our last afternoon there, they got us and we bought tickets to a Mozart and Strauss concert. The concert exceeded my expectations. It took place in a beautiful concert hall in the Imperial Palace in downtown Vienna. The music was wonderful and we all had an amazing time. It was the perfect way to end our time in Vienna. 

  
Up next: Bratislava and Budapest. 


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16 Days Interrailing: Paris

Paris is always a blast! I had a great time showing theses two around the city. 😃 

   


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Goodbye

As of today, I've been back in the United States for two weeks and yet I'm just now writing this blog post. I could offer lots of excuses about how I got quite sick immediately upon returning or how I've started my internship and have been very busy, which would be true but not the real reason I haven't written. Writing this final post means that this blog, like my study abroad, is finished which makes me much more sad than I thought it would. 

In any case, I got up quite early the day I left the UK to shower and get some breakfast from the hotel buffet. Then I packed up my things again and caught the shuttle (yes, with my two huge suitcases!) to the airport. I'm immensely grateful to the lovely older Scottish woman who basically held up the rest of the passengers to give me time to get my suitcases off without feeling rushed. Once at the airport, things moved smoothly as I checked my bags and went to hang out in the airport lounge. 

The plane itself was incredibly nice as I was in business class and the flight attendants were lovely. Unfortunately, the TVs weren't working but between eating and reading and watching movies on my laptop, I had plenty to do! 

breakfast was perfect
more breakfast
They eventually found some little tablets for us to watch movies on and I watched a bit of Bonnie and Clyde while eating lunch.


After many many hours on that airport, I got off at JFK...and everything broke down. Customs went very smoothly (much more smoothly than they would've back home, so I'm very glad I got to do them in New York) but then I had to get my suitcases again and bring them to another conveyor belt to be loaded onto my other flight. This was bothersome because 1) I'd been told I wouldn't have to get them until I got home and 2) it took them about 40 minutes before they actually came!

In any case, after that sweaty annoying experience, I got back through security and found my way to the airport lounge where I got a bit of food.

The airplane from JFK to back home was TINY! I think I've been on bigger buses. I was fairly disappointed that I didn't get a view of the city while taking off, but I did listen to Taylor Swift's "Welcome to New York!"


Getting home was such a relief and my family plus my good friend, Nupur, were waiting to meet me! It was so good to see everyone after so long...and it was nice that my dad took care of my suitcases from there on out. My parents even stopped at Taco Bell on the way home from the airport...oh, Mexican food, how I'd missed you.

That Sunday, I was actually awake for 25 hours, so I suppose it's no wonder that I got sick immediately after. While it was exhausting and stressful, I'm very thankful that it went as well as it did.


I have to admit, the culture shock coming back to the US is much worse than it was going over. American money still throws me off and I'm in mourning for my access to UK Starbucks. While I don't miss St Andrews, per se, I definitely miss my friends (I've been talking to Lucy every day, but it's not the same) and being in the United Kingdom. I've talked to some of my JSA friends from St Andrews and people from Elon who were also abroad and we've agreed that coming back is strange because in many ways, it feels as though you never left and yet you feel so different.

Going to St Andrews definitely had a large impact on me, as a person, and my outlook on life. But writing this blog has had an almost equally large impact! I feel as though I've actually improved my writing, my photography, and my ability to tell a story. Thank you so much to those of you who read this and kept me company throughout my journey. To anyone considering St Andrews, or studying abroad in general, feel free to get in touch with me via email (nbackman16@gmail.com) or via Twitter (@nicoleackman16) to ask any questions you have.

So, finally, goodbye St Andrews. xx
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Goodbye

As of today, I've been back in the United States for two weeks and yet I'm just now writing this blog post. I could offer lots of excuses about how I got quite sick immediately upon returning or how I've started my internship and have been very busy, which would be true but not the real reason I haven't written. Writing this final post means that this blog, like my study abroad, is finished which makes me much more sad than I thought it would. 

In any case, I got up quite early the day I left the UK to shower and get some breakfast from the hotel buffet. Then I packed up my things again and caught the shuttle (yes, with my two huge suitcases!) to the airport. I'm immensely grateful to the lovely older Scottish woman who basically held up the rest of the passengers to give me time to get my suitcases off without feeling rushed. Once at the airport, things moved smoothly as I checked my bags and went to hang out in the airport lounge. 

The plane itself was incredibly nice as I was in business class and the flight attendants were lovely. Unfortunately, the TVs weren't working but between eating and reading and watching movies on my laptop, I had plenty to do! 

breakfast was perfect
more breakfast
They eventually found some little tablets for us to watch movies on and I watched a bit of Bonnie and Clyde while eating lunch.


After many many hours on that airport, I got off at JFK...and everything broke down. Customs went very smoothly (much more smoothly than they would've back home, so I'm very glad I got to do them in New York) but then I had to get my suitcases again and bring them to another conveyor belt to be loaded onto my other flight. This was bothersome because 1) I'd been told I wouldn't have to get them until I got home and 2) it took them about 40 minutes before they actually came!

In any case, after that sweaty annoying experience, I got back through security and found my way to the airport lounge where I got a bit of food.

The airplane from JFK to back home was TINY! I think I've been on bigger buses. I was fairly disappointed that I didn't get a view of the city while taking off, but I did listen to Taylor Swift's "Welcome to New York!"


Getting home was such a relief and my family plus my good friend, Nupur, were waiting to meet me! It was so good to see everyone after so long...and it was nice that my dad took care of my suitcases from there on out. My parents even stopped at Taco Bell on the way home from the airport...oh, Mexican food, how I'd missed you.

That Sunday, I was actually awake for 25 hours, so I suppose it's no wonder that I got sick immediately after. While it was exhausting and stressful, I'm very thankful that it went as well as it did.


I have to admit, the culture shock coming back to the US is much worse than it was going over. American money still throws me off and I'm in mourning for my access to UK Starbucks. While I don't miss St Andrews, per se, I definitely miss my friends (I've been talking to Lucy every day, but it's not the same) and being in the United Kingdom. I've talked to some of my JSA friends from St Andrews and people from Elon who were also abroad and we've agreed that coming back is strange because in many ways, it feels as though you never left and yet you feel so different.

Going to St Andrews definitely had a large impact on me, as a person, and my outlook on life. But writing this blog has had an almost equally large impact! I feel as though I've actually improved my writing, my photography, and my ability to tell a story. Thank you so much to those of you who read this and kept me company throughout my journey. To anyone considering St Andrews, or studying abroad in general, feel free to get in touch with me via email (nbackman16@gmail.com) or via Twitter (@nicoleackman16) to ask any questions you have.

So, finally, goodbye St Andrews. xx
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16 Days Interrailing: Itinerary

Before heading back to the states at the end of this month, I am setting off on my last, and most ambitious, European adventure so far this weekend. It’s an Interrail trip, covering 8 countries in 16 days. I have two friends from the states who are making the journey across the Atlantic to travel with me. Our post-graduation Europe trip looks like this:

  • Days 1 & 2: Paris, France
  • Day 3: Zurich, Switzerland
  • Days 4 & 5: Vienna, Austria
  • Day 6: Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Days 7-9: Budapest, Hungary
  • Days 10 & 11: Zagreb, Croatia
  • Day 12: Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Day 13 & 14: Venice, Italy
  • Day 15: Milan, Italy
  • Day 16: Travel day –> Milan, Italy back to Reims, France

Slide1

I am so excited for this trip and cannot wait for all of the adventures that happen along the way!


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That’s All Folks!

I’m done. Done with college and done with the dual degree program. I know that I say this all of the time, but I really cannot believe how fast time has passed. When I started college, I was planning on studying abroad for a semester. 1/8 of my college career. Spending a semester abroad is a long time to be away from family, friends, and Elon. So, when I decided to embark on the dual degree program and study abroad for 2 years, 1/2 of my college career, I had the impression that I was leaving for an extremely long period of time and that these 2 year would go on forever.  But here I am, finished with my studies.

I still haven’t quite processed the fact that I’m completely done with university. I know that it’s true, but the end has been anticlimactic. I turned in my thesis, took (and hopefully passed) by retake exam, defended and validated my thesis, and was then done. After I passed my thesis, I was extremely happy and celebrated, but it felt more like a celebration of the validation of my thesis, than a celebration of finishing college. But as more and more people pass their thesis and leave to go pursue the next chapter of their lives, the fact that I’ve finished is becoming more and more real. And soon enough, it will finally hit me that I’m done and that I’ve accomplished the thing that I’ve been striving for so long to complete.

I would like to give my thanks to everyone who’s supported me throughout my college journey, especially during my years in France. Your support does not go unnoticed and is greatly appreciated. I couldn’t have done it without you.

A special thanks as well to my mom and dad for giving me the tools to excel in this program and for allowing me to make my own decisions and follow my dreams.  Thank you!


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PRAGUE, VIENNA & BUDAPEST

I had a wonderful vacation with the Lee-Johnson family. We explored Prague, Vienna, and Budapest in 8 days. Now, Matt is back in the US starting his program in L.A. and I only have one more month here in Germany. The time has flown by, but I am excited to be back soon, just in time for boating season!

Check out the highlights of our trip below:

Lee/Johnson family and I in front of the Brandenburg Gate in front of the Reichstag (Germany's federal government building) We started the trip in the capital of the Czech Republic. Here is Prague's old town square with the Church of Our Lady in the back right. the astronomical clock chimes every hour with a short show Anna Chromy's Il Commandatore, in memory of Mozart's Don Giovanni premiered October 29, 1787 in the Estates Theatre in Prague. David Černý's In Utero statue of a pregnant woman. We all climbed between the legs of the statue, up into the "womb" and climbed back out to reenact our births. I have never come across such an interactive statue before! You can see Matt coming out head first in this picture. on the Charles bridge over the Vitava River You can see Prague's castle behind us. 6 Mr. Lee and I 8 9 the Lennon wall: I love the graffiti above the peace sign saying "Czech mate" St. Vitus Cathedral is situated entirely within the Prague castle complex. It is one of my favorite churches I have visited this year. 13 11 12 IMG_7345 metronome in Letná Park IMG_7352 IMG_7354 Before we left Prague, we all tried the green absinthe at a bar next to the old town square. The drink  has about 70% alcohol content so it really burns your mouth! After Prague, we took the train to Vienna. Here is the Rathaus (city hall), where the Eurovision singing competition was going on while we were there. Hoher Markt Clock (Ankeruhr) Hundertwasserhaus: an expressionist apartment building designed by the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser 15 Matt and I in front of Vienna's Schönbrunn Palace, the imperial summer residence for the Habsburg monarchs After touring the inside of the palace, we walked through the beautiful gardens. This was my favorite sight of the trip despite that it was pouring rain while we walked through it. I couldn't take enough pictures to capture the beauty of these gardens! 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 in front of Vienna's Natural History Museum Off to Budapest! The city is divided by the Danube River into Buda and Pest, which did not have it's unification until 1873. Here is the St. Stephen's Basilica on the Pest side. We climbed to the top of the basilica for a marvelous view of Budapest We were tired of walking around the whole trip so we decided to be like your average tourist and take the Hop On Hop Off tour bus around the city. Matthias Church on the Buda side of the river 39 We took a cruise on the Danube and saw stunning views of Budapest's parliament building 42 Matthias Church is in the back 44 Hungarian National Gallery Bálna: the glass whale where different markets and events take place 48 On my last night in Budapest, we had drinks at a ruin pub. Old buildings and unused outdoor spaces are transformed into cheap and chaotic bars. 50 The next morning we took a tour of the parliament building. 52 Assembly hall of the House of Representatives scale model of the parliament building 55 view of the city on the top of the Buda hill 56 58 Fisherman's Bastion Matthias Church
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Help Me Say Goodbye

Today was full of goodbyes. After getting up and showering and getting everything packed up, I said goodbye to my flatmates. Emily, Frankie, and Michelle have been absolutely incredible: they've welcomed me into their fold and helped me with everything. It was so sad to say goodbye!

And then I was off to say the hardest goodbye of all.....I took Lucy the rest of my food and some other bits, like the books I couldn't fit anywhere. It took us about and hour and a half to actually say goodbye. I've been mushy enough on Instagram, so I won't repeat it all but I will say that this term would have been a completely different experience without Lucy. I didn't come over here expecting to find a best friend and the Elizabeth to my Jane Bennet but that's exactly what happened.

Afterwards, I had to cheer myself up with one last Blackhorn.

oh blackhorn i will miss you
Then it was back to finish packing up everything and taking the rest to the trash or the donation pile. My room looks so strange empty.


The rest of the day was quite challenging. It took my about 40 minutes to get my two overweight suitcases from Agnes Blackadder Hall to the bus station and by that time, I was sweaty and gross. Then there was chaos with the buses although I managed to get on one.

The bus ride was a bit terrible because I was feeling so disgusting and still breathing heavily and overheated. But I listened to Killian Donnelly singing, which made me feel much better!

Thankfully, Dad scheduled a car to come get me from the bus station and bring my to the hotel and the lady was so nice. We chatted all the way here and I felt a lot better after that.


i love british hotels
I'm staying at a hotel right near the airport tonight...I have to wake up so early! But this hotel room is very nice and I had a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant.


I can't complain overall because I have a lovely hotel room and Eurovision on the TV (it's my first time watching!). But now it's time for bed because I have to wake up at 4:30am. xx
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Help Me Say Goodbye

Today was full of goodbyes. After getting up and showering and getting everything packed up, I said goodbye to my flatmates. Emily, Frankie, and Michelle have been absolutely incredible: they've welcomed me into their fold and helped me with everything. It was so sad to say goodbye!

And then I was off to say the hardest goodbye of all.....I took Lucy the rest of my food and some other bits, like the books I couldn't fit anywhere. It took us about and hour and a half to actually say goodbye. I've been mushy enough on Instagram, so I won't repeat it all but I will say that this term would have been a completely different experience without Lucy. I didn't come over here expecting to find a best friend and the Elizabeth to my Jane Bennet but that's exactly what happened.

Afterwards, I had to cheer myself up with one last Blackhorn.

oh blackhorn i will miss you
Then it was back to finish packing up everything and taking the rest to the trash or the donation pile. My room looks so strange empty.


The rest of the day was quite challenging. It took my about 40 minutes to get my two overweight suitcases from Agnes Blackadder Hall to the bus station and by that time, I was sweaty and gross. Then there was chaos with the buses although I managed to get on one.

The bus ride was a bit terrible because I was feeling so disgusting and still breathing heavily and overheated. But I listened to Killian Donnelly singing, which made me feel much better!

Thankfully, Dad scheduled a car to come get me from the bus station and bring my to the hotel and the lady was so nice. We chatted all the way here and I felt a lot better after that.


i love british hotels
I'm staying at a hotel right near the airport tonight...I have to wake up so early! But this hotel room is very nice and I had a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant.


I can't complain overall because I have a lovely hotel room and Eurovision on the TV (it's my first time watching!). But now it's time for bed because I have to wake up at 4:30am. xx
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One Last Day

Today was my last full day in St Andrews. Not to be horridly cliche (coming from the person who likes to quote "For Good" from Wicked in cards to friends, I clearly don't care to avoid cliches) but time really does fly.

I started off the morning with a croissant and finally eating my champagne strawberry jam that I bought at the Royal Yacht Britannia. So yummy.


I worked on packing and bagged up a bunch of things to take to my friend Susannah, including my beloved frying pan.

i couldn't help myself
We decided to grab one last lunch together and Susannah introduced me to an adorable restaurant called The Bean Room. We also ended up in H&M and the dress I've been eyeing for months was on sale so I had to buy it.


The rest of my evening was a lot less fun as I attempted to finish packing. I'm finally finished...or as finished as I can be until tomorrow. This getting myself home thing is so stressful for me.

I made my final dinner in our little kitchen...which included a Mexican bean burger of course.


Well tomorrow I leave St Andrews for good...it all seems a bit surreal to be honest. Tomorrow night, I'll be blogging from a hotel at the Edinburgh airport! xx
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