Wrapping It Up

So, it’s almost over!

In a few days I will have done my final exam for my exchange period and I will be on my way. This is both a happy and a sad time for me because as you could rightly assume I’m missing my family and friends and pets and especially the weather. It’s been just over 8 months away from home and now the temperature is averaging -6 during the day and -14 on a good night. I didn’t think my body could handle the temperatures but shows what I know because low and behold I have survived!  (Knock on wood)

Since my last post I’ve undertaken a subject on international marketing. Which was interesting but odd. The oddness I refer to is that the subjects are so different to Aus! The course went for 5 weeks; there was a presentation each week in which you created, ran and internationalised a company with a group of 8 (YES 8!) people, a weekly seminar on course material, no textbook and different lecturers each week. Hard to wrap your head around at first but extremely easy to rock if you’re like me – like all Aussie’s I presume – and are loud, organised and outgoing with leadership qualities. I think our upbringing makes us perfect for presentation senario’s!

I think it’s actually not fair that out overseas marks don’t count – its a pass/fail thing – because i’m doing better in these overseas business courses than ones I do back in Australia but what can you do. It’s a nice safety net if all you want to do is travel… which I did.

Unlike Aus it’s winter here – DUH – so they don’t have a big summer holidays break like we do. They do however have at least 2 weeks off around Christmas and New Years so students can go home and see their families etc. Since the course I was doing was only 5 weeks I got a 4 week break and what did I use that time for. Not studying!

FYI – you DO NOT have anywhere near the workload you have whilst studying in Australia. There is only 1 subject that takes all your time, if you write your notes up after your lectures and take notes on the articles for each weeks lecture that’s all the revision you need to look at for exams. AND mine was an at home exam too so even less pressure. I had done all my required notes so I had 4 ‘free weeks’. With that time I thoroughly explored Germany.

With a 60 Euro flight I was off; Berlin, Dresden, Nuremberg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Osnabruck and finally ‘home to Vehlage’. I explored Germany and her christmas markets for a few weeks before settling in with my grandfathers sisters family for christmas! I learnt heaps about my family, and the way normal people live in Europe – something you as a backpacker and student never know unless you do a home stay or something of the such. I found it so interesting and would recommend potentially doing your exchange in a host family if it’s possible! There wont be as much partying or freedom but you will definitely learn a language and find out what it’s like to really be a local.

It was an amazing experience learning more about my family! I then spent NYE with friends from Uni in Hamburg letting off fireworks because in Germany it’s LEGAL! Too cool! I wish it were possible in Aus but I’m sure we are not responsible enough…

Anywho’s I have less than a week left and I am surely going to miss it! All my new international friends and relying totally only on myself and the relationships I’ve made to live in a not only a new situation but a totally different country! BUT ONE HUNDRED MILLION PERCENT I am more than excited to go home and see my family and friends and my pets! I miss the smell of Aus and all those little things you take for granted when you live somewhere! LIKE FOR EXAMPLE THE HEAT!! I cannot wait to not have to wear 4 layers to go outside and not feel like I’m succumbing to frostbite!

…But, before hometime I’ve still got a month before my flight so to make the ABSOLUTE most of it I’ll be flying to ROME and backpacking around Italy, Switzerland and The Netherlands before my flight home. Almost a month in Italy! Too keen. Next time I exchange it’ll be there. Italy blew my mind!

Only regrets I have about exchange;

  • Falling in love. Now we will literally be on other sides of the planet and probably never see each other again – at least not for a few years 😦
  • Exchanging to Sweden. I had a basic knowledge of the German language and if I had exchanged there I would probably know another language by now..

Otherwise this was really an amazing experience and I learnt so much about myself, traveled the world, made amazing friends, experienced crazy things like DISNEYLAND ON MY 21st BIRTHDAY #highlight and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone and everyone! (just gotta save up a little bit first… about 20 grand will do it and don’t be afraid to ask for scholarships! Very important)

Adrift

Part of exchange – despite its amazing advantages and opportunities for personal growth and making new friends – is a sense of being adrift.

Your friends at home are continuing on with their lives; graduating, getting internships and jobs, going to music festivals, celebrating birthdays etc. and no matter how much you talk and try to stay in contact you’re not really part of their world. Well not at the moment. When you get back in a few months its going to be like ‘nothing even changed’, but right now. Right this minute you are adrift. The 10 hour time difference doesn’t help. You wake up to a whole day of activity in Aus with heaps of notifications and messages feeling really popular but everyone’s asleep for the majority of my day and therefore I have no one to talk to online from home.

And it may just apply to me but I’m also adrift whilst here. My choice to make good friends with Swede’s and people living in Sweden for the entirety of their degree – in order to you know “fully emerse myself” in the exchange experience and take in as much of the culture and regular Swedish life as possible – has left me slightly out of the international student circle. But obviously being international myself I’m not totally present in the Swedish circles too… Mostly blocked out by my lack of Swedish language.

I step into a room of exchange students and it’s like an old high school movie where I am the odd one out and everyone stops. Just stops. what they’re doing and looks at me. The looks make it seem to me that I have some type of rare airborne virus that they could catch so they try not to breath and wait for me to leave. Actually I could probably better tie my experience to being a wolf in a flock of sheep. I am the one out there making friends with locals whilst they stay huddled in their international flock. I’m not invited to some things unless my small number of international friends chose to let me in on the details. They ostracize me because I chose not to stay confined to international activities which is shit on their behalf.

Not that I would change my experiences for the world but next time if I were to do it again I would hope to align myself with one group of people whether it be the locals or the internationals to a higher degree. If I were not such an outgoing and charismatic person it would hurt they they don’t want to be my friends.

Too bad I’m off to different counties every weekend.. I’m too busy to care about their sheeplike opinions #internationaljetsetter

Oh yeah since my last post I’ve been to England, Gothenburg and Copenhagen with Norway and its Fjords coming up in the coming days.

Ps. Finished one of my subjects hopefully with flying colours! Yay Swedish Uni is so more relaxed and easy to do well in that Aussie Uni’s. Would recommend this country for exchange if you don’t mind snow in Autumn (yeah thats happening right now) and the crushing darkness of night time from 4pm 🙂

Eat up that update and I’ll check in with you later xoxo

Opportunities and Threats

Exchange provides amazing opportunities. Living fully immersed in a new culture, making new and life changing friendships, travelling each weekend to new and exotic locations, growing up, helping others ( I had to teach another boy how LITERALLY CRACK AN EGG INTO A FRY PAN TODAY!) and coming to the realisation that you are a real, fully functioning adult that can actually take care of your self out here in the big bad world.

One bit I’ve found tricky is acclimatising to expectations and the norms of society. Everyone else is living to this set of unwritten rules that I’m not privy to. I have to trail and error my way through interactions until somebody calls me out or I get a reaction that sets to alter my behaviour for next time.

One thing in which I was totally out of my comfort zone was my first exam in Sweden. Firstly it was 5 hours long which I thought was ludicrous but other than the basic info about exam requirements I knew nothing about this situation and what to expect. It seems it was just expected that you knew;

  • You had to sign up to sit the test
  • The exam venue location which was off campus
  • That you needed to bring food and drink as the exam went from 2 till 7 with no breaks
  • That you required a form of ID and your university card was insufficient
  • The amount you were supposed to write for each mark allocation
    (As our largest essays are 10 marks at CSU I expected we write about 3-4 pages for it but upon further reading into the questions and already answering the first 10 pointer I found essays worth 40 points! What are you supposed to write for 40 points!! How much information is required and to what depth! 40 points is ridiculous!!!)

All these were things that without Swedish friends I would not have known (and with the marks thing still don’t really know). It’s like you should receive a handbook upon arrival in your host country titled “(Insert the name of your country here)’s social cues, norms, values, expectations and requirements for a fun and pleasant stay”. That would of been something I would have invested in.

But just a quick update on me. I’ve run out of clothes that smell like home so that brings on the homesickness feels something chronic. It’s Autumn here in Vasteras and it reaches a max of 6 degrees during the day but not to fear as I have acquired some winter boots and a big sleeping bag looking winter jacket, and they’re already my constant statement pieces – being black they go with every outfit! I have alot of spare time on my hands due to the inability to endure outside for long periods of time so my room has never been cleaner, my studies are well and truly up to date, I joined a gym and go every day #endorphins, I constantly escape to such exotic destinations as Barcelona, Munich and London (and for 35 euros return to London how could I refuse), I spend my time actively planning future trips whilst also creating mini movies about my getaways where I am the star.

I’ve set up a routine which makes being away from home easier, especially with everything continuing on whilst I’m away like my friends graduations, 21st birthdays, milestones, but mostly I just miss the everyday activities like tea with my girls, watching bad TV with my mum, playing with my dog (which has now become 2 dogs as one was acquired whilst I’ve been away). I hate missing out on life that people are continuing to live despite me not being there – selfish I know – whilst they’re probably wishing to be in my shoes travelling every weekend and living a totally new life (at least for a little while).

Exchange can be rewarding but it’s also hard. We will all have our own way of dealing with the changes happening in our life both inside and outside our control. Just don’t think it’s a walk in the park as the homesickness really gets you.

TTFN

Sweden is not like Australia. 

Obviously it’s an entire different country with it’s unique culture, geography, demography language, norms, values and lifestyle. But that’s really the point of exchange isn’t? To dive into another culture and have it envelop you, thus changing your world view and helping you evolve as a person and become all culturally aware and stuff.

I love that Sweden is so different – it’s something I’ve never experienced before. Total immersion in a new culture with not one other Aussie in sight. Travelling around Europe with my backpack earilier I felt the only people I met were from Australia!

Headline: The Disease is Spreading. Australian Backpacker numbers on the Rise coming to steal your countries culture!! (At least for a little while at least before they head home for a good ol’ fashioned Aussie summer) 

I’m sad to say I am the only Australian at the whole University! No one from home to comfort me with understanding of my phrases and most importantly the extremely sarcastic Aussie humor. Closest to home is either a Kiwi or my pal Eamon from CSU currently studying in Gothenburg.

What I found the most challenging – other than the fact that it’s considered completely insane here to ask to pet someone’s dog!!! #outraged – is the difference in study habits and expectations. For example (specifically relevant to my study).

Subjects studied;

  • Aus – 4 subjects 1 semester for a full course load
  • Sweden – 2 subjects over 1 semester for a full course load

How the subjects period’s are set out;

  • Aus – 4 subjects spanning one semester
    • Each with one lecture (1-2 hours) and tutorial (1 hour) per week
    • Both at the same time each week unless something goes wrong
  • Sweden – 1 subject per term
    • Ranging from 1 to 4 lectures a week (3 hours) and one “Sem” (80 mins) every 2 or 3 weeks
    • No formal organisation – simply organised for whenever the tutor and Sem manager (never the same)can make it for that week

Ps. A “Sem” is a seminar. A group will host one during the span of the course – teaching the students about the material prior to the sem and applying it to a case study selected by the lecturer. You get marked (for your final grade) on your willingness to contribute in these Sem’s and the caliber of the things you do say.

Assessments and exams

  • Aus – ordinarily 3 assessments evenly spread out during the semester and one 50% closed book exam for business subjects ( I am completing business subjects overseas). And this system to me is normal and civilised
  • Sweden – No assessments during the term except for one’s committal to and participation in Sem’s making up 40% of your grade and one 60% open book exam at the end of the term.

 

It’s just taken a bit of getting used to is all. Everything’s just set out a little bit differently here. To me it initially sounded harder than 4 subjects are once with it’s full on  lecture schedule and Sem’s as I had no idea what they were. But it’s actually turned out the opposite… It feels like I do no work at all. Yet I write out all my lectures to the letter, I listen in class and produce what I need to for the Sem but as there is no assessments to write (essays or reports, etc.) I am at a loss for what to do with my time.

For lack of something to do uni workwise I went to Barcelona for the weekend! Best thing about studying in Europe is it’s proximity to every other nation – no country really more than 4 hours away flying!!

 

Only issue I’ve found with the European system of study is that with no fee’s and a minimal workload most European students lack commitment to and desire to succeed in subjects. One international has failed a basic marketing course 4 times. 4 TIMES! He just doesn’t care because it doesn’t cost him and he can just redo and redo the class till he cares enough to pass it and move on. Also don’t think I’m putting words in my mouth – he told me this himself. There is no drive to succeed as it costs him nothing to fail. That’s probably the best and main motivator I have!; If I fail it’s another 1000 dollars or something back home.

But that’s just another way Sweden, MDH and it’s students are different from Aus, CSU and it’s students. Having a blinder of a time none the less though!

xoxo Gossip Girl

 

 

Little Observations

What I think is great about MDH is that instead of just one week of O Week activities like CSU there are three! We get three weeks of organised social activities that range from trips to IKEA to pub crawls. I’ve gotten to know so many lovely people that are incredibly helpful! And let me tell you helpful people are required because actually figuring out anything MDH is a nightmare.

First of all they don’t make it especially easy, particularly for international students to get started. The amount of hoops you have to jump to simply get your student card is ridiculous, but the thing is that they know it’s hard and they apologise for what we have to go through to get started but it’s not like they’re going to change it for future students because their outdated yet security concious system is in place. So getting started in MDH in Sweden may be a little harder than anywhere else in the world (I wouldn’t actually know only having done this exchange) but with patience everything works out. After three weeks of being a student I have finally got my MDH card as proof.

But enough about technical mumbo jumbo! Let me tell you about what I’ve picked up so far;

  • Swedes are exceptionally good at speaking English which is both a good and a bad thing as I have and feel no need to have to learn the language. Little bit of a bummer but that can be handled because…
  • …the Swedish language is so hard! The sounds they make with their mouth and throughout a mere sentance don’t make sense. It’s like their mouth is working overtime at a pace I could never reach!
  • Swedish people are exceptionally reserved. Eye contact walking the streets and around Uni is avoided and trying to start small talk with a Swede results in a funny look from them thinking you’ve gone mad.
  • Swedes are not exceptionally reserved when they start drinking. It’s like the term social lubricant takes on a whole new meaning here. They come completely out of their sober shells and they are more than happy to talk to you and even initialise conversation.

FYI: WHEN YOU’RE AWAY FROM HOME THE PERSON YOU MISS MOST IS YOUR DOG.
Hands down. Your human relatives know where you are, why you’ve gone and when you’re coming back. Your dog probably thinks you’ve DIED!

  • Therefore the hardest part about reserved swedes is whilst they walk around with their dogs they don’t want to make contact with you but you want to stop and talk to them just to pat their dog! But it’s a cultural norm to keep to ones self and it’s killing me!

Other than those small things it’s pretty nice here. Lovely, super beautiful people everywhere. It’s 20 degrees most days with sunshine which I’m told is unheard of for it’s warmth but hey I’m Australian and I brought the weather with me 🙂

I’m so excited for when it gets cold though! Bring on my first WHITE WINTER #Newexperiences!

PS. when you get here all anyone is capable of talking to you about is;

  1. Australian Wildlife
  2. That they want to travel to / live in Aus

So brush up on your knowledge about Aussie wildlife and all things relating to the Aussie housing market!

This is a doozy of a post covering 2 months of backpacking around Europe so strap in because this might take a while! Promise it’s worth it!

So my last post was about 2 months ago… hahaha gosh so much has happened since then! I got myself as organised as you can be for your first solo backpacking trip around Europe (I say first as many more are to come I promise) and got on my plane! I was in transit for 22 hours from 6pm 16.6.16 till 2pm 17.6.16. It was a long haul with a stopover in Dubai then arrival in Rome.

Lets try to compress the next 2 months into one blog post shall we?? Also I wanted to post pictures but the blog will not let me. Something about a silly storage limit so you’ll have to google all the sites I mention.

 

Italy – Rome: 17-22/6
Rome was, and still to this day, is my favourite destination so far! As a ancient history nerd I was nerding out at the wonders that I beheld!! The Colosseum (I paid for a special tour and it was so worth it!! Amazing!) , Capitoline Museum (so much history!), St Angelo’s castle, The Vatican including St Peter’s Basilica (which blew my mind), The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, the Pantheon, the (under construction grrrr) Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona… Just everthing!!

There was so much to see and it was like the attractions popped up out of nowhere! You were walking down a little cobbled alleyway with your nutella gelato in hand and WOAH there’s the Trevi Fountain.

 

Greece – Athens/Mykonos/Santorini/Ios: 22/6-6/7
Flew across to Athens for 2 days of exploring before my 13 Greek Island Hopping Contiki started! I was so excited but upon arrival it was not at all what I expected… It was run down (obviously due to its financial crisis) with half finished construction sites everywhere, graffiti all over the place, shifty looking individuals, no one spoke English, I couldn’t read the letters of the alphabet let alone the words on the signs. I was alone and slightly freaking out. I arrived too early to have other contiki travellers with me for the first day or so. In being completely alone in a scary country I broke down.

Travelling alone is not always easy. But you can do. You simply need to collect yourself. I found writing plans and updating my travel journal as calming so that’s what I did. My fellow contiki crew arrived and the adventure began. 2 nights in Athens, 3 in Mykonos, 3 in Santorini, 3 in Ios and 1 more in Athens.

Athens was basic with a few streets of cheap and tacky souvenirs and the Acropolis. Of course you HAVE to climb the acropolis so that’s what we did. Bit expensive (15 Eur0) but it’s really all Athens has so you have to expect it. Spent the next day at the beach. Its crap but you do have to pay for shade and lounges… without them you would burn to death. Not kidding one girl got 3rd degree burns from tanning all day.

Mykonos was all party as you would expect. Dance clubs, more clubs, hit the water, tan on the sand and the dance and drink some more along with your 80 strong contiki crew.

Santorini was much more laid back with poolside bars, exploring to be done, amazing streetscapes, little (expensive) shops and nice restaurants. But this is Contiki so we found the pubs and clubs and again we drank and danced the night away! What was odd was that Santorini had a crazy hidden night life. It was even more party than Mykonos which I didn’t think was possible. There is only 1 club open before midnight. Called Fun Pub. It’s alright… but seriously everything opens after midnight and you finish partying as the sun rises most nights. Gosh it was crazy.

Ios. Woah. We stayed at Far Out beach resort. There was so much to do. As many outdoor beach activities to hold your interest that you could want during the day, jetskiing, boat cruises, paddle boarding, tubing, etc. Then the party starts at 4 in the afternoon at the beach front heading into town at maybe 1o and continuing till the morning. Each club has a shot challenge that provides you with a complementary shirt if you drink 8 shots… Some people got a shirt at each of the clubs we visited (10 in total) so that’s just to let you know how much party was being had.

By the end of the Contiki everyone is wreaked. Sleeping whenever and wherever they can, covered in new tattoo’s, recovering from lack of proper food and no water only alcohol. One guy had the inital stages of  jaundice because he had so much. It was crazy. Made some amazing friendships from all over australia as well as South Africa, Canada and UK but time to say goodbye and move on.

 

Czech Republic – Prague: 6-11/7 / Chesky Krumlov: 11-13/7
Flew from Athens to Prague with 3 of my Contiki boys. We continued to explore it’s wonders together for the 4 days we had together; castles, rivers, Charles bridge, the main square, the astronomical clock, John Lennons wall that he’s never visited, Cathedrals and churches, etc. We had a great time and Prague is relatively cheap to explore and the beer is awesome! Had a great time there.

Even met up with my parents as they traveled their own Eurotrip in Prague for my mums 50th Birthday which was amazing! Spent the next few days in Chesky Krumlov. Highly recommend visiting this place! The cutest, quaintest little european town. Exactly what you envisage when you imagine a medieval town. A castle overlooking the town which is the second largest castle estate in Europe, ghost story’s around every corner, a winding river through the middle. It’s simply amazing!

 

Austria – Vienna: 13-15/7 / Salzburg: 16-17/7
Explored the Beauty that was Vienna with it’s large museum district, it’s beautiful palace (Schonbrun Palace), main square, cathedral, etc. But to me it was too much a real place. I know that sounds confusing but even though it had beautiful architecture and history it’s like I didn’t know what to see because it wasn’t geared to tourism. It was more or less a regular functioning city… Not my fav but still nice.

Salzburg was extremely geared towards tourists. It’s where the sound of Music was filmed and nothing has seemingly happened there since. The towns whole MO is to preach about the sound of music and preach it for all it’s worth. So of course the Sound of Music tour had to be taken to see the house, the gardens, the abbey, the glass house etc. It’s a very pretty city and it was nice. But if you don’t like the Sound of Music then I would not recommend.

 

Germany – Fussen: 18-19/7 / Munich: 19-22/7 / Stuttgart: 22-24/7
THE MOST MAGICAL PLACE ON EARTH! Does that tagline ring any bells? Well in Fussen is the inspiration for the Disney Castle, representative for the happiest place on Earth! At this point I’m still travelling with my parents and we explored this castle together! It was amazing. Making all my childhood fantasies come true as it was just as beautiful on the inside as it was from the outside! During our stay in Fussen we also climbed across the longest Tibetan Style footbridge in the world, climbed a mountain and explore 800 year old castle ruins! The best outdoor travelling experience I’ve had so far. The view from the castle ruins was breathtaking and I could have just sit there all day and been entirely content! AMAZING!

My parents and I also went to the top of Mount Tegel. This is where my mother and father worked for a summer season 25 years ago. My dad also proposed to my mother on the hanggliding platform which was entirely romantic and much more than I thought he would of done for a proposal. He got her up on her 22nd birthday, they hiked up the mountain before sunrise (much to my mothers distress) and he proposed as the sun rose. They they hang glided down where mum proceded to vomit mid flight. She’s classy like that.

But unfortunately my time travelling with my parents had to come to an end eventually and we parted ways in Munich. They continued on to Milan or something warm while I stayed put in Munich to continue my solo adventure. I cried a bit. The thought of not seeing your parents for another 7 months is a hard thought to deal with so early in the morning and gosh was I a wreak but onwards and upwards. I found where I was staying each enough, explored the city over the next few days through museums, main squares, beer halls, free tours, etc.

Yet my time in Munich was not perfect by any means. Not only was I having parental withdrawals and questioning my ability to continue to be able to travel on my own – to put it in my own words “I’m not an adult. I can’t do this” – I was also there during terror attacks. Without data, a working phone, the ability to connect to wifi and no understanding of the German language I was at the mercy of the ebb and flow of all the other people (tourists and locals) trying to deal with the situation. I remember their being constant sirens, everyone moving in different directions, no public transport working, videos of gunmen shooting in the main square on TV’s of shops I passed. Having little to no idea how to deal with the situation and not having the only tool that can help you – access to the internet – whilst walking the streets of a foreign location it’s very scary. But we were OK, we made it out. I got back to the hostel and got on the next bus out of Munich though. The attack left a bit of a sore taste in my mouth but that’s not going to stop me from heading back in October for Oktoberfest! Got my dress already. So excited

Stuttgart. Amazing. I did nothing. I looked around town a bit as I had stumbled on Stuttgarts cultural festival. There was ballet in the park and live music everywhere. Made some lovely friends and spend the second day at the baths. Stuttgart has natural mineral baths and it just happened to be a fine sunny day on the 23rd. I spent the entire day relaxing in the spa, sauna and mineral pools which is just what you need after a bit of a stressful time in Munich.

 

France – Paris: 24-29/7
You wouldn’t think it but Paris is an extremely spread out city. In aiming to see everything it takes your whole day and you missed everything. My first day I set out to see Notre Damn, the Love Lock Bridge, the Louvre, the Latin Quarter, Champs Elysees, Arch de Triumph, Eiffel tower and 2 palaces turned musuems. Let me tell you I saw all these places. I achieved what I set out to do but you could easily spend a whole day inside the Louvre or pass a few hours at the Eiffel tower. I sped through them all.

I spend the next few days spending more time at the places I wanted to see more thoroughly that also didn’t cost an arm and a leg because Paris was expensive. I went inside the catacombs which was cool, walked the parks, looked out over Paris from the Sacre Coeur church and I took the half day trip out to Versailles! Woah that palace is AMAZING. Paris was awesome and I would definitely head back there; something I never thought I would say because I didn’t think I would like France at all. But it was so good!

 

Belgium – Bruges: 30/7-3/8
So lovely. Another example of what you would expect of a town that is lost in time. Old word stores, cobbled streets, one main church, a main square and everything is just so cute. You could easily spend a day there and see everything but I had time spare after my early exodus from Munich. I had made some friends from Geelong and Melbourne so we travelled around Paris and now Bruges together. We took in the sights, did a free tour and stuffed ourselves with Belgian Beer, Chocolate, Waffles and Fries. All delicacies of Belgium. All delicious. Would recommend this town.

I know you can see the dates passing and you can see I never spent too long in one place and this can get extremely tiresome and stressful with all the movement and the fact that you are carrying all your worldy possessions on your back. Sometimes you need to stop moving and take out a little me time. One of my days in Bruges my friends had continued on to Amsterdam and I was to meet them there in 2 days. So I spent one day in bed. I only got up to get myself food, maybe run to the bathroom but that was it. I watched movies on Netflix and read my book all day. It was kinda raining so I didn’t really waste a day. But a day needed to be wasted in honor of my sanity and it was THE BEST DAY!

 

The Netherlands – Amsterdam: 4-7/8
Amsterdam is beautiful! It’s a lush town with flowers and canals everywhere. The canals give the town the nicest feel and it also has some interesting history to provide. For example! (and this is a new favourite fact of mine) The Catholic Priests of Amsterdam were it’s first Pimps. They would pimp out their mistresses (which the church somehow let them have!) getting a cut of that money and then the double crossed the sailors that were utilizing their mistresses by getting them to pay for their sins before shipping out so they didn’t go to hell! What cheeky blighters!! Gosh!

That leads well into Amsterdam’s Underbelly. They have the Red Light District where Prostitutes are on display all night and they also have a thriving “coffee shop” scene aka Marijuana which isn’t technically legal but hey what’s good at attaining tourist business is alright in Amsterdam. Hahaha I had a great time in Amsterdam but unfortunately all my new travel companions had to move onto to different adventures that didn’t align with my own so I went on to explore on my own.

I didn’t know it but I actually arrived in Amsterdam during Europride. So it was one of the most flamboyant weekends I’ve ever had. We had the Europride parades through the canals, streets parties clogging every intersection and the most amazing markets/stalls selling the craziest range of homosexual objects! A great time!

 

Germany – Vehlage: 8-13/8 / Berlin 13-15/8 / Dresden 15-17/8
I jump on the train for Amsterdam heading into Minden within Germany because for the next 5 days I get to spend time with my grandparents who are also over here from Australia on their own trip. The homesickness was peaking so being with them was an extremely exciting prospect. We met on the platform with my grandmother running towards me yelling and waving a German flag. Hahah a great reunion after a month abroad. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

We travelled from the station to Vehlage which is the small town in which my grandfather grew up. It was beautiful. All green countryside, dotted with little villages or hamlets. Vehlage didn’t even have a town center or square. Just a little general store and school house. It was crazy. I spent the next few days there with my own bedroom and home cooked meals too! It was like heaven on earth staying with my grandmothers friend Inge and her husband Harold. We explore the surrounding area on bike, tripped out to monuments and archelogical sites, even had an extended family dinner I was invited to! It was one of the best parts of my trip so far if it weren’t so damn cold! Their German summer was topping out at 13 degrees and I was dying. But got that fire going and I was fine.

I left my grandparents after some awesome 5 days on the way to Berlin. Now Berlin was great! So rich with history. And after spending the time with my grandparents learning of their past and how the Berlin Wall and World world had effected them my time in Berlin became so much more meaningful. My grandfather and father had both actually used Check Point Charlie to enter east Germany to visit relatives on the wrong side. I always thought of those things happening so long ago that they wouldn’t effect me or anyone I knew but this had effected my immediate family! Blew my mind.

I explored the wall and all through the town. Then undertook a free tour that included the main square, the Holocaust memorial, and other remaining parts of the wall whilst also providing info on all the history surrounding the events and monuments at the same time. It was a spectacular stop on my adventure. That afternoon I even went on the find this festival that happens every weekend out a bit from the city center. It had amazing market stalls and food stalls but it’s main attraction was it Karaoke. That’s right Karaoke. There was maybe 600 to 1000 people in the amphitheater surrounding these performers and I sat there for 3 hours with them! The most amazing thing sitting with a bunch of strangers watching unprofessional singers dominate popular songs as we sang along and the sun set before us! It will be permanently etched in my memory

Dresden came next. Now this town was the tit’s. It had everything you could ever want. A sprawling area of resturants, clubs, boutique shops that was all brought together by specified graffiti zones that were full of the most amazing masterpieces that blew your mind with their intricacies and hidden meanings. Then you continued onto the older part of town that held markets, open air cinemas and regular stores. It was as you crossed the river that you hit the old town. It held amazing old buildings all now turned into museums, churches, parliamentary buildings, a castle, mosaic creations. I just walked around all day with my head pointed upwards trying to take in all I was seeing. Dresden was the tits.

The next day I borrowed a hostel bike and rode for maybe 10 minutes out of town and there was sprawling countryside with the river winding next to the bike path. Vineyards to your right and 3 castles in a row to your left. I stopped on the river to eat my lunch and simply appreciate where I was. I LOVED Dresden! If I were to move to Europe I would probably choose to move there.

 

But now my backpacking adventure was coming to an end. From Dresden I continued my curcuit of Europe back down to Prague. From here I would catch my plane to get to Stockholm in Sweden. I spent just one more night in continental Europe before ascending to the heavens in the belly of a winged metal giant. I came back to earth in Stockholm.

Sweden – Stockholm: 18-21/8
I arrived at the Hostel at 2pm in the early afternoon after waking at 5 am to get there. I took a train, a bus, a plane, a bus and another train. Oh wait and another bus. I checked in as the heavens opened and the rain crushed any chance of going to explore Stockholm so I treated myself to the first personally created home cooked meal I had made for myself while in Europe: Spaghetti Bolegnaise. Not my finest but still a hearty meal. I watch a movie and fell asleep after a very big day of travelling.

Little did I know upon making my plans that I had arrived in Sweden during their cultural celebration festival. Stockholm was packed with markets and stalls, music and stages, performers and actrobats. It was a great time. I explore the old town and it’s secrets by day and then hit up to festival scene at night. Best part was it was all free! Woo.

 

Then on the 21st it was time to head to Vasteras (which is an hour out of Stockholm by train) to start my exchange at Malardalen University! #wishmeluck

Oh My Goodness I’m Leaving Tomorrow!

I’m flying out tomorrow night! This is my last night at home for over 8 months!! Crazyyyyyy!

Yesterday I had an exam, smashed it out, went for lunch at Dining Hall (delicious as usual), signed out of my room, packed all my belongings, cleared out my room, cleaned my room, packed my car, said goodbye to everyone that was still left in the dorm and drove home. Took longer than expected to get all that done but I did it. Saying goodbye to all my girls was probably the hardest part.

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20160615_224933Got home to a lovely cooked dinner by mum and unpacked everything. After dinner I looked into my plans for backpacking before my study starts – colour coded it and everything!

Today I woke up nice and early to head to the
shops with my mum and do every last minute thing I could think of! I bought all my necessary toiletries to take over with me (had to spend my 60 dollar Priceline giftcard) as well as some ear plugs, Australian branded travel travel tags and RDIF passport and card protectors from the reject shop.

Mum and I then went on to Uniqlo to grab a bargain of a lightweight travel jacket, grab a cash passport to put all my money on (that of course didn’t go smoothy…) and then run – quite literately – to Lincraft and back to the car before the 3 hour free parking ran out. All in the name of obtaining some sew-on/iron-on Australian flags to decorate my backpack. Because who doesn’t want to broadcast that they’re Australian overseas??? I mean we are universally loved right. Yeah that’s what I thought so they’re now on my bag.

My grandparents wanted to see me off so Grandma cooked a 3 course dinner! Bless her. It was delicious and so much fun! Laughed till I cried making fun of dad for how overprotective he was being 🙂

Now just at home trying to bring everything I need for my travels into one spot as they are currently spread throughout the house. It’s starting to cover the dining room table. But I’ll get it all packed tomorrow. Sort myself out then I’m gone!

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By the way this past Saturday I thought why not go out with an Aussie Bang! Shannon Noll was amazing!20160611_223531

Talk soon x