Estoy Enferma

Being away from home is hard, especially when you are in a foreign country without any of your friends. Being away from your comfort zone and being sick is even worse.

Unfortunately I’ve spent these past few days sick and in bed. As soon as I realized I was sick, I wandered to a pharmacy, where I had to practice my Spanish with an extremely hoarse voice, sore throat and congestion. Thankfully the hand gestures for these ailments are international.

Unlike the United States, when you need some cold meds you can’t just wander into a CVS, grab some DayQuil and pay. The pharmacists here ask you what’s wrong, you explain and then they come back with some meds they think fit your symptoms. I got two different medicines, one for my throat and one for congestion that seem to be working pretty well.

I’m not as tired as I have been, but the long walk to school and through the metro is a little difficult. But the meds are definitely working.  I hope I’m better soon because I’ll be traveling to Italy and Greece next week!

I’ve had lots of rest and I am started to be able to function again. Food no longer makes me cringe, so I think that’s a good sign. I attempted to recreate my mom’s homemade chicken noodle soup in hopes of lifting my spirits. Granted, it’s nowhere near as delicious or comforting as her’s, it definitely made me feel a little better and closer to home.

This Girl Is-Raeli Here

If you’re wondering if I ever made it to Israel, I did. My flight (shout out to El Al!) landed on Thursday around noon. One of the very best parts about flying to Israel is that when the plane lands, everyone applauds. Whether it’s directed towards the pilots for getting there safely, the excitement of getting to Israel, or just sheer joy at being able to get out of the cramped place where each passenger has spent the last eleven long hours, every time I hear the cheering, I feel like a child arriving at Disney, and all exhaustion dissipates.

Amidst the confusion of returning to the ground a day later in a foreign country and figuring out where to go (shout out to Peter Luck!), I was headed to Kibbutz Shefayim, right outside of Tel Aviv, for a week-long orientation with my fellowship, The Nachshon Project.

Minutes after arriving at the Kibbutz, I found myself on a hike with four other Nachshon fellows. We chatted like we had known each other for years as we walked a path that led us to the edge of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The view was amazing, and as I stood with these wonderful people I somehow knew for less than an hour, I was assured that I was in the right place.

The view from the cliff.

The next week was a blur of wild experiences. We had fellowship sessions about what we value and what we want out of our futures. We visited the headquarters of Wix and Snowball Animation, two Israel start-ups. We wandered around Tel Aviv, visiting historic sites, shopping malls, and coastlines. We hopped on a merry-go-round on the boardwalk at Namal (Port of) Tel Aviv and waved to perplexed beach-goers on the sidelines. We visited the Israel branch of Google. We made sushi, and we had a drum circle on the beach, complete with a bonfire and s’mores. And at the end of the day, we piled into a room and continued our conversations and learned more about each other.


Tel Aviv

As we rolled out of Tel Aviv on Wednesday and headed to Hebrew University, I felt immensely grateful to have had a chance to meet these twenty fantastic people. Any pre-semester-at-a-new-school-in-a-new-country jitters I may have had were majorly diminished by sharing the experience with them.

Next stop: Jerusalem!

Two Week Update

It’s hard to believe two weeks have already passed by! I feel as though my first fourteen days have both flown by and passed leisurely at the same time. I’m beginning to get my bearings and figure out how to get around London, but I still have much to learn. Here have been some highlights thus far:

Iceskating at Somerset House- One of the first thing we did upon arrival in London was visit the ice rink at Somerset House. Somerset House was one of the most beautiful and incredible places I’ve ever been, and skating there was truly blissful. Whether I was laughing at my friends slowly shuffling around, or falling on the ice myself, I couldn’t help but appreciate the history and romance of this brilliant city. Our ice skating excursion will forever be one of my favorite memories of London and always mark the first time I felt at home in London.

First Pub Excursion- During my first weekend in London, Lizzy, my good friend from home, and I ventured to The Crown, a pub near our study center. Going to pubs is now one of my favorite things to do, but our first trip to The Crown was extra special because we had the pleasure of making friends with three great British women. Our new friends are teachers from across Britain and taught us about British culture and how to fit in well. I’m so happy our first trip to a pub resulted in a lovely new friendship.

The British Museum- I am so incredibly lucky to be living less than two hundred yards from The British Museum. I’ve already been three times, and I cannot wait to discover of the treasures this museum holds. My favorite rooms are the Ancient Rome and Greek rooms, which are full of some of the greatest artifacts I have ever seen. I love the fact that many of classes use the British Museum as their classrooms and I look forward to learning so much there.

The Commitments- On Tuesday the 13th, we saw the West End show the The Commitments, which is about an Irish band from Dublin trying to make it big singing Motown classics. I thought the show was very good, and I loved the music. I laughed often, and enjoyed singing along at the end of the show. I cannot wait to see more West End Shows!

Clubbing at The Roxy- Thursday and Saturday nights, a large group of us went out to The Roxy, a dance club and bar near the study centre. I loved both trips, and can’t wait to visit more clubs around London. The Roxy plays fun music everyone knows and feels both intimate and big at the same time. I’m hoping this semester will have many more fun nights like these.

Day Trip to St. Alban’s and Harry Potter Studios- On our second Friday in Britain, we had a day trip to St. Alban’s Cathedral, Roman theater ruins, and Harry Potter Studios. St.Alban’s was a sweet little town with a huge and lovely Cathedral, and a very cute park with many swans swimming around. The Roman ruins were interesting to me, but we were only there for a short time, so I didn’t get a chance too see much. Harry Potter Studios was a great end to the day and so much fun! It was exciting to see where and how some of my favorite movies were made, and I even got a picture flying on a broomstick! While Friday was a long day of traveling, it was certainly worth it to visit several iconic British destinations.

The Imperial War Museum- I was very impressed with the Imperial War Museum! I have never been well educated on either World War, and I felt as though I learned more in a few hours in this museum than I did in any high school history class. The museum had interesting interactive exhibits and I was pleasantly surprised by how much this museum sparked my interest and taught me over the course of an afternoon.

It’s been a busy two weeks and I can’t wait to see what the next three months hold!


Hallo from Germany!

After spending around twelve hours traveling, I am finally here in Germany! This is my third day in the country and I think I am just now getting over the jet lag. I first flew from Orlando to Frankfurt and my plane left at 8:30pm! The flight was around nine hours long, and it was very hard to sleep on the plane! When you go on the jumbo jet, they make you walk past the first class seats with all of the leg room and comfortable seats, so when you get to the economy class you are very tempted to upgrade!!! I then flew over to Hanover, and I am pretty sure that even though I was on a smaller plane, I had more leg room, as my laptop case could actually fit in the seat! I am now staying in a village called Bessingen with some friends. It is 34 degrees outside, but no snow yet! I am hoping that it will snow later in the week since I have never seen it! My friends here have a farm and it is nice to see all of the animals and the country life! Most of the houses here are over 100 years old but are still in perfect condition! In Germany it is very different as they have a bunch of villages that are all close to each other, whereas in America we have the neighborhoods and subdivisions. I do not arrive at Osnabrück until February 2nd, and I will start a month long language school before my actual classes which start in March! I hear that there is a big Carnival there, kind of similar to Mardi Gras (but with more clothes since it is still winter)!!!

I will post more pictures later as I get more settled in, but I still have 6 months to do so!

Until then, Auf Wiedersehen!

High of 39 with a 20% Chance of Rain

If you would have asked me a couple months ago what the weather will be like when I land in Manchester, England, I would have said cold and rainy; I can now confirm that when I land in Manchester, it will indeed be cold and rainy! The fact that my phone app is now able to tell me the weather forecast starting with the days I will actually be in England means that in no time I will be there myself!

10 day forecast predicts that on January 22, when I land, it will be a high of 39, with a 20% chance of rain.

Right now I am still in Gainesville working full time. It is weird being at UF without actually going to class. Everyone is getting their syllabi and starting on reading their textbooks, and I am just trying to squeeze in every last minute I have with my friends (and squeeze is an understatement). The school I’ll be attending doesn’t start classes until the 26th of January, which is bittersweet. It means that I was given an extended winter break, but it also means I have to wait longer before I can get over there.

My excitement about studying abroad is continuing to grow, but so is my anxiety. I am the only University of Florida student studying at Manchester this semester, so that means that I’m going in this alone. The two things I am most nervous about are not making friends and failing a class, respectively.

I just got my housing assignment a couple days ago, and I am still one class short for the semester, but everything is slowly falling into place. I know that with every day that passes, my trip is getting closer, but it still feels so far away. I know that the time leading up to my semester abroad may feel like forever, but once I get over there it will go faster than the blink of an eye.

There are so many things that have made me believe that I am supposed to be in England this spring, and so many things that make me question if this is what I should be doing. I thank God for my amazing friends that continue to speak truth into my life. I’ll leave you with a bible verse that hangs above the door from Lauren’s bathroom (my amazing friend who is graciously letting me stay with her before I leave… seeing as I am currently homeless), that helped settle some of my restless emotions:

“A persons steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?”

– Proverbs 20:24

Goodbye Florida!

“Aren’t you nervous to be going there?”

I’m in Gainesville for the day, getting a final pedicure with my roommate (shout out to Jacklyn Locklear!) as a “last hurrah” gesture before I leave. We’re talking casually about my upcoming trip, when the blonde, middle-aged woman a few chairs down leans forward and asks, “Aren’t you nervous to be going there?”

By “there” she means Jerusalem, Israel, where I will be studying for the next five months as a student at Hebrew University.

I scan my brain for any signs of nervousness. I feel sad—to be separated from my family and friends for a long time; to be missing events like the birthdays of my siblings, my friends’ graduations, and our annual family reunion; to have eaten my last Chipotle burrito bowl for a while.

I’m anxious because I’ve been to Target more times this week than the average shopper goes in a year, but I still am stressed about packing for my trip, because as much as I love traveling, I abhor packing.

I’m also terribly excited. I can’t wait to be living in such a beautiful country, to perfect my Hebrew, to shop at the shuk (the marketplace) and eat everything and live and learn with one of my very best friends (shout out to Megan Zimmer!) and meet new people and eat hummus and have amazing adventures.

But nervous? Nah.

“But all the stuff going on there!”

By “stuff” she means the portrayal of the Arab-Israeli conflict in American media.

The thing is, there’s “stuff” going on everywhere and anywhere. “Stuff” happened in Paris, it happened at Florida State University, it happens. But if we live in fear of it, we’re not really living.

Tomorrow is the day. The goodbyes are bittersweet, but I’m excited for the adventure I’m about to embark upon. I’m about to live and learn in a complex and beautiful country for five months.

I’m excited. I’m elated. I’m ready…and a bit nervous that everything won’t fit in my bags.

Next Stop, Paris

It’s Friday night, three days before my flight to Paris, and I’m spending it in a pile of clothes, suitcases, and last minute indulgent purchases made at Target and the Container Store.

I am in that “I need absolutely everything I come across” stage of packing for my trip, and in retrospect, someone definitely should have supervised my travel shopping. Backup toothbrush in a collapsible case? Essential. Mini cord wrap for my headphones on the plane? Can’t live without it. Slowly but surely though, I’m shrinking the scattered pile on my bedroom floor and filling a suitcase (or two – jury is still out on how many sweaters and scarves it will take to get me through a French winter).

Earlier this morning, I received a phone call from my mom updating me on the status of the terrorist attacks in Paris and immediately grabbed a newspaper to brush up on the newest updates.

For anyone who hasn’t had the chance to catch every detail, 12 staff members of French magazine Charlie Hebdo were killed in an office shooting in Paris on Wednesday. Since then, there have been two different hostage situations in other parts of Paris that police report as being linked to the Charlie Hebdo shooting. BBC has a really well-made timeline that gets into greater detail about the events of the past couple of days.

I think that when traveling to another “Western” country, it’s easy to forget that there are still cultural tensions and political concerns that we’re not immediately familiar with. The warnings about things like this happening and affecting international travelers always seem so removed and (maybe naively), the reality that something like this could happen just days before I arrive didn’t cross my mind.

I know that it’s going to have an impact on us in some way as we travel. The country is currently at its highest level of security alert and being carefully patrolled by police. Under French law, all visitors are required to carry identification and a copy of his or her passport at all times, and I’ve heard that random checks on the street have become much more commonplace in the past couple of days.

It’s been a weird experience, shifting from being concerned with how many pairs of boots I can get away with bringing to registering with the U.S. State Department for safety and fielding phone calls from concerned family members about my travel plans. The UFIC and all of our Warrington study abroad advisors have been consistently communicating with us and keeping us posted on the latest news as we prepare to arrive in Paris, and we’re all fully prepped to have a safe study abroad experience.

All neurotic packing habits aside, I’m getting excited and eager to get going. My roommate and I have been messaging on Facebook about all of the trips we hope to take and using blogs to stake out the best food, coffee and nightlife spots for an experience beyond the average tourist’s. I feel so ready for whatever happens next and can’t wait for the start of it all.

Finally in Madrid.

Adios America!

I said my goodbyes and made it to Madrid. My mom and I cried in the airport. It was hard to leave my family for five months, but I have planned this trip to Madrid for years and it was finally my time to go.

It still hasn’t hit me that I get to stay in this amazing city  and I don’t think it ever actually will.

I arrived here Saturday morning around 8:30 a.m. Madrid time. My flights went pretty smoothly after I rearranged some overweight luggage. I flew from Tampa to Philly, and Philly to Madrid. I had a nice night’s sleep on the plane ride over and I was wide-eyed and ready to take on my first day in Madrid.

My apartment is cozy and I am sharing it with five other girls in the UF in Madrid program. We each have our own bedroom and two and a half bathrooms to share. So far, so good. When I first saw my room and bed I was a little shocked. Even my Broward dorm freshman year was bigger than this. But after I unpacked and got settled it really wasn’t bad at all. I adjusted fast, because you know what I’M IN MADRID.

I am fortunate enough to know a few people here in Madrid and I was so excited to see a good friend of mine, Marta. Marta lived with me for a summer in high school and then I got to come live with her family for a summer. She is pretty much my Spanish sister. I haven’t seen her in four years, but we spent an afternoon together walking around Sol, which is in the center of the city. The fun thing about Marta is she doesn’t speak much English so I had to really use my Spanish to talk to her and catch up. I had no idea I knew so much Spanish. We encountered some pretty awesome sights in Plaza Mayor. Check out the photo.

Marta and I had a blast together wandering around Madrid.
Besides being excited about seeing old friends and living in this awesome city I am so excited for the food. It’s amazing. I don’t even know how to do it justice with words. The food will definitely be getting its own blog post. Jamón Ibérico may just be the love of my life and the tapas and coffee and oh my, just all of it.  You’ll see.

I explained my food excitement to my mom and she’s a little worried I may gain some weight. Let me tell you there’s no way I am gaining weight with all this walking and the hills and stairs. Side note: I am TERRIFIED of escalators, so I will be climbing up lots of stairs. If anything, I am coming back with nice muscular calves and a toned butt. I’m sure of it.

Greetings from the Charlotte International Airport!

Hello from Charlotte, my last American stop before I hop across the pond! While I’m not ready for eight hours on an airplane, I am ready for the incredible semester that lies ahead of me. Packing wasn’t easy (fifty pounds is a very small amount!) and saying goodbye to my friends and family was tough, but I’m looking forward to four months in one of my favorite cites. I love all things British, and I’m ready to trade in my small-town life in Tallahassee (my hometown) and Gainesville (my college town) for the hustle and bustle of a big city. Since I was a little girl, I’ve heard stories from my dad, aunt, and grandma about the spring semester they spent over there, on the same program that I will be on. My grandfather was a Florida State professor and when my dad was in fifth grade, Grandpa Jim decided to spend a semester teaching at the FSU London Study Centre and brought the whole family along with him. I’m excited to be celebrating the fortieth anniversary of my family’s semester abroad walking in their footsteps and making my own stories. Although a lot has likely changed in forty years, I’m glad I get to share this experience with my family and hope it will bring us closer together.

I hope you follow along with my great adventure via this blog! I’ll be updating it at least once a week with my latest experiences, travels, and funny stories.

Here’s to Spring 2015. May it be filled with laughter, joy, and memories that will last a lifetime.

Michaela: Spring in Paris

Michaela BisienereMichaela is a University of Florida student studying abroad this Spring in Paris, France. If you want to learn more about her program, click here: UF in Paris – Business

  • What is your year and academic concentration?
    I’m a junior journalism major pursuing a concentration or a minor in business.
  • Have you traveled abroad before? If so, where and for what purpose?
    I’ve traveled to Paris, France and Bogota, Colombia in the past. I traveled to Paris twice, once to stay with family friends for a month over the summer vacation while I was in high school and once on a shorter trip as a high school graduation present. I traveled to Bogota during high school through a non-profit project that I began with a friend who was from Colombia.
  • Why did you choose the program you’re studying on?
    I will be studying abroad in Paris, France. I had such a hard time choosing where to study abroad and spent ages trying to pick a place. The programs through the business school seemed to fit really well into the classes I needed to take for my business concentration, and so I narrowed it down to the four cities offered (Paris, London, Rome, and Madrid). I changed my mind more times than I can count, but in the end my love of the French language and captivation with the city of Paris kept nagging at me. I’ve always wanted to become fluent in French, and studying abroad in Paris while taking intensive language classes seemed like the best opportunity for me to do so.
  • What are some of your interests and hobbies?
    I love traveling in every form, particularly road trips and exploring new places. I’ve always loved music and seeing my favorite musicians play live, and I’m a total foodie – my goal is to try as many new restaurants and foods as I can while abroad. To relax, my favorite thing to do is cook or bake. As a journalism major, I read everything I can get my hands on. From news websites to magazines to long novels, I like all kinds of literature and always have stacks of books and magazines covering every surface of my room.