Askøy & Bergen, Norway (Part I)

Truth be told, I have been avoiding this post for a long time.  Norway was the second-to-last country I visited while abroad, and I have been home for a little more than two months now.  Things haven’t been the same upon my return; this post solidifies the idea of my big adventure being over.  I finally gained the courage to write about my time in Norway because I have to face reality.  Although the best chapter of my life is now closed, I know more opportunities will come!  I miss Europe, traveling, and my life abroad, but this drives my determination to find a job overseas even more!

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My view for two weeks!

I left Kalmar, Sweden extremely saddened; I was leaving not only the best part of my life behind, but also several new friends from around the globe!  However, with that said, I knew that my two-week stay in Norway would be a great transition into my normal life back in Michigan.

I visited Norway for two main reasons: 1. It has always been my “dream country” and 2. While my mom was in high school, her family hosted a Norwegian exchange student!  His name is Kjell and I was FINALLY able to meet him and his (entire) family!  It was such an incredible experience to meet a family I have been connected to through my mom’s stories, letters back and forth, and a montage of photos and Christmas cards over the years.

When Kjell and his daughter, Martine picked me up from the airport, I instantly felt at home.  I remember walking with my heavy backpack down this long flight of stairs to pick up my luggage, and as I looked down I could see them waving up at me with Norwegian flags (was it THAT obvious I was an American?)!  My heart was full in that moment.

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Norway’s islands are connected by several bridges 

Kjell and his family live on the beautiful island of  Askøy, which is about a half-hour (not even) from Bergen.  It was a surreal feeling to drive Kjell’s boat to Bergen and several other small islands in the area.

When I travel, I often find parallels between cities I have been to.  Oddly, I found similarities between the countryside of Southern France and the route to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.  I cannot compare Bergen to anywhere else; it is truly one of a kind…just like my time in this beautiful country.

The first few days of my new adventure consisted of visiting mainly Bergen, and you know, the typical tourist-y stuff.  Although I try to avoid cliche attractions and events, there are exceptions.  I had to visit Bergen’s famous fish market and visit the highest point of the city!  The market didn’t smell the greatest, but the taste of the fresh fish from the North Sea made up for it.

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How could I miss this view?!

With Martine and Kjell, I was able to take the Ulriken cable car to the top of Mount Ulriken.  Because of all the islands and mountains in this part of Norway, the Ulriken wasn’t the only cable car/ski lift I traveled on.

The city of Bergen itself has a rich viking history, something Kjell takes much pride in.  During my first visit to Bergen, Norwegian royalty were near Parliament and university buildings.  Kjell is a police officer in Bergen and Askøy, so he was hoping we would have a better chance of seeing the royalty if he was talking with his friends and coworkers!  It was a good strategy, but unfortunately I didn’t meet a prince or anyone close.

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Courtyard in Bergen
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Traditional, iconic wooden homes (Bryggen)

I would have to say that my favorite thing about Bergen (aside from the food and people) are the Bryggen that greet you as you ride into the city by ferry or boat.  Inside the wooden buildings, there is a famous nightclub and also a traditional Christmas shop.  I live near Frankenmuth, Michigan (a faux-German town with a world-famous Christmas shop), and I was impressed with the Julehuset in Bergen!

My boat rides with Kjell were some of my most cherished memories of my time in Norway; I was able to learn more about Norway, his family, and even my own family through Kjell’s stories.

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Historic cruise ship boarding near the Bryggen

I will be sure to share more stories and photos in other blog posts!  This is only a mere sample of my Norwegian adventure.

 

 

Budapest: Photo Essay

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I really had no expectations while visiting Budapest; all I knew was that I would have a great time!  The city is green, affordable, and the people were friendly!  I would definitely recommend visiting Hungary’s capital city, especially if you’re on a tight budget like me!

Adventures in Edinburgh, Scotland

Once Johanna and I parted ways with our friend Taylor in Dublin, we ventured off to Edinburgh!

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The above photo is our view from the hostel we stayed at!  Who else could say that they slept across the street from something as beautiful as this?!

Johanna and I are both of Scottish heritage, so being in an area of such rich history and culture meant the world to us.

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Being able to casually and conveniently stroll within the castle walls was one of my favorite parts of the trip; this is something that is extra special as an American!  Our country is so new that castles are alien to us, thus why it is on many of our bucket lists to visit them in Europe.  The Edinburgh Castle is one of my personal favorites not only because of its size, but because of its deep-rooted history with England and so on.

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Mary Queen of Scots is one of my ancestors; being in the location where she and her family lived years ago is something I will never take for granted. I am truly proud of my Scottish and French heritage on my mom’s side!

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The following day, the two of us went on a free walking tour recommended by our hostel staff.  I wasn’t surprised to see two stereotypical things about Scotland on our tour: whisky and scotch signs, as well as cashmere scarves!  I had to try some and buy some…

Although I saw what I imagined in Edinburgh, it was refreshing to see things that I didn’t anticipate, such as colorful, bright buildings.

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Our tour guide was so knowledgeable (Sheldon Cooper status) and was extremely passionate about J.K. Rowling’s influence on Edinburgh, and vice versa.  He showed our group the places in which Rowling received her inspiration(s) while creating her infamous Harry Potter characters; she took character names from this here cemetery!

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Of course we had to visit where Rowling sent her sons to school (aka: Hogwarts’ inspiration)!

This little puppy statue is lucky, only if you rub his nose though!

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The above photo was taken as Johanna and I had tea in the cafe in which Rowling penned her ideas for Harry Potter: Elephant and Castle.  The bathroom was filled with what I’ll call “Potter Postings” from fans; her brother-in-law who owns the cafe tried covering them up at first, but fans are “too” passionate for Potter!

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The two of us also climbed (part of, a VERY small part of) Arthur’s Seat.  We were ratchet and didn’t feel like climbing the entire thing; all the rich and sweet food we ate must have had us out of shape!  From what we did see, it was as incredible as expected!

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Simply wandering around Edinburgh was enough to make Johanna and me happy; the contrast between the day and night in the city is parallel to Edinburgh’s light and dark sides (of history, culture, etc.).

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And obviously, the food was solid in Scotland.  If only this macaron place was in my hometown…

We meet again, Big Ben!

I visited London during the summer of 2014 and left a piece of my heart there!  The charm, the elegance…all of what London had to offer attracted me and made me want to go back!

I was supposed to visit London with a friend at the end of March, and although our plans changed last minute, I am thankful I was still able to see the city that captured my heart nearly two years ago.

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At night, everything seems to be glowing and prestigious!  I love the contrast this city has to offer: busy at night, and calming during the day.

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“Do one thing a day that scares you.” Simple, truthful, brilliant…

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Whether I was drinking at my favorite pub, strolling through Regents Park, or seeing shows on Broadway, London Round II did not disappoint!

Växjö, Sweden in a Day

As an American student studying in Kalmar, Sweden, I need a residence permit for my five-month adventure.  Unfortunately, Kalmar doesn’t have a migration board office; fortunately, the six Americans had to travel elsewhere.

Vaxjo, Sweden is a small town, but much larger than Kalmar.  We definitely packed a lot into one day!

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The vibrant colors of the cathedral and the unique architecture cannot be beat; however, the Swedish slides are very confusing, even for twenty-something year-olds!

Umami Monkey was perhaps one of the best burger joints I’ve ever been to…and I’ve been to some good ones in Germany and Ann Arbor, Michigan! To think we were mad that the Mexican place was closed…

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The glass museum in Vaxjo really brought out how modern the town is, as well as how innovative they are with their creations!  As an American who really knows little about Sweden (excluding Ikea and the famous ice hotel of course), these unique creations were exactly what I imagined Sweden to have!

The Vaxjo town model and Ice Man replicas were neat to see in order to put all I’ve learned from National Geographic in perspective!

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The Loranga part of the museum was interesting at first, but then it really brought out our inner child-like behavior!

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All in all, we had a great day at the museums, bookstores, cafes, and restaurants in Vaxjo!  A day of chores seemed to turn into a day of fun instantly!

 

Denmark in a Day

Sorry I haven’t been keeping up with posts lately; each day has seemed to come and go too rapidly. I am out of Michigan and now Sweden for the next five months! Studying overseas taught me so much about myself and other cultures, and I know this experience has already done the same. I haven’t even been here one full week!

I began my travels in Canada; Michiganders have the opportunity to fly out of Toronto for affordable prices! From there, I went to Iceland where I only had a one hour layover! Thankfully the airport is small and I’ve been there before! The semifinal destination was Copenhagen where I spent the night and enjoyed the city for a little bit.

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Things to do in Denmark: get lost because it’s a beautiful city, visit the Queen’s Palace and the Little Mermaid statue.

Things not to do: get too lost when you are freezing, it is dark, and you are trying to find your way back home!

All in all, Copenhagen brought out so much of Denmark’s beauty and I would definitely go again in a heartbeat!

The Evolution of my Hair

I have dyed, cut, and styled my hair more than anyone should in their lifetime (I’m only 22 mind you)!

Here’s a photo compilation in chronological order starting from middle school:

The confusing
The confusing “curly hair, straight bangs” combo (Spring 2008).
Straightening this hair took FOUR HOURS (Homecoming 2008).
Straightening this hair took FOUR HOURS (Homecoming 2008).
When I regrettably chopped all of my hair off (Summer 2011).
When I regrettably chopped all of my hair off (Summer 2011).
The darkened and straightened bob (Senior Homecoming 2011).
The darkened and straightened bob (Senior Homecoming 2011).
Curly bob (Prom 2012).
Curly bob (Prom 2012).
Freshman year of college (Fall 2012).
Freshman year of college (Fall 2012).
” (Fall 2012).
” (Winter 2012).
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Natural-colored puff ball (Summer 2013).
Awkward ponytail (Winter 2013).
Awkward ponytail (Winter 2013).
Study abroad in France (Summer 2014).
Study abroad in France (Summer 2014).
21st birthday in Chicago (October 2014).
21st birthday in Chicago (October 2014).
Habitat for Humanity trip (Winter 2014).
Habitat for Humanity trip (Winter 2014).
Slightly red ombre (today).
Slightly red ombre (today).

When You’re Feeling Down

Hello everyone, I’m feeling down today.  I know it’s a weird thing for me to say/admit, but it’s true.  I haven’t blogged in awhile or wrote anything worthwhile in a couple weeks.  It’s not about the views or the likes for me; it’s about how I feel while I write.  But I haven’t felt the need to write recently, and now I feel as though all of my thoughts are bottled up inside me.

Here are some things I’ve been feeling lately:

  1. Stressed
  2. Frustrated
  3. Not myself
  4. Afraid

I feel these emotions and feelings are quite normal, but I need to combat these feelings.  As an aspiring Buddhist, I believe acceptance and embracing is key; however, I don’t want to be “okay” with feeling blue.

Here are some things I am going to try in order to ease my anxiety:

  1. Take things one minute at a time
  2. Stop comparing myself to others
  3. Remember what I enjoy doing
  4. Live in the moment rather than in the past or future

I have two exams next week, on top of having to clean my room, my hamster’s smelly cage, packing for a trip up north, and having two jobs to hustle through.  Let’s just say that next weekend cannot come soon enough!  I need to just face facts and realize that my two exams are important, but will not make or break my life (although they may do that to the grade in my class).  I have always been the type who is stressing over exams and sweats the little stuff; I need to be my type-B self when it comes to my education.  Exams are exams, and exams are tough, but that shouldn’t define the day or week I’m having.

On top of the stress associated in school, I cannot stop comparing myself to other people.  Many of my friends have recently announced engagements or marriages, while I’m over here bickering with my boyfriend of almost three years like an old married couple.  We’re both stressed about work and classes, yet while we spend any amount of time together, we take that stress out on each other.  It’s not fair for either of us.  Also, many of my friends are graduating this May (I guess I “should” be, too).  I keep feeling like I’m struggling or something…?  I can’t really explain the feeling I have about it.  I guess my point is that I need to stop comparing myself, my grades, or my relationship with other people because I am my own person.  I know there are things that people think about me that they find impressive (hopefully).

Aside from writing, I have other passions believe it or not.  Maybe if I dig into my passions I won’t be comparing myself to others as much (it’s human nature – it’s bound to happen).  I really enjoy photography, playing the piano and the flute, as well as golfing.  I took homecoming photos for a good friend of mine who is running to be on court, and it made me realize that I really miss photography.  I started my own photography website via SquareSpace, and I will be publishing that live within the next few days or so.  Whenever I travel, I love capturing what I see because it brings back whatever I was feeling in that moment.  I need to keep up with that.

I have also been listening to a lot of Regina Spektor and Stromae lately, which has inspired me to play musical instruments again.  I took piano lessons as a child and I had the ability to be a concert performer, a music major, maybe even play for a living.  I turned it down when it became too challenging – I gave up on it.  But really, I gave up on myself.  I did the same thing with the flute; I was really good, but I couldn’t handle the competition.  We had to compete for “first chair,” where the best performer sat closest to the instructor.  I don’t want to be the best, but I want to be my best.  I want to play for me, no one else.

Looking on my past is both inspiring and depressing, and I mean that in the best way possible!  I look at things that I would have done different, but I would not have changed a single thing.  I am leaving for Sweden soon, which inspired me to look at a few photos from my previous study abroad adventure:

Lyon, France

Nice, France

Fourth of July, France

Lavender Fields, France

These photos bring me hope; they show me that happiness is real and that this is just a dark time right now.  I hope that I can feel like myself again soon, because I miss it when my cheeks hurt from smiling too much!  It’s always darkest before the dawn.

Market Dog, France

Aix, France

Lyon, France

Guise, France

Picnic time!

That’s all for now!  Sorry about the photo spam (not really)! 😉

Hamburg, Germany in Photographs

During my junior year of high school, I met a foreign exchange student named Saskia.  Saskia grew up in Hamburg, Germany, and never once did I imagine that we would become best friends.  It was hard parting ways with her; however, I knew it was not goodbye (just “see you later”).

Rather than having a graduation party the summer after, I decided to go on a three week trip to visit her and her parents.  It was the first foreign city I have experienced…and it sure hasn’t been the last!  Hamburg holds a special place in my heart, which has inspired me to travel even more.

These photos are not the best and are not edited whatsoever.  The few inserted in this post are some of the only photos I have on my desktop as we speak.  I wanted this post to feel immediate and as true to my feelings as much as possible; I miss Germany and I miss Saskia way too much.

I hope this post inspires you to look back on distant memories and own them; it is better to “feel all the feels” instead of masking your true, raw emotions.

My friend's home in Germany.
My friend’s home in Germany.
Petting zoo outside of the city!
Petting zoo outside of the city!

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When the monkey tried to steal my chapstick...
When the monkey tried to steal my chap-stick…
My German family
My German family
Uptown Hamburg, Germany
Uptown Hamburg, Germany
In the shopping district!
In the shopping district!
Hamburg nightlife!
Hamburg nightlife!
Alterhaus
Alsterhaus
Last night in Hamburg
Last night in Hamburg

Hopefully one day I can visit Hamburg, Germany again!  I also hope that you can revisit your favorite spot, or relive your most cherished memory…