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Returning from study abroad »

I have wanted to study abroad in London for what feels like forever. People kept telling not to get my hopes up, but the experience met and exceeded my expectations. And it wasn’t even the big things that were the most memorable or the most rewarding, it was sitting on the tube for 3 hours a day, it was talking to my host mom on a lazy Saturday morning, and it was going to the grocery store down the block to get orange juice with ‘juicy bits’.

Going abroad taught me how to appreciate the little things as well as the big adventures. It also taught me that if you work hard and are extremely lucky, sometimes things turn out exactly how you want them to

France! »

My semester abroad in France was probably one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. It was my first time in Europe and so getting to see classic sights like the Eiffel Tower, the London Eye, and the Roman Colosseum was surreal for me. All of the traveling I did was amazing, but really just living in Angers (a small city about 2.5 hours south of Paris) and experiencing the French way of life was one of the best parts of the semester. I loved immersing myself into the french language and culture and would go back in a heartbeat.

(The picture is me at the Maison Carrée in Nîmes, France)

The Hills Are Alive In Scotland »

My favorite part of being abroad in Scotland was exploring the great outdoors. Through this exploration of Scotland I was able to not only see unforgettable views that I will never forget, but I was also able to make life long friends through our shared interest in hiking/climbing. Many of my best memories involve the views seen and moments spent in the rolling hills of Scotland. This picture is over looking Old Man Of Storr, a popular hike in the Isle of Skye.

Edinburgh, Scotland »

I saw this beautiful castle every day while abroad.  The Edinburgh castle, built hundreds of years ago, is the center of the beautiful city.  The castle sits on top of a huge hill on top of the Royal Mile, a famous, old street in the heart of Edinburgh old town.  Princes street is a popular shopping street in the heart of Edinburgh new town.  Wherever you walk on this huge street, you can see the Princes street gardens where the castle sits on top of.  I took this picture the first week because I thought the castle looked so beautiful, but now it represents Edinburgh as a whole.  This image encompasses the beauty of the old and the new in Edinburgh.

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Ladies and gentlemen, I can now say that I have eaten escargot in its country of origin. I remember the time that my host mom asked me if I wanted to eat escargot before I left. I blurted out “oui!” before I thought through what eating escargot actually entailed. After seeing my host mom’s face light up with delight, there was no way that I could go back on my word. Overall, I’m not really a picky person when it comes to food, but for some reason, I was nervous to eat the snails. I think it was simply because. . . .well, I was going to eat snails. Finally the day came. I walked into the house and the smell of garlic and butter filled my nostrils, and my host mom was ecstatic. “Tu est prête ma fille?”, and I responded back in French, “Ready as I’ll ever be.” The escargot was absolutely delicious, and I finished the entire plate while my Japanese housemate squirmed in her chair as she watched me eat every single one. That dinner was a good way to start the goodbye process, and I will never forget it.

The Best Part of Being Abroad are the People that One Meets! »

This photo was taken are a local pub on campus on our last night together. I meet these ladies while abroad and could not have asked for better friends. We traveled, had movie nights, studied, and had dinner gathers together. Our little friend group was made up of all internationals from Germany, Czech Republic, Finland, Canada, Australia and United States. These ladies made my study abroad experience amazing and I am so happy that I had the opportunity to meet them!

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View from the top of the mountain at Zell am See-Kaprun ski resort.

This was taken from the top of the mountain at Zell am See-Kaprun ski resort. Other exchange students and I spent a weekend skiing here. We got lucky with the weather and the view was beautiful. One of the reasons I chose to go to Austria was to see the Alps. I was able to go on several excursions and hikes in the area. I loved being reminded of how grand the earth really is. Being abroad allowed me to explore even more of it.

Routeburn Track, Fiordland, New Zealand »

This is the beginning of the Routeburn track in the Fiordlands of the South Island. It was the first time I had gone ‘tramping’ (backpacking) outside of the States. This was one of the highlights of my study abroad experience, not only because of the sense of accomplishment, closeness with nature, or the fact that I forgot my sleeping bag (the nights were very cold), but the bonds of friendship I was able to foster throughout the excursion. I learned that nothing brings you closer to someone than having to carry a 20kg backpack through a damp NZ national park, and talking about how excited you are a fourth night of pasta.

YouTube Fan Fest, Japan »

Study Abroad in Japan

Though I made countless memories during my study abroad in Japan, this was probably one of the best once in a lifetime opportunities/experiences in my life. I entered a nation wide lottery online and won two free tickets to go to YouTube Fan Fest. I felt very satisfied with how much my Japanese improved since I arrived in Japan because the entire website that I used to enter the lottery was all in Japanese and I won (meaning I did not screw up). In addition, because this is a Japanese event, there were only one or two english speaking emcees/performers I could understand almost everything that they were saying. This photo was taken while my friend and I were excitedly waiting to go into the concert hall. This was at the mini red carpet that YouTube set up in the waiting area just outside of the concert doors. Though this event was the day right before my Japanese midterms, I do not regret going. Although I was a foreigner, that did not stop me from living like a Japanese person and experiencing Japan to the fullest.

Finland »

I had very little knowledge of Finland before arriving there. All I knew is that it was cold, really cold.

The second I got there I was greeted by this beautiful, slender, blonde girl named Mari who spoke English more properly than me. She was my tutor and luckily, she was one of the very few Finnish students with a car to carry me and my two oversized suitcases to my new student apartment.

The next day, I realized how quickly I needed to obtain a bicycle since it is the only way to travel as a student at the University of Jyvaskyla. The whole city is covered in bike paths, including one which goes around the large lake in the middle of the city.

Only a few weeks in Finland, and I was introduced to one of Finland’s oldest, most recognizable traditions, the sauna.

I was in love. Finnish sauna is a warm steamy room where you relax, maybe drink a beer, and raise the temperature by throwing water on the coals. Sauna is more than just warming up, it is an activity at which you bath, and steam and repeat as much as you please. Finns go to sauna at least once a week and many have them in their own homes. The best way to sauna is by the lake where you can use the waters to cool off. Even in the student apartments there was a sauna open every night for women and men respectively. Typically they are divided by gender since Finnish sauna is in the nude.

There are a multitude of reasons to study abroad in Finland. One is the Finnish people. I have never felt so welcome in a foreign country. Most of the younger generation of Finns speak english well, and the older generation is more than their cultural stereotype. (Surprise, Surprise). While the Finnish people are depicted as insocial loners, in actuality they may primarily keep to themselves but in company, they are incredibly friendly and accomodatig, even to strangers.

Finland is also blessed with a beautiful and luscious landscape. There are over 10,000 lakes in Finland and the entire country is covered in fir trees. In the winter, there are many opportunities for snow sports, I even learned how to ice skate here! Finland is also great for hiking and water sports. It is a very active country with many ways to interact with the outdoors. In the upper part of Finland, there is Lapland. This is a winter wonderland and the home of the native Sami people of Finland.

Helsinki, the capital of Finland. is a beautiful harbor city with cathedrals, islands, and museums. I was lucky to visit there twice, and both times it was miraculously sunny! It is a very small capital city but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm. One of its best features is the market by the harbor where you can get goods from Lapland!

After spending four months in Finland, I learned that it is much more than a cold country. It is rich in agriculture, and full of beautiful towns and kind people. It has a unique history and culture which is often overlooked by more grandiose locations like London, St. Petersburg, and Paris. But no matter where I am, my time in Finland will always stay with me, and hopefully, someday, I can return there. Maybe then, I’ll even learn how to ski. :)

Hannah