Winning London

The thing I was most excited about when I decided to study abroad was the traveling. As much as I really am enjoying some of my courses here, nothing compares to the thrill of being able to casually book a weekend trip to Prague and Budapest. My exciting travel adventures kicked off this last week with the first stop being London. Originally, London was not on my bucket list of places to go while in England, because I went a couple years back when I was in high school. However, I told myself if the opportunity presented itself, I would do it. Well, as you may have guess, the opportunity came! One of the very first days here, I met an amazing girl named Melissa. We happened to both be trying out the same church, and it was both of our first weeks in Manchester. She is from Canada and is in Manchester looking for a 6 month job opportunity. She happened to intern last year in London for a fashion designer, and presented me with the opportunity to go to London Fashion Week with her. We set off Saturday morning and caught the bus that left at 7 AM. So, this meant I had to catch the bus from my dorm to Piccadilly Gardens at 6 AM, which meant that I had to wake up at 5:00 AM to pack and get ready. Needless to say, it was the start to a long weekend! We caught the bus (which is half the price of a train ticket, but double the time) and arrived in London at 11:30 AM.

Our first stop was food… what else? We hopped over to Camden area and we went to this outdoor market where there were food stands from all over the world. After many taste samples, I decided on Peruvian. 2015-02-21 12.16.37 2015-02-21 12.19.56 2015-02-21 12.36.17 HDRAfter lunch we went to our hostel to check in and drop off our stuff. It was the first time I had stayed in a hostel. In my services marketing class, we are learning about different ways that consumers judge the quality of a service, such as a hostel room. One way is through the value-based method, where you measure how good the service quality was compared to the price. So, for 10 quid a night, I can say the hostel was lovely.

Up next: becoming tourists! 2015-02-21 14.55.14I think back to when I was in 10th grade and went to London. Trying to be the cool high school kid I was, I wanted to do everything in my power to not look like a tourist. Since graduating high school, I have given up hope on being cool, so the selfie stick came out, and with no shame! We walked what seemed like 4 miles to the tower bridge. Then, we hit up Big Ben, the London eye, Westminster abbey and finished the last bit of sunlight with Trafalgar square and the National Gallery. For dinner, we split an apple and pulled pork pizza and then enjoyed some cold (very very cold) night air at Piccadilly Circus, which seems like the London version of New York City’s Times Square, but I wouldn’t know. 2015-02-21 14.31.41 2015-02-21 14.55.492015-02-21 15.01.322015-02-21 15.45.12 2015-02-21 15.03.38 HDR 2015-02-21 15.47.52 

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The next day, we woke up early and made our way to the Ethologie Fashion Show by Japser Garvida. Afterwards, we walked about the venue a little bit and grabbed some Starbucks. We spent the rest of our free time just enjoying London. 2015-02-22 10.57.31 2015-02-22 11.23.11 HDR

2015-02-22 12.58.03 HDR Before heading back home, we went to the church that Melissa used to go to when she lived in London. It was such a great end to such a great weekend. Last thing left to do was take the long journey back to Manchester. I got back to my dorm room at 2 AM Monday. My springy mattress has never been so sweet. What do you do when you’re at London’s Fashion Week and you just don’t fit in? Shake It Off! (Click on the “Shake It Off” to see our Shake It Off- London edition)

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Two Weeks Out

Sorry I haven’t made a post in a while. Not very much has been going on outside of me preparing for my trip. I didn’t want to have half a dozen posts of the boring logistical stuff; I kind of wanted to sum up the experience I had planning to move to a new country for five months along with some tips I wish someone would have told me at the start.
The first thing that I really did was make sure I had a place to stay in Germany. I’m not sure if I mentioned it before, but I’m staying in a dorm called Coppi and Hilde in Berlin. It’s about 30-45 minutes away from campus, and I’ll have two roommates. While it’s not my first choice, I’m glad I got a dorm, as apparently availability was very limited. I’m threatened by the distance my dorm is from school. I will have to get really familiar with the public transportation system in Berlin very quickly.

The next major thing I looked into was getting a cellphone while in Germany. When I moved to Gainesville to go to UF last year, my smartphone really helped me figure out the bus system here. Now I find it an easy and convenient way of getting around the city and school. I looked into a variety of options, but what seemed to be the best option was bringing an American phone and putting a German SIM card into it. The way cell phones work over there is that the SIM card will allow you access to the cell network. From what I’ve read online, SIM cards are all over: in drugstores, big supermarkets, and sometimes even in gas stations. There are limitations, however. If you were thinking of bringing an American phone to any European country, the phone will have to operate on different “bands” or frequencies in order to access the European cell phone network. Most newer American cell phones do. If they’re a “tri-band” or “quad-band” phone, you’re typically okay. The phone needs to have the capacity to run on 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequencies in order to access the GSM network, and it needs to be able to run on 2100 MHz in order to access the faster 3G network. In order to check whether the phone you want to bring can access those frequencies, just google your phone and within the first couple of webpages you should be able to find the specs. If having a working cell phone as soon as you land is important to you, you may want to look into buying an international sim card from a company such as Cellular Abroad. Compared to the SIM cards that are purchased in Germany I’ve read about, such cards seem much more expensive. One thing that is important to me and may not be as important to others is having a relatively large amount of data available. It seems to be the trend that with the SIM cards you can purchase that online only a measly amount of data is included in their rate, with an extra package available for purchase. This can easily drive the monthly cost of cellphone use up to $100 a month. This is still much cheaper than incurring roaming charges on your cell plan, so it may be something worth looking into for many people.
The final thing that I’ve been concerning myself with lately is money. For my dorm, I will have to pay first month’s rent and a security deposit in cash the day after my arrival. I will also need to buy my SIM card, food, pay for registration for the pre-semester course I’m taking, and open a German bank account. Altogether, that will come up to a lot of money that I believe I will need within a few days of my arrival in Germany. The first thing I did was get a credit card with no foreign transaction fee. I went to a site called that will give you a credit score for free and suggest cards to apply for. One should be aware that despite the card not having any fee, if you exchange currencies in your purchase, you will incur a 1% charge from VISA. I’m not sure how often I’ll use the card, but even if it’s just for emergencies it’s nice to have. Something else to take into account is that in Europe a chip and pin card is more popular. While the US is turning around to the new cards, chances are your card doesn’t have the chip inside of it that is needed for use in Europe. I’ve read online that most places will accept cards that only have the magnetic strip, and that you’ll only really run into trouble with some machines. This brings me to my next point: apparently the best way to get money is through an ATM in Germany. The exchange rate on an ATM is supposed to be better than that which American banks would give, and because they are so widespread, it is easy to find one. There are a few things to watch out for though. First off, your bank probably has a charge for using an ATM that’s not theirs and  there will also probably be a foreign transaction fee. For instance, with Wells Fargo (one of the banks I use) there is a $5 charge for using a foreign ATM and a 3% foreign transaction fee for each withdrawal. Another good option seems to be going into a foreign financial institution such as a bank or even a post office. They are supposed to have really good exchange rates as well, and you may avoid charges that you would incur by using an ATM (such as the $5 charge from Wells Fargo) All sites that I’ve read seem to agree on one thing: DO NOT use the exchange booths at the airport. The sites consistently argue that of all options, the booths offer the worst rates. One last bit of info: I’ve also read that one should avoid having vendors do the exchange themselves, their rate is typically pretty horrible. When you can, pay for things in the local currency.

Well those were kind of the big three things that I’ve been stressing about. I’m surprisingly not very anxious, and as the day draws nearer and nearer I get more excited. Tomorrow, my sister is picking me up and we’re going back to Tampa to see our parents. I’m going to just stay the week there since I fly out of Tampa International on the 28th. This will probably be my last couple of days in Gainesville until the fall semester starts up in August; so that’s kinda weird to me. I’m excited to be able to spend time with my family before I leave, but I do wish I had more time with my friends in Gainesville. Hopefully when I get back everything will be just the same!

I will do at least one more post before I leave.

Bis nächstes Mal!

One Month Anniversary!

It has been a month since my arrival to Israel. There is finally almost a routine to my pre-semester life here (Ulpan ends on Wednesday, and the semester will begin officially on Sunday). I wake up and make breakfast with two of my roommates (shout out to Megan and Mel), typically some variation of eggs, vegetables, pita, and hummus. Then we make the fifteen minute walk uphill to campus, where five hours of intensive Hebrew class awaits us. After class, there is either a Nachshon fellowship seminar or a free afternoon to grab groceries at the shuk, visit friends, do homework, or explore the city.

However routine the day can be, I’ve had so many fantastic experiences, I could write a novel already. But I’ve decided to spare you that, so here are the top five:

1. Israeli Basketball Game – If I thought the Florida Gator basketball games were intense, I may have been mistaken. The Nachshon Project took us to see Hapoel Jerusalem play Maccabi Rishon LeZion. Fans on both sides, dressed in either red or orange, were very vocal, singing and chanting and waving their scarves in the air. Each side even had fans with large drums they would bang at any given opportunity. Before the game we met with the “Jewish Jordan”, Tamir Goodman, who told us his amazing and inspiring story that landed him in Sports Illustrated, wrapped in t’fillin. After the game, we met with Tony Gaffney, a Boston native playing for Jerusalem, who got to share with us the love he had developed for this country.


2. Inspiring people – I’ve had the opportunity to meet amazing people, in my fellowship, in my Ulpan class, and in the community. For example, we got to meet with Rabbi Susan Silverman, the sister of comedian Sarah Silverman, who is an amazing activist. We chatted with former AP reporter, Matti Friedman; Michael Yakobi, who runs social media for the Israel Defense Forces; and Rabbi Tamar Elad Applebaum, who spoke to us of her journey, her passion for learning, and the community she started in Jerusalem.

3. Weekends away – As much as I adore Jerusalem, the rest of the country is equally exciting to explore. I spent a weekend with some friends in Tel Aviv, enjoying the drastically different atmosphere (and the beach!). This past weekend, the Nachshon fellows traveled to Jaffa, where we got to meet with Jewish leaders from the Orthodox, Masorti (Israeli Conservative), and Reform movements. Next weekend: Eilat!

4. Shokoland Chocolate Festival – During our time in Jaffa, a few of us headed to the Old Train Station in Tel Aviv for my simultaneous chocolate-loving dream and lactose-intolerant nightmare. There were multiple warehouse filled with everything chocolate imaginable—chocolate-covered fruit, chocolate-dipped ice cream, chocolate truffles, chocolate shots (both alcoholic and syringe), chocolate iPhones, and even chocolate schawarma, shaved off a block of chocolate, and wrapped in a pancake.

5. The Old City – We finally got to walk around the Old City and explore. Not only did we get blessed by a Hassidic man (shout out to the future husbands he promised we would find!), Megan and I bought personalized matching silver rings from Hadaya, engraved with a quote in Hebrew that translates to, “Jerusalem reveals itself to those who love it.” Indeed, we have continued to find the beauty and fall further in love with this city, and it has shown us how fantastic it can be.


In a Fortnight

So here is my attempt to cover the past two weeks of my life.

Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way. (Feel free to skip this part. I feel legally obligated to mention I am actually taking classes, so here you go mom and dad!)


There aren’t many differences to class back home, but there are some. First off, for every 10-credit class (which is equivalent to 3 credit hours), you only have one two-hour lecture a week. Some classes have seminar (which is equivalent to discussions), but they are every other week, at most. I have one class, Globalization and MNE’s, and have 3 seminars the whole time I am here, and then I have some classes that don’t have seminars at al. I go to class all day Monday and Tuesday and then until 12PM on Wednesday, and then my weekend begins! One thing that is different in the classes here is that they assign reading that you actually have to read! One class has 3 core textbooks, and then more assigned reading on top of that. It will be hard to tell how I am doing in my classes because for most of them, my grade is 100% determined on the exam at the end of the semester; so all questions of “how are you doing in your classes” will get the automatic response of “ask me in 5 months.” I honestly couldn’t tell you.

Social Life:

This is the section for everyone who is scared that I am sitting in my dorm room, alone, every night watching Friends on Netflixs and wishing I actually had some. Don’t worry, I do! (although that doesn’t necessarily stop me from watching Friends every night)

There is an international society set up by the College of Business here, and I have gotten to meet some amazing people from around the world. I also have a catered dorm, which means I eat breakfast and dinner in my hall, and that has also given me the opportunity to meet some of the nicest people from the University of Manchester.



Since I don’t have classes on Friday, I met up with my friend Amanda (she is from South California and I love her to death!) and we decided we should get to know the city we are living in! We started off in China Town, where we went to Ho’s bakery and got some delicious snacks for our long adventure. We got to go to the John Ryland’s Library, which was absolutely beautiful! They even had a little piece of the New Testament displayed, dating back to biblical times. After the library, we went to the People Museum, which was really interesting. It explained what life was like in England during WWII. There was so much more on our list of things to do, but we just didn’t have the time. We ended our night at a little pub on the way back to our dorms, and there was a group of guys from Scotland on a stag do (bachelor party). Needless to say, we had some pretty interesting conversations…


This past weekend, I got the amazing opportunity to go to Liverpool. Liverpool is only about an hour outside of Manchester, and it happens to be where a couple guys I met on my cruise last summer live. They were gracious enough to invite me for the weekend, and I am so happy they did! They gave me the best tour of the town (limited to The King David’s school, The Butterworth mansion, The Loveday castle, and Tesco Express). In case you couldn’t tell my sarcasm, they actually didn’t show me the town at all! We went out the first night and I had such a great time and so many laughs. On Sunday, we hung out all day waiting for the super bowl at 11:30PM (yes, that is what time it started over here in England).

It was such a refreshing weekend, after feeling pretty alone for the first week here. The boys in Liverpool feel like my British family, and it was nice just being myself with people who already knew me. I’ve already informed them that it wasn’t the last time they would be seeing me.

As I write this blog, I am realizing how much has happened in just two short weeks. Sometime it feels like I’ve been here for months, yet it’s already all going by so fast! I will try my best to keep up with my blog so that I can write more detailed and interesting posts.

London is My Classroom

After having been here nearly a month, I’m starting to get deeper into my coursework and thought I might share about the exciting courses I’m taking while abroad! In case you didn’t know, I am a Classics major, with minors in English and Communication, and while I am here in London I am taking class that fit in with my major and minors. I love the liberal arts focus of the Florida State Program, and am excited to share about my classes and their amazing excursions. Some programs will say that your city is your classroom when you study abroad with them, and Florida State surely lives up to that promise. Whether my class is meeting at the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, or in the classroom, I learn so much about London and my class subjects every day.

My Monday class is a Classics class called The Roman Family. Our professor is quite accomplished in the classics field, having worked at many archeological sites, and the British Museum. She’s an amazing lady, and often teaches us in the British Museum. I’ve learned lots from her lectures there and enjoy seeing the Greek and Roman rooms through her eyes.

Tuesday I have Introduction to Shakespeare, which fits in with my English major. While Shakespeare may not be my favorite author, I’ve still had fun reading Romeo and Juliet in class and seeing plays with this class. So far we’ve seen Henry IV at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and The Changeling at the Wanamaker theater inside the Globe. Both plays were amazing, and it was so invigorating to see the words we read in class come to life in their own country. We also visited the National Portrait Gallery to look at the paintings of the Tudors to better understand what people looked like in Shakespearean time. This is probably my most challenging class; however, it feels rewarding to learn so much about the rich history of England through Shakespeare.

Each Wednesday, I have to write and memorize a speech to give in front of my fifteen person Public Speaking class, that qualifies for my Communication minor. It’s a little nerve wracking to give speeches in front of my peers, but my professor is one of the most interesting people I have ever met, and I am certain my public speaking will be much better after this course. We haven’t been on any excursions yet, but I am already mentally preparing to be heckled while giving a speech at Hyde Park corner, and speaking to random people on the subway.

Our week ends on Thursday, after my favorite class, British Life and Culture. My professor for this class is incredibly intelligent and also works as a correspondent for BBC (he even covered Will and Kate’s wedding!). Each week we discuss the similarities and differences between the US and Britain. We look at facts, statistics, and personal narratives to try to better explain each culture and the stereotypes related to it. Last week, we had a field trip to Abbey Road, where we were able to recreate The Beatles crosswalk album cover, thanks to the help of our brave professor who helped block traffic to get us a good shot. We also learned about the significance of the studio where they recorded, and discussed the impact of The Beatles on British culture. I look forward to learning more about the relationship between the US and Britain in this class!

I love that each week, I walk away with so much new knowledge about London and how to make the most of my experience here. From Shakespeare to the Beatles, I’ll never forget this opportunity to learn about this country and literally walk in the footsteps of some of it’s most famous citizens. While I do miss the great UF classrooms, I think I have found the greatest classroom of all: London.


A Love Story

I’m in love.

It’s only been a week. But I have fallen in love.

I’m in love with this city.

I love that buildings are all made out of the same beautiful stone. I love that men with black hats and beards ride the train next to women in olive army uniforms. I love that all of the toilets have two flush options to conserve water. I love that the stoplights turn from green to yellow to red and back to yellow again, gearing Israeli drivers to go. I love that I can go to the shuk (market) and buy fresh, delicious produce for half the price of a grocery store from the same shopkeepers every time (shout out to our Vegetable Man!). I love that on Fridays and Saturdays, people in the street call out “Shabbat Shalom!” (“Have a peaceful Sabbath”) because it’s a normal greeting and also normal to talk people you don’t know. I love the hummus. I love that people open their homes when there’s nowhere to go for dinner. I love that I can see the Old City and the Dome of the Rock from my kitchen, with the sun coming into through the big windows and washing our white tile apartment in light.

The view from my kitchen

Of course, it’s not all fun and games and romance. I started Ulpan at the university, our intensive Hebrew training before the semester starts in February. The majority of orientation was spent informing us of which neighborhoods to avoid for safety purposes and what to do if we hear the sirens, signaling a rocket missile approaching. The attacks on the Light Rail train were only a few stops away from my station. The synagogue stabbing took place a few miles away. It’s an unfortunate reality for this beautiful city.

However, as a friend who has been studying here all year (shout out to Naomi Bennett!) told me, as we discussed this over dinner, “We cannot allow ourselves to be victims of terror.”

So we don’t. We go to our intensive Hebrew classes for five hours each day, pouring over foreign language textbooks with students from all over the globe. We ride public transportation. We explore and talk to strangers and try new foods. We’re careful, but we’re trusting. We don’t take anything for granted and we live. We live for those who are consumed by hatred and we live for those who no longer can, unfortunately, because of this hatred.

And what’s better to combat hatred? A good love story.

Sunday, Crepe Day

Hello everyone! I’ve officially been in Paris for about two weeks now, and I can’t get over how quickly life here has started to feel normal. Our campus is located in the city’s 6th arrondissement (a French word that means district) – the perfect location to access any part of the city with a quick ride on the metro or a walk through the winding streets and alleyways.

We just finished the first week of our on-campus classes (no Friday classes at St. John’s!) and the 11 of us here from UF have already booked our first trip. Come St. Patrick’s Day weekend, you’ll find us in Dublin, Ireland to celebrate the holiday and check out Dublin, Galway and the Cliffs of Moher for a long weekend.

Sundays in Paris are a completely different atmosphere than every other day of the week. The charming little patisseries, restaurants and boutiques on our street close their doors and pull down the grates, as it’s an almost city-wide day off. In search of some food, we wandered over to the Île de la Cité, the miniature natural island in the Seine River where the famous Notre Dame cathedral is located. There’s a crepe stand just around the corner that will stuff a perfect pancake with sweeter fillings Nutella, coconut, strawberries, and bananas, or with cheese, mushrooms, veggies and ham. The cheapest and most filling meal I’ve had in Paris, this spot is about to become my new Sunday staple.


After eating crepes on the corner behind the cathedral, we ended up at Shakespeare and Company, one of the most famous bookstores in the world that was frequented by Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Allen Ginsburg and other famous writers and poets. It immediately became my favorite place I’ve visited in Paris (or anywhere, for that matter). Upstairs, we escaped the cold in the cozy reading rooms to pet the fluffy white cat that lives among the bookshelves and sang around the piano that’s open to anyone’s use with some new French friends.

It was the perfect use of a chilly, sleepy day in this city that grows more on me every day.

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!