Phone-less But Not Hope-less

First things first….my money has been found!

Now that I got that out of the way, I can go right into saying that this passed week was a bit stressful as I had my first few exams. On Monday I had a phonetics exam, which I pray I passed. According to everyone I have talked to, phonetics was one of the few disliked courses. I also had exams in grammar and in civilization, which weren’t too bad.

On Wednesday of last week I had the chance to attend a soccer match between Montpellier and Marseille at the Stadium of the 1998 World Cup in Mosson. This was such a great experience and I would definitely recommend other students attend a local soccer match. After this game, I felt a bit influenced, and so I decided that I want to go to a big, European soccer match. I found tickets for the classic game between Barcelona and Real Madrid for around 500 Euros, so that’s out of the question. Maybe I will find tickets throughout the season to another game that isn’t as expensive. On Thursday night I decided to go out with a few friends, but the night did not go as planned. I ended up getting my phone and credit card stolen, which means I have little communication with everyone now. This weekend I had planned to go to Toulouse, but because of the mishap on Thursday night I decided to stay in the whole weekend.

This weekend I am planning a trip to Marseille, which should be fun.

Location: Montpellier, France

Berlin, Prague, Ski, Schule!

What a week. It is wild to think that a week ago today, I was getting back from a week long trip to Berlin and Prague, with my first full week of classes, and another weekend of skiing ahead of me! Sorry in advance for the lengthy post, but let’s recap:


Berlin was exactly how I had always imagined it would be. When we arrived it was overcast and grey, and the city was modern, graffiti-laden, dark, and honestly, a little depressing. What saved Berlin for me was the history. Although most of it is a very sad one, Berlin is a hotbed of history, especially within the past century. Walking through the streets was like every lazy Saturday documentary about the Nazis I’ve seen come to life; I could easily imagine what life would have been like in a militarized capital like Berlin. This hit home especially hard during our city tour, where the guide took us to places like the Lustgarten, where Hitler delivered many of his speeches, and a square behind the library which was the site of many Nazi book burnings. Lots of chills seeing these places in person.

One of my favorite things that we did in Berlin was visit the Reichstag, where the seat of the German Parliament is. The Reichstag was not used during the Third Reich due to a huge fire of mysterious circumstances that made the building unusable for most of Hitler’s time in power. What was interesting was that the building was taken over by Russian occupiers of Berlin after World War II. Most of these soldiers left their names and messages scrawled on the walls of the Reichstag, and through years of modernization and reconstruction, the Germans have decided to keep these there. A very interesting move in my opinion, to keep such a lasting reminder of those who came in and took over your government.

Among the other sites we saw in Berlin were the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and a former East German prison (terrifying). With our time in Berlin coming to a close, we were off to Prague by 8am on Friday morning!


If Genovia was a real place, it would be Prague. There was a time where I had no idea what to expect when I stepped off the train and into the Czech Republic, but Prague was beyond magical. Imagine going on a city tour at dusk, walking through winding cobbled streets with gorgeous buildings surrounding you, and church spires looming overhead. Then, suddenly, you’re in a huge square, with facades lit up around you, a clock tower chiming in front of you, and soft piano music floating through the air. Just when you think it can’t get any more surreal than Prague’s old town square, you walk over the Charles Bridge at twilight, when a flock of doves flies off into the waning light, as the lights from the castle on the hill twinkle in the reflection of the Vltava (river which runs through Prague). Absolutely magical.

Whereas Berlin was everything I had anticipated, Prague was everything I had not. It was truly a storybook come to life. We ate dinner in the Old Town Square, outside, in January, thanks to space heaters and wise outfit choices. While in Prague we enjoyed some traditional Czech cuisine, which is not too far off from my familial Polish roots, so the sauerkraut was a welcome familiarity on the plate.

One of the best but most confusing things about Prague was their currency. They are not on the Euro, so converting Czech crowns into Euros proved to be a bit of a hassle. This hassle was well worth it however since Prague was so cheap! Inexpensive, I should say, Prague was too beautiful to be cheap. Most meals we ate in Prague amounted to less than 10 Euro for a good amount of food. Although It was bizarre paying 100 of anything for a coffee and a sandwich, 100 crown was equal to about 5 Euro. Prague was a tough one to leave, but one that I will definitely return to ASAP.


Back to school this week! Classes finally started, and this is why my post has been delayed. A lot of reading and writing assignments already, but I’m enjoying being back in school mode and having a schedule here in Freiburg. Up until now, everything felt a bit like an extended vacation. There is truly nothing like a 24 hour deadline for a 5 page paper to force your thinking cap back on. This week we also took a day trip to Strasbourg, France for class to visit the European Parliament! For a political geek like me, watching the deliberation about Syria and meeting an actual MP (Member of Parliament) was surreal. Oh, and Strasbourg was pretty beautiful too.


This wekend was our last weekend of lessons before the Alps, and boy was it a good one. Skiing has quickly become my sole reason to love the season that is Winter. Yesterday the weather was perfect, sunny and warm, and from the top of the mountain we had fantastic views of the valley and the Alps in the distance, all pointed out to us by our trusty instructor and aficionado of all things German, August. Today the weather was “nicht so gut”, as it was foggy and windy, with a persistent icy rain which eventually turned to snow. We skied down a lot more trails through the Schwarzwald today rather than the beginner slopes, and it was incredible gliding in between pine trees as snow fell around us. Everything smelled like pine needles, and I finally understood what everyone meant when they said that skiing was as close you’ll get to flying. I cannot believe the progress that I’ve made in 3 weeks, and I cannot wait to continue skiing for the rest of the trip and when I get back home!

Another week of adventures starts tomorrow, let’s see if I can stay awake for the Super Bowl, or if skiing knocked me out! Tchüss!

Picturesque Strasbourg, France: home to the European Parliament!

Picturesque Strasbourg, France: home to the European Parliament!

Hitting the slopes!

Hitting the slopes!

View of the valley from the top of Feldberg!

View of the valley from the top of Feldberg!

Sunset in magical Prague

Sunset in magical Prague

Beautiful dusk facades in Old Town Square, Prague!

Beautiful dusk facades in Old Town Square, Prague!

Hello from the other side... of the Berlin wall!

Hello from the other side… of the Berlin wall!

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate



Soviet scribbles in the Reichstag

Soviet scribbles in the Reichstag

Lustgarten, where Hitler delivered many of his speeches

Lustgarten, where Hitler delivered many of his speeches

Location: Freiburg, Germany

A lesson well learned!

Study abroad can be exhilarating and sublime, especially when all of Europe is suddenly at your fingertips.

I’ve been living in Florence, Italy for exactly one month to date. Having visited Siena, Pisa, Venice, Chianti, and Rome, knowing I’ll be catching a flight to Geneva, Switzerland in less than 6 hours with zero sleep under my belt and already seeing Verona, Italy appear on the horizon (exactly one week away for St. Valentine’s weekend)—oh, and not to mention, taking my first Italian test today… I don’t like to admit it, but I’m pretty exhausted.

A glimpse of Roma

Last weekend in Rome, a bunch of great new friends let me crash at their place last minute when plans to Naples fell through. FullSizeRenderThanks to their incredible planning, we visited every single sight I had ever heard of in Rome—The Trevi Fountain, Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, Domus Aurea, and the Colosseum. It was one heck of a weekend, and I still can’t believe it happened. I owe it all to God. After all of this, by the time I finally returned home to Florence and walked past the Duomo toward my little Tuscan apartment, I definitely got an “ahh, it’s good to be back,” feeling.

A lesson well learned

So far, from the culmination of these experiences, I’ve learned a pretty big lesson. Even when everyone you know is constantly talking about going out of town because they “don’t want to waste a single weekend,” it’s okay to stay home. In fact, staying in Florence for a weekend or two (or three!) may be exactly what I need—to recharge my batteries and enjoy where I am! I’m absolutely in awe of this experience and it’s ephemeral feel, but I need to start listening to my body. (You may not hear this often, but study abroad can actually be stressful!)

I love the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas when he says, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” It’s easy to forget, though, that this doesn’t mean I need to zip through the whole book in one sitting. It’s okay to relax, it’s okay to take things slow. And, it’s definitely more than okay to spend time marveling in the wonder of my host city. Heck, Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world! And, of course, “taking it slow” seems to be the Italian way to go about things anyway. A new Florentine friend of mine, who helps me out with my Italian, joked tonight that her mom loves to take “5, 6, 7—10 years!” just enjoying a cappuccino!

As tired as I am, though, I’m definitely more than excited and “all in” as always to enjoy a weekend in Geneva with my Aunt and Uncle! I’ll finally get to see their city! I’m not sure how I’ll make it through the rest of the week with school and all, but I just know I’ll still have plenty of reasons to smile!

Looking forward to a blank itinerary “a Firenze!”

A presto!


Dissolving the comfort zone

I stood on edge of one of the largest cliffs in Europe, near Cassis, France.

I stood on edge of one of the largest cliffs in Europe, near Cassis, France.

I’ve been here in Aix for about a week now and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s living in discomfort is a good thing. For most of us, the first step to living uncomfortable was deciding to take the risk of studying abroad. It’s leaving the comfortable box of school that we’ve all become used to. But we clicked the accept button, and for some of us we flew alone, for the first time, half way across the world.

Advisers, parents and the Internet warned us it would be different. The culture, the food, the language, even the way the people look wouldn’t be the same. They warned us it would be uncomfortable at first. And it is, they weren’t lying. We’re meeting other students from across the U.S., teachers who come from different backgrounds and on top of that we are sent to live with a family who barely speaks English.

But, I’m here to tell you it’s a good thing. It’s better than that, it’s amazing, but only if you’accept the uncomfortably. No one learns anything new from continually living their daily routines. It takes courage to walk into a room full of 170 American kids and pick out a few new friends. The first few days are crucial for future friendships, and it’s intimidating.

It takes discomfort to laugh at yourself when your French is so terrible your family and the vendors at the market laugh with you.

It takes discomfort to invade the houses of French families and call them home. To eventually be able to walk into the house without feeling like a complete stranger.

It takes discomfort to join an art program when you’ve never painted in your life. It also takes trust in your professors.

There’s no point in studying abroad if you don’t prepare yourself for the discomfort that comes with uprooting your life. It’s a beautiful thing to become a whole new person and surround yourself with strangers. And I’m here to take advantage of that. I’m here to make a fool of myself so that I can learn better French, and make friends who’ll I’ll cherish for a lifetime.

Discomfort also leads to personality. We are studying abroad, not just for the experiences, but to grow and become more well-rounded people. That requires tasting foods even if you don’t know what they are (sometimes, it’s even better not to ask) and trying your hardest to keep up with the dinner conversations. Being uncomfortable is a part of life and it is what expands our personalities.

So cheers to my first week and Aix, and cheers to dissolving my comfort zone.

Location: Aix-en-Provence, France

Raclette, Beach, and Wine!

This passed week was a bit tough on me, emotionally. I have officially started to feel a bit homesick, although I have no problem being here since it’s so awesome! I had some good Mexican food, which I go to pretty often now. I am currently planning a trip to somewhere close (There are so many options!)

On Wednesday night, my host mom, Christiane, had told me we were having a dinner with her best friend Arlette, her host person, Christiane’s daughter Aude, and grandson Rafael. We had Raclette (which is a really soft, fondue-type cheese) with French Charcuterie (hams, bacons, etc.) and baked potatoes. When we sat down at the dinner table, Christiane brought out two black cirucular hot pans. Under these black devices, there were individual mini pans, where apparently we put the cheese so it melts. once the cheese melts you put it on top of a baked potato alongside your ham, bacon, and so on. You could also cook your bacon on top of the black pan. THIS WAS SO DELICIOUS! Raclette is my favorite French cheese so far, and this dinner was one I will always remember.

I did a very French thing on Thursday morning; I stepped right in dog poop. After speaking to one of my professors, apparently stepping in dog poop is a sign of good luck, which is really what I am looking forward to.

On Saturday morning I went to the Marché bio, which is literally a farmers market right by my house. According to my host mom Christiane, everything there is so overpriced, but definitely worth buying. I got to try some onion beignets and a fried ball that had chickpeas, curry, and potatoes. We also ran into some really vintage postcards, buttons, pins, and pictures (very pricy). Later in the day, I decided to go to the beach, since it’s about a 25-minute ride. It was very windy, but definitely worth the trip.


When at the beach, always take your wine!

Update on my money: none. I haven’t found my missing money, but I have come to the conclusion that I probably won’t find it.

Location: Carnon Plage, France

Life is Short, Enjoy Your Coffee

This weekend was scattered with thunderstorms, so sadly our outdoor activity options were limited. However, I am much more willing to take a little rain than the blizzard we all missed back at home!

Burleigh Markets

Saturday morning a friend and I went to Burliegh Heads to check out a few areas recommended by a friend back at home who previously studied at Bond. Our first stop, after quite the complex Uber ride there, was at Burleigh markets, held Saturday mornings in the Burleigh Heads State School. It had a cute market atmosphere, with many stands of locally grown organic fruits and vegetables, arts & crafts, and gourmet foods. Though small, it was an enjoyable artsy and local-inspired atmosphere.

James Street

Our next stop was James Street, an iconic place to visit in Burleigh, lined with shops of fashion, food, drink, health, and beauty. We chose one of the many café’s, and enjoyed quality Australia coffee. After walking around the area, we actually realized that it was approximately the same area that we explored in the nighttime a few nights earlier. We headed up towards Burleigh Head National Park, and on our way stumbled upon a small surf competition taking place on the coast. With storms threatening there wasn’t a great turnout, but still a classic Australian event to stop by and experience for a few minutes! We checked out the trails at the park quickly before the rain hit, then headed back to Bond.

Mocha & Almond Croissant on James Street

Mocha & Almond Croissant on James Street

Center of Cafe area on James Street

Center of Cafe area on James Street

Surf Competition

Surf Competition

Burleigh Head National Park lookout by the water

Burleigh Head National Park lookout by the water

Sushi Train

Later that evening we tried a sushi nearby restaurant called Sushi Train that was suggested by a local. It was definitely our favorite sushi restaurant so far! We spent the rest of the evening looking at options for our group trip to Bali. It was a fun day of exploring the area, and we managed to make it back and forth between the raindrops!

Finding my bearings!

So far, I’ve been here for 23 days, and I’ve experienced quite a whirlwind of events.


Italian Notes | Photo credit: Rena Kassak

Since I’ve last written, I’ve gotten into the thick of my classes and have fallen in love with the staff of ISI Florence. Professors here are a bit more laid-back than in the States. Our Italian Language teacher ensured us that we’re on the same level, and he made sure that we know we can go to him for help with anything at all during the semester! From my past experiences with college, which I carry solely from the U.S., this hasn’t always been the case. His heart is focused on helping us learn, and the same goes for my photography professor. Put simply, ISI Florence is taking absolute wonderful care of us!

Learning the language

I’m in love with the language here. It’s so beautiful. Today we engaged in conversations with four Italian speaking 20-somethings who visited our class; it was kind of like speed-dating! I speak “un po” (only a little!) Italiano, and they could speak a little bit of English. It was neat to see how well we could communicate.

View of Florence from the top of the Duomo!

View of Florence from the top of the Duomo!

Also, last week, I met up with a Florentine girl named Sara. We met through a language exchange website. She loves traveling and learning languages, and she studies English, French, Spanish, and Chinese. It was so lovely to meet her and to learn about Italy from her perspective! I very much enjoyed our conversation, which was mostly in English seeing as she speaks English better than I can speak Italian. And, not to mention, I am still a bit shy! (“Sono un po timida”)

Il Duomo di Santa Maria del Fiore - View from Piazzale Michelangelo

A view of the Duomo from Piazzale Michelangelo – In the last photo, I was looking out from the tippy top of this one.

We talked about the differences between Italian boys and American boys, indulged each other with stories of our past relationships, and bonded over a love of purity. She also taught me some slang words in Italian, like “figo,” which means beautiful but is used how we would use the word cool, and also its synonym: “ganzo,” which is only characteristic of Florence.

Wine tasting in Chianti

On a school trip to Chianti, we met Gino, a family-oriented man, who showed us the “sweetness” of life. The Italians’ mentality is much different than what’s common back home.

A view of Chianti from Gino's vineyard

A view of Chianti from Gino’s vineyard

“There’s no food without wine and no wine without food,” he said. Gino also emphasized the joys of taking things slow and really enjoying everything with all of our senses as not to get drunk but to enjoy the wine. “Wine is everything,” he said, it’s even where you are and the people you are with; “wine is life.” He advised us to drink good wine with good friends, and warned us to never drink alone. He also taught us that just because a wine is expensive, that doesn’t mean it’s a good wine! It could just mean that it comes from a very small vineyard. The only way you can tell if a wine is good is “with your eyes, your nose, and your mouth.”

Adventures in Siena

Last Saturday, I visited Siena! Signing up for the trip by myself, I wasn’t sure I’d know anyone there, however, a stellar group of kids, Heather, Brian, and Nick (Nick, who is actually in my buon fresco class) were there!

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 1.53.22 AMI had an amazing time spending the day with them enjoying the city view from atop the Cattedrale di Siena, stopping for gnocchi and “picci,” a thick pasta prized by Siena, and visiting the Church of Saint Dominic where we found the relic of Saint Catherine of Siena. It was so awesome to learn about her life right in her home city! Apparently people were drawn to her, and it’s no wonder since she was so drawn to Christ! Later that day, we ventured over to San Gimignano, a small medieval town with an incredible view that I could have easily mistaken as a painting had we been inside!

V for Venezia!

Then, of course, there’s the gorgeous city of Venice! With its waterways instead of streets and boats instead of cars, Venice is one of the most quirky places I’ve visited. We were able to catch the parade where the floats were literally floating (boats, of course!) And, we enjoyed what the Venetians call the Carnevale.

People wear all kinds of fun masks during the carnival!

People wear all kinds of fun masks during the carnival!

Venice is quite touristy, and I’d suggest going later on in the week to witness the carnival in full effect. We were unaware of this, and we actually made plans with a tour group in advance. The skies turned out to be overcast, and it was only the first day of the carnival–much too soon for the fun to pick up!

Although I met some great people on the bus, I ended up spending most of the day by myself. But, on the bright side, I got to check out the Chiesa di Santa Lucia, a church by the grand canal, where I saw the relic of Saint Lucy’s incorruptible head and visited the Blessed Sacrament of our Lord in a side chapel.

I actually didn’t get to go to mass on this day (Sunday), which was pretty upsetting to me. It was mainly poor planning. I’m still figuring out how to adapt to this life on the road because, at least at this point in my life, it’s so easy for me to get distracted. But, truly God is the most beautiful!

The not-so-wonderful truth

Although the travel life can seem romantic and glamorous from stories and photographs, I’ve been here for less than a month and as you can tell, I’ve already experienced a few bumps along the road.

  1. Crepes and waffle at La Milker

    Crepe and waffle alla nutella date in between classes! I don’t know how we made it through Italian class after this! Photo credit: Rena Kassak

    Pro tip: If you ever go to Italy please, please drink tons of water, and be weary of your dairy intake! I absolutely love picking up new foods from the market, especially cheese because it’s fresh, inexpensive, and we’re in Italy! So, why not try them all? (“perchè no?”) Well, just recently, I learned the hard way… that too much cheese and other dairy foods, like gelato, can actually cause constipation. (“Come sei dice embarrassing?”) Fortunately, a call home to mom, some prune juice, and laxatives really did the trick! Thank God!! I had no idea how painful that could be!

  2. Next? Well, I lost my cell phone one evening when taking out the trash. I would have gone diving in after it!!! But, the trash disappeared into the ground. They have some clever dumpsters here, and I didn’t even feel my phone slip out the moment it happened…
    Is this not the most beautiful motor vehicle you've ever seen?!

    Is this not the most beautiful motor vehicle you’ve ever seen?! Spotted near Firenze S.M.N. train station.

    Since the garbage company was already closed for the night, we had to wait to call in the morning. At this point, it was already compacted into a teeny tiny cube. I was able to communicate with my family and friends online, and my parents had mercy on me. Fortunately, I was able to replace the phone, and everything is semi-back-to-normal, if you can even call it that.

Despite the appealing aspects of travel, it definitely has its fair share of adjustments, ups, and downs (and there are even more if you’re clumsy!), but every single one of these has come and gone, and it continues to amaze me that I am actually here… Praise you, Jesus! And, thank you, Mom and Dad!

Next stop… Roma!

“Slaman are Natural Skiers”

My Aunt Deb once told me that “Slamans are natural skiers”. That was put to the test this weekend, as yours truly was suited up with ski gear and headed out to into the Schwarzwald to learn how to ski.

I was originally terrified that I would be the only one who had never skied, since all of my friends that I have talked to were competent skiers or snowboarders. There were, however 6 of us who needed either a learn to ski lesson (I’ll refrain from calling it a crash course, bad taste), or a refresher ski lesson, since we are preparing to take on the Swiss Alps next month. So after an exhausting first week of “intensive” classes, our little troupe of 6 met up at the Freiburg Hauptbahnhof early Saturday morning, headed to Feldberg, unsure what to expect.

I had no idea how I would feel about skiing. Of all the sports I’ve tried, skiing has never been even close to the spectrum. I kept holding onto Aunt Deb’s words, hoping that some supernatural ancestral power of my great-great-grandparents skiing through the mountains of Switzerland would help me make it through my first ski day in one piece. At Feldberg, we were outfitted for ski boots, skis, helmets and goggles, then trekked up to the slopes to meet our instructors.

Here we split into 2 groups; people who had been on skis and those who had never been on skis. My seminar professor was chaperoning the trip and had brought along his 2 young children, who upon first glance I knew would be skiing circles around me. My first inclination as to how the day would go came when i clipped into my skis and began sliding backwards, only to be pushed back forwards by my professor’s 7 year old daughter Julia, who thought I was hilarious. A great start to the day.

Split perfectly down the middle, myself and 2 others met our ski instructor Augustine. If you have ever heard a stereotype about Germans, it is probably along the lines of mean, stubborn, unfriendly and impatient. August defied all of these! I’m sure that I was a hot mess the first couple runs down the bunny hill, but he was patient, calm, and very easy to talk to. He also did a pretty good job teaching us how to ski, because after the first day I could make it down the mountain without falling! Credit either goes to those skiing Slaman genes or August- but I’ll give it to him.

Day one on the slopes was warm, making the snow slushy and the mountains very foggy, so that the tips of the pine trees disappeared. On Sunday the view was so much better, as the weather was clear, crisp, and cold, and at the top of the mountain you could see the majestic Swiss Alps rising from beyond the green sloping mountains of the Schwarzwald, with the sun breaking through the clouds overhead. I’ve included some pictures, but they truly don’t do the view justice. I think that Germany has been the most beautiful place that I’ve been so far.

The travel bug has been beginning to bite our group; as the 6 of us went skiing all weekend, a lot of my friends went to my ancestral homeland, Basel for the day, which is a free train ride on our regional train card (Regiokarte). They all had nothing but great things to relay about Switzerland, and I can’t wait till I can find a free afternoon or weekend to make the trip myself, and look up our last name in the city hall! Last night, exhausted and sore after 2 days of skiing, my friends and I headed to the bar to watch some of the Patriots-Broncos game, and then left early to pack and try to get some sleep, since we needed to catch a 6:35 AM train to Berlin in the morning!

I’m on that train as I write this, which is great news since I was terrified of oversleeping (ya girl is NOT a morning person by any means). I was able to sleep about 3 hours on the train which is good news, and also warn my new friends about early morning Emily, which anyone who knows me knows is not a pretty sight. So far, I think they’ve decided to keep me around despite my early-morning grumpiness.

I am excited to see Berlin, and Prague later in the week! Berlin will be especially exciting for me, since last spring I began research into what I hope will become my senior thesis; exploring themes of eugenics and how they played out in Nazi propaganda and politics. I’ve always been a huge World War II fan, and Berlin is steeped with history. I’m sure it will be a moving and fascinating experience, and if I could get some researching done at museums and the like, it would be superb. Excited to see what another busy and travel-filled week will bring!


Location: Freiburg, Germany

You gotta shovel some snow to get to the equator

Who would have guessed that the biggest blizzard in Pennsylvania history would hit the only weekend in my life that I am supposed to be flying internationally? Waking up Sunday morning I was crushed to see that my road had still not been plowed, and all the trains we could possibly take to NYC were cancelled. It was just starting to sink in that I might have to reschedule my flight and join the program late, when the miracle of my Aunt and Uncle’s Jeep came down our road. We quickly shoveled a path through the 28 inches of snow from our street to a plowed section, and amazingly were able to walk out to the Jeep and drive all the way to New York City. I am so fortunate to have family willing to wake up at 7am on their day off to come rescue me, and parents who took the risk of driving on those ridiculous streets for 5 hours to get me to the airport! At least now dad can cross driving in NYC off his bucket list :)

My flight went well and I could not have been happier to step off the plane into the 90 degree weather of Accra. My first day in Ghana was a whirlwind but I had so much fun. The other students in my program are all friendly and easy to get along with, and I think my room is even nicer than the freshman dorms at Penn State! The floors of the building wrap around the central open courtyard so everything is open, and each room has a private balcony as well. All the foods have been entirely unlike anything Ive ever tasted, but so delicious and spicy! Now that I have been here for three days I finally have the proper cell phone and wall charger, so I finally feel more connected!

I do not have many pictures yet because I am still trying to take it all in, but hopefully these next fews days spent on campus I will get some more photos!

Location: University of Ghana

Australia Day!

Tuesday was Australia Day, which meant that I got to learn about what this diverse country is all about!

While most Australians spend the day with family and friends at festivities, I was in class most of the day. However, in my International Marketing class, our professor decided to bring in a few classic Australian food items for everyone to sample. Here are a few of the top iconic Australian foods with a little history behind their fame:

A dark brown paste made with leftover brewers’ yeast extract combined with vegetable and spice additives. It was created in 1922 by the Fred Walker Company, which later became Kraft Food Company, in an attempt to make a spread out of brewer’s yeast, one of the richest known natural sources in the Vitamin B group. Originally labeled “Pure Vegetable Extract,” Vegemite took to the Australian market shelves, and has never left. Currently Kraft is working on marketing the product in the US, but due to it’s unique and extremely salty taste, it has yet to become popular in the states. However, the product has become so famous that it actually is sold in the majority of countries across the world, even in specialty shops in the US. In my opinion, it’s way too salty, but tastes much better on bread than crackers.

Adessert that is made of sponge cake coated in a layer of chocolate sauce and coconut. It comes in a few different forms, such as squares, rectangles, or rolls, and sometimes also is made with a layer of fruit jelly. This dessert can be found in South Africa (under the name hedgehogs) and New Zealand. Ironically enough, it actually was created by a maid-servant of Lord Lamington (British eight Governor of Queensland) when she accidentally put it together at work.

Caramello Koalas:
Pretty straight forward, milk chocolate koalas filled with caramel. Relating back to America, they taste pretty much like the candy Rolo’s. This snack was created by Cadbury, and has remained popular for over three generations.

A flavoured snack, pretty much like cheese curls. They are made made Smith’s Snackfood Company, and have been on the shelves for over 50 years here. While Cheese and Chicken are the iconic flavours, they add to the line from time to time.

Tim Tams:
Two cookie wafer with cream in the middle, coated in chocolate. There are classic types, including original, dark, white, caramel, and double coat, as well as many specialty Tim Tam products. This product also exists in the States, however is not nearly as popular as in Australia. Fun fact, based on a market research study, they found that Americans would not purchase the product because there were not enough in one package.


After a long day of classes, my friends and I went to Broadbeach for the evening. We enjoyed dinner at a nice Sushi restaurant called Oh Sushi. While an average sushi fan at home, here sushi is good, cheap, and very common, so I think I will find myself enjoying it quite often while abroad. Afterwards we went to a bar called Melbas in Surfer’s Paradise, and had a relaxing evening with friends listening to live music.

Evening at Melbas

Evening at Melbas

In addition to a few iconic Australian foods, over my first two weeks here, I have picked up on quite a few terms that are different than the word that would be used at home. Should you find yourself in Australia, expect to hear these terms typically in place of the American equivalent. I’m sure there will be updates to come, but here are a few that have come up so far:

  • mate – friend (is used fairly frequently)
  • parcel – package
  • hire – rent
  • playsuit – jumper/romper
  • cupboard – cabinet
  • prawn – shrimp (Essentially, however techinically prawns have class on three of their five pairs of legs, while shrimp have claws on just two. Their gills and body shapes are different, but for cooking purposes they are basically the same. Generally speaking prawn is used in place of shrimp, as you would see on menus.)
  • country – Australian outback (central land)
  • (vs) out back –back behind something else
  • Uni – University (students attend “College” in the US but “University” in Australia)
  • bloke – man
  • que – line
  • query – question
  • collect – pick up
  • joggers – sneakers
  • thongs – flip flops
  • bogan – hippy or country person
  • rocket – arugula (sounds so very similar)
  • jug – pitcher
  • sick as – awesome, nice (phrase to compliment something or indicate you like it)
  • no worries – okay, you’re welcome, filler (phrase often used as a general response)
  • biscuit – cookie