Euroadventure 1

Hey all! About last week, my fellow blogger and friend Leslie Kempers and I collaborated and wrote a blog on our adventures during the Vienna Summer School! If you want to read it (which I suggest you do!) here is the link! CLICK HERE!! The program has two sessions, May Term and June Term. Leslie was there for just the May Term, but I was there for both! So what I’m going to do is split it up into a two-part series, Euroadventure 1, 2, & 3! Here is the first part! I hope you enjoy it!

EUROADVENTURE 1: ROMA, ITALIA

After the May Term session ended, students staying for both sessions had a free weekend. So, what do you do in Europe with a free weekend? TRAVEL. My best bud Joey and myself had planned a trip to Rome for that free weekend in MARCH. Crazy to think we planned that far ahead! But, another companion joined us for an adventure of a lifetime, our very own MEG! So, the day after everyone flew back home, we headed to the airport and were ROMA bound. What a crazy long day it was. After the arriving at Fiumicino Airport in Rome, we took a lengthy bus ride to the Roma Termini station where we got on the line A metro to our “hotel.” I put hotel in quotes because it really was a camping village of sorts, but it was SO COOL! We had our own bungalow, with a fully functioning bathroom and beds. It was neat! After arriving, it was very late, so we just crashed.

We woke up early because we knew it would be a long long day. After getting ready, it was time to explore Rome. This day was perfect weather. The weather was supposed to be awful with thunderstorms, but it worked out in our favor. We literally visited as many monuments and landmarks as possible. Here is a list of what we did/saw!

  • Coliseum
  • Roman Forum
  • Palatine Hill
  • Spanish Steps
  • Piazza Navona
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Vatican City

After our long day, we headed back to our bungalow to just debrief on our day and our adventures, and just hung out which was so fun. The best thing about our adventures was that we didn’t do everything in a particular order. If anything, we LITERALLY meandered the city and ended up at these places. We headed to bed after our long day because our trip back to Vienna was extensive. We took a taxi to Ciampino Airport (Rome’s Regional Airport) and flew to Bratislava, Slovakia. From there, we took a train to Vienna.

If you ever get the chance to go to Rome, do it. There is just so much history and culture to learn. Oh, and the pasta and food are out of this world. Here are some of our pictures from our trip. Look forward for the next part of the series coming soon! Thanks for reading!

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Vienna: Now or Never

Welcome back, everyone! This past May, Marvin (one of our fellow bloggers!!!) and I had the chance to go to Vienna to study abroad. It was such a great experience overall and since we were both planning on writing about our time there, we thought we would share this post and break up our experiences!

Morbisch

Where do I even begin? The whole time on the flight (all 10 hours of it) I still could not grasp that I was heading to Europe! Once everybody met up at the airport and got on their respective buses the trip truly started and it began to feel like we were in a different country. The first day was quite the blur because the time change was so different that we arrived around 8 AM a day ahead of the US, so attempting to stay awake the whole day was going to be a huge challenge. However, the bus ride from the airport to Morbisch proved to be a true test of our ability to stay awake.

The reason we headed first to Morbisch instead of Vienna was to get us all accustomed to a different country and gradually immerse ourselves in a different culture before being thrown into Vienna. I personally appreciated this approach because it allowed for people to get to know one another without the stresses of public transportation and classes yet.

Once everybody got off the bus and put their bags in their hotel rooms, the majority of people rode bikes or walked to… Hungary!!! Just a typical afternoon, right? That was really fun seeing the different and beautiful landscape and being exposed to a different culture and language just passing through towns. That whole day was pretty mellow because we had our first dinner as a group and realized that ice was not offered in water, which proved to be a disappointment down the road, but we managed to cope without the luxury of cold beverages. After that first evening, the only other main activity we did was going on our first dinner cruise. I had such a great time and I’m sure Marvin would say the same because we all got to have authentic, European food while having an acordian player serenading us while we enjoyed the boat ride. It was absolutely beautiful and overall, very relaxing after our hectic day beforehand.

Vienna

After Morbisch, we went directly to Vienna and went to our respective host-family homes. I was lucky enough to be living with three other girls: Tara, Sara, and Sam. I had such a blast with these girls and grew so close to them! I only knew Sara out of the three girls but I’m so happy to say that I gained two other close friends from this trip because our experiences of getting lost, figuring out public transportation, struggling to exchange money into Euros, getting to class on time and various other daily activities that soon became routine that we had trouble with initially.

The first day in Vienna Tara, Sara, Sam and I went to an honorary ceremony for our host father who was a well-known organ player and got lost (we weren’t even on the map anymore) and struggled to find our way. Surprisingly we were only twenty minutes late, but we definitely got some stares when we made our way into the pews. That was probably one of my favorite memories because we were so completely lost and we knew it was going to happen eventually but finding our way around at night was such an adventure. Everybody was so exhausted from the first two days in Europe that when we went to the symphony the night of our third day, nearly everybody fell asleep. Keeping my eyes open and trying not to be rude was one of the most difficult things of that trip because the music was so soothing and we were so tired! Even some of the professors dozed off for a minute or two!

What was really cool about where our school was it’s location across the street from the Opera House. Occasionally we could hear singers practicing from our classrooms for their performance later that day. Crazy, right? At times it was hard to remember that the point of this study abroad May Term was that we actually had to take classes. I always had to remind myself that I was here for more than leisure and experience, but to learn. I took Modern European History while most other people took German, Music, Religion, Art and Architecture or Senior Seminar. From what I gathered from everyone was that each of their classes was interesting and fun in their own way, and although it was a bummer we had class, it was something we definitely did not dread because we were surrounded by what we were learning. We would go on tours of the Treasure Chamber, tours of Vienna, and just take adventures that benefited our learning in a more hands-on sort of way that we couldn’t grasp through reading a textbook.

What proved to be really interesting and challenging every day was figuring out where to eat. We were each given a certain amount of Euros to spend on food each week but it typically didn’t cover all of the costs, so budgeting the money while also being aware of tips that needed to be given was frustrating. I think our group as a whole went to nearly every restaurant in a 3-mile radius just to see what was out there. Typically we would go to food stands because they were relatively cheap but we would also go to Billa (their main grocery store) and buy food there and eat in the local park that was around the corner from the university. That was probably one of my favorite memories because word got around that people were in the park so my roommates and I as well as others all joined us and we had a relaxing picnic in an area that looked like an oversized Pine Grove.

Following each meal, we had to figure out what kinds of places and events we wanted to attend. Some days we would just explore the city, take the Eubahn (subway) to different districts in Vienna and explore or go to more popular sites. These included Schonbruun Palace, the Schonbruun Zoo, the Danube beach, Top of the Hill, and others. These were all amazing locations and the ease in which we were able to get there was astonishing. It was so easy to say, “Hey, I’m going to head to Schonbruun Palace in a few minutes. Anyone want to join?” It would take only about 20 minutes to get there or anywhere for that matter because public transportation was so nice.

One of the definite highlights (and I think nearly everyone will agree with me) was the Manner cookies. Man, those were chocolate wafer pieces of heaven! YUMMM!

Salzburg:

We went to Salzburg on the weekend of May 16-18. Our weekend trips were all a blast, and we learned so much in each city and what it has to offer! Here are some highlights of our Salzburg adventure! On a side note, one not so great thing about Salzburg weekend was the weather and the rain. On our way to Salzburg, we made a pit stop at Melk Abbey, the oldest in Europe. Pretty neat right? There we learned so much about Austrian history and what makes it Austria today.

After our stop at Melk, we kept truckin’ to just outside of Salzburg to our hotel. Before getting to our hotel, we also passed by some important sites where they filmed the movie, The Sound of Music. To be honest, we both thought it was let down because we couldn’t stop and take pictures, and the weather was just not ideal. Anyways, we stayed in Hallein, Austria, which is a small town outside of the city. There, we ate dinner, walked around the quaint village. After, we just went to bed.

Saturday was a long day! It started with an awesome breakfast with the group, then it was to Salzburg to get a historic tour of the city, as well as its landmarks. Although it was wet, we all had a great time. I mean, why complain? It was EUROPE, for crying out loud.

One awesome thing about Salzburg was the chocolate. There was this particular kind, we all called “Mozart Balls,” that was just amazing. It was dark Austrian chocolate with a pistachio filling on the inside. My goodness, each one was about 1 euro, so $1.37. It was definitely worth it because you simply can’t get that in the United States. After touring all of what Salzburg had to offer, we went back to our hotel to unwind and hang out with the group!

Sunday was another packed day. We all had to get up early because the first agenda on our list was the Hallein Salt Mines. What a cool experience! We went inside a mountain through a train, and we were both in Austria and Germany in a span of only a few hours! Inside the mountain, we learned about how essential the mining industry was in Austria, and we also went on a boat because there was a large lake inside the mountain! But, my favorite part of the salt mines were the slides. In order to get through the mountain from the inside, we all had to slide down long slides. It was a blast!

After the salt mine, we headed to Hitler’s Nest which was just outside of Austria in Germany. We thought we were so cool because one minute, you’d be in one country, then a few minutes later, we were in another! It was such a cool experience at the museum. We learned more about WWII, toured the bunkers were Nazi soldiers stayed, and it was hands on. After experiencing the museum located near Hitler’s Nest, we visited Mauthausen Concentration Camp. It was an amazing, but eerie experience. Just to think that not even 75 years ago, people suffered here. To just be present and reflect was great. If you have the chance, visit a concentration camp. History will definitely come to life. Once we finished, we finally headed back to basecamp, Vienna!

Prague

Prague by far was one of our favorite cities. There is just so much culture and history behind it! As nerdy it sounds, it was neat to see the communist remnants of the city. When we arrived in Prague, we had a dinner at an old monastery. After, we had an AMAZING tour of Prague and its historic monuments with our tour guide, Donna. She was a sweetheart. She loves Hope College students and it was just a great time to be with her. One thing we did every time we saw her was say, “Dobry den, Donna!” which simply means hello. After our tour, we headed back to our hotel and relaxed.

On Saturday, we had one heck of a packed day! Firstly, we headed to downtown Prague to experience its culture and get another tour. One of our favorite places in Prague was St. Charles Bridge! There were so many vendors and talented musicians on the bridge performing. It was just a great time! In our slideshow, you’ll find our classic picture. After more touring and shopping in the city, we went on a dinner boat cruise on the Vltava River. It was so much fun to eat dinner and take pictures with friends. Another funny part of the dinner was that our tour guide, Donna, made seagull noises. Everyone on the trip LOST IT. It was one of the Prague highlights for sure.

On our last day in Prague, we had more opportunities to learn about history and culture. We visited the old Jewish Ghetto, now a memorial to commemorate those who died in WWII. We also visited the Spanish Synagogue which was just beautiful! After, we had chances to do more shopping and meandering around before heading home. We could seriously go into so much detail about our weekends, but then it wouldn’t be a blog post, it would be an essay!

The Vienna Summer School was one heck of an experience for the both of us!. Our lives, as cliché as it sounds were changed and we now have new perspectives on life. If you are interested in going, make sure you email Dr. Hemenway at hemenway@hope.edu. He is your man and go to for anything Vienna. Trust me, you won’t regret it. If you have any questions about the trip and experience, don’t hesitate to ask either Leslie or Marvin! Make sure to read our upcoming blogs and follow us on twitter!

 

Spring Semester Highlights

Okay, friends. This is my last post for the semester 🙁 It’s crazy to think that at this time tomorrow, I will be unpacking my stuff at home and I’ll be getting ready for Vienna. My junior year just flew by, and in less than 24 hours, I’ll be officially a senior. Life, STOP! Well, to end my blogging “reign,” I want to close with some of my semester highlights!

1) SNOWPOCALYPSE

This was just awesome. And by awesome, I mean having so many days of class canceled because that is very rare for Hope College! This past winter, Holland had more than 100 inches of snow. Lake Michigan was completely frozen, we had crazy arctic winds, and temperatures were LITERALLY below zero. But in the midst of all the winter storms, here is one picture that captures God’s awesome creation.

Here's a snapshot of the beauty of winter at Hope College.
Here’s a snapshot of the beauty of winter at Hope College.

2) FINALIZATION OF VIENNA

Yes. This semester, everything for Vienna was taken care of. Tuition, flights, and even my little vacation to Rome for one weekend. I remember when going to Vienna was just a thought. Now, it’s a reality and I’m leaving in 5 days! I can’t emphasize enough how fast time flies. Not even kidding! I’ll be here in no time!

Just a short 5 more days!
Just a short 5 more days!

3) SOCHI 2014 WINTER OLYMPICS

Olympics are seriously the best time. The world gathers as one (doesn’t matter whether countries have bad relations with other countries) and competes in several disciplines. Being that the olympics were in Russia, they were quite controversial. But regardless, it was so much fun to watch. I wish I could do what olympians do, but I’m happy at Hope too!

The Olympic Rings
The Olympic Rings

4) UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN BASKETBALL GAME

Yeah yeah yeah, I know I go to Hope. But the University of Michigan is cool, too. My family is an avid fan. Last semester, I went to a football game there, so I thought I’d give basketball a try as well. When Joey and I were there, we did the typical Ann Arbor stuff, eat, walk around, look at how huge campus is, and obviously watched the game. It was so cool through because I tweeted, and my tweet showed up on their jumbotron. It was just so cool! Don’t remember? Here’s a pic!

Look! It's Joey and me on the JUMBOTRON!
Look! It’s Joey and me on the JUMBOTRON!

5) JESS VISITS HOPE COLLEGE

So last year, I had the opportunity to lead an immersion trip with my good friend Jess. But here’s the problem, I was just a sophomore and she was a senior, so she graduated! She had the awesome opportunity to intern at Sojourners in Washington D.C., where our immersion trip was. Naturally, she moved there to take this awesome opportunity. But this past March, she also had the opportunity to go back to her beloved school where she could see her beloved friends! Although it was a short time, it was just so awesome to have her in our presence!

Jess visits Hope!
Jess visits Hope!

6) GIRLFRIEND

Yep, the title says it all. I’m not usually public about these things, but this will be okay. Well yeah, meet my girlfriend Brooke. She is a bunch of fun and I enjoy being around her because I always smile! Yeah, I know that sounds cheesy but it’s the truth. This is definitely a HUGE highlight of my semester. Here’s a picture of us at the Bowl!

Here we are!
Here we are!

7) LASTLY, SPRING FLING

Being on SAC this year, I had the opportunity to plan several events for our campus. Last semester, my largest project was Chicago. This semester, it was Spring Fling, a celebration of the last day of classes! Another thing I am excited about it my director position for SAC next year. I am so incredibly blessed and excited to be working with some amazing individuals to make our campus a better place. Speaking of directors, here is my co-director and myself at Spring Fling!

Here are your new SAC directors for the 2014-2015 School Year!
Here are your new SAC directors for the 2014-2015 School Year!

Third Year: CHECK. I am basically 3/4 done with my college career. I still can’t wrap my mind around that. Thank you so so so so so so much friends for reading my blogs this past year. It means so much. I am happy that I can serve you all. I’ll probably be blogging while in Europe, so look forward to those. But as this school year comes to a close for me, I just want to say your time at Hope is coming class of 2018! Cherish every moment you have here. Before you know it, you’ll be a senior. Take the opportunities to face challenges and try new things. Your college experience and value will increase without a doubt. If you haven’t already, follow me on Twitter at @HopeMarvin15 and follow me on Instagram at MarvSolberg. Thanks again, and I can’t wait to see the class of 2018 on Hope’s campus shortly!