Friday, December 23, 2011

Reflections on my Semester Abroad: Part 1

Returning home has brought a realization of reality. Being gone an entire semester seems like it went by in a heartbeat. So many things happened over the course the semester it is hard to reminisce and recall everything that happened! Encountering new places, cultures, people, languages, food, and traces of history has left a lasting impression on me. I have attained a new world view from my trip abroad and look at the world through an entirely different lens than I did 4 months ago.

Being home has allowed me to reflect on my trip abroad with family and friends. I believe I should sum up every location I went to in a few short paragraphs and highlight the best things I experienced in each place that everyone should try and do if they have the opportunity to visit these locations!

Location 1: Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg is Austria’s third biggest city located in western Austria at the base of the Alp’s. It is a very historic city dating back almost 1000 years. The birthplace of Mozart and the Sound of Music makes it quite a destination. It is a very picturesque city because at the center of town there is a large castle built on top of big hill. Originally this castle was what Salzburg originally was. As a visitor of Salzburg you must go up to this castle and venture around the castle grounds. You will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful views of a city you’ll see in Europe!

What you should do in Salzburg:
1.       Visit Salzburg Castle
2.       Visit  the cities two large cathedrals, art museums, and the birthplace of Mozart
3.       Visit the world’s largest ice cave. (30 minutes from Salzburg)
4.       Visit the Eagles Nest (Hitler’s Austrian hideout). I never went here and regret I never went. Therefore, if you go, you need to go here!

Location 2: Rome, Italy

Rome has to be one of my favorite locations in all of Europe. It is one of the most historical cities in all of Europe. Along with the historical sites at every corner and the busyness of a modern city makes it quite a destination to visit. Walking down the busy streets in the hot humid month of September I experienced one of the greatest cultural and historical experiences of my life. Learning about what all Rome encapsulated throughout history all culminated when I visited and experienced it for myself. Seeing the Colosseum, the Forum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, St. Peters, and Sistine Chapel made the trip to Rome one of the memorable trips I’ve been on. Everyone needs to go to this city at least once in your life!

What you should do in Rome:

1.       Visit the main historical sites of the Colosseum, the Forum, Pantheon, St. Peters, and Trevi fountain. Take a tour or walk around the sites yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
2.       Visit Vatican City and go to the Sistine Chapel museum. You will see a variety of different religious artwork ranging from early Christianity to modern Christianity. It is an awe inspiring experience. Oh and by the way, in the Sistine Chapel you will see God ;)
3.       Eat Gelato at Trevi Fountain. There are a variety of different Gelato places next to the Trevi Fountain. I suggest you relax and try a few flavors of Gelato and people watch around Trevi Fountain for a few hours. (Get the Gelato flavors Cookies or Nutella)
4.       Eat a pizza in Rome. There a pizza places everywhere. However, go off the beaten track off the busy streets and find a pizza place. You will be rewarded with an awesome pizza you will never forget.

Location 3: Florence, Italy

Florence in a nutshell is the prototypical Renaissance city. Most of the structures consist of the Renaissance inspired architecture. It is also characterized by narrow streets, a beautiful river, castles, a city wall, and a big cathedral in the center of town. We ventured to the main sites and off the beaten path several times in this city. We were able to see the touristy side of the city as well as the Italian districts of the city. Thanks to meeting some friends who go to our school, they were able to give us the grand tour of the city. This allowed us to see both sides of the city and eat at some really good places. You definitely need to go to this city. You will feel like you went back in time over 500 years!

What you should do in Florence:

1.       Visit the Florence Cathedral. It is one of the largest Renisassance inspired cathedrals in the world. Also, visit Santa Croce where another church is located. The famous Baptistery is also close by.
2.       Visit the Galleria de Academia museum where you will see the famous David statue by Michelangelo. Along with this main statue there are thousands of paintings dating from 1000 AD to 1800 AD displaying various art styles throughout the ages.
3.       Eat gelato from a variety of different places throughout the city. Try and get it off the beaten path because it will likely be cheaper and have better quality.
4.       Walk around the city walls as well as go to the large overlook of the city. This view along with Salzburg’s view has to be one of the picturesque in all of Europe. It will not disappoint!

Location 4: Venice

Venice, Venice, Venice…. What a cool experience. Being in Venice I have never experienced such a unique city. Walking around a 1200 year old artificial island is something I will never forget! All of the canals big and small made walking around such an experience. Also, getting lost in this city was also an added experience. I suggest to everyone you never arrive in this city at night. If you do, it might be awhile before finding your hotel because of the curvature of the city and its discombobulated design. Like I've suggested before, for the best experience I suggest going off the beaten path in this city. Get lost and see the non-crowded areas of the city. It will not disappoint you! I suggest you bring a date to this city, I’m sure there is an added romantic affect because there are more couples than single people in this city. Next time I go to Venice I will definitely bring  a date!

What you should do in Venice:

1.       Visit St. Marks square. See the church, bands, and pigeons. A really cool experience.
2.       Venture the city, get lost! You will not be disappointed. Everywhere you go is beautiful.
3.       Go off the beaten path for food. Do not eat in the touristy section of town!

There will be 2 other reflection posts coming soon. Each destination I went to will be summed up!


  1. Hi,

    My name is KC Owens, I’m a college student and I love to travel! While cruising the Internet, I found your site and really enjoyed reading your posts. I have been to countries all over Europe with just my backpack and a camera. Since I am a college student and I have significant bills, it can be difficult to find ways to travel the world. However, I have done this several times, with less than ten pounds of luggage and while on a college dime!

    I was hoping that you would allow me to write a post for your site to share my tips and tricks with your readers. I put a lot of time into my traveling, it is my biggest passion and I would love to inspire others by sharing my stories, mistakes and triumphs. I look forward to hearing from you!


    KC Owens

  2. Hey KC,

    Yes you definitely can write an article for my blog. I haven't written in this blog for about two years. It basically just outlined my study abroad experience. Let me know if you want to write a piece for the blog.