Belgium!

Three days have passed since Belgium and we arrive in Portugal in less than 8 hours. This is the first time I’ve been able to catch up on blogging because classes are starting to get a little crazy. We have had 6 days of each class so far and already I have had 2 tests in one of my classes. In the other class we just handed in a paper worth 20% of our grade. I can’t complain too much because to reward myself today I had a massage in the spa. It’s crazy to think how fast time goes here. One month ago I was boarding the plane with my family to start on this adventure.

Belgium was absolutely amazing! I couldn’t ask for a better port. The first day I had a field lab for my Leadership Development class. My class headed to Brussels which was a little over an hour and a half away. Our first stop was NATO where we met with two speakers. The first speaker worked for NATO in Afghanistan during 9/11. He spoke to us about the current situation in Afghanistan and why certain decisions were made. He also spoke about the goals for the future Afghanistan and how NATO and the US in particular will play a role in their future success. The second speaker gave us an overall description of NATO and was able to answer any questions we had. I was surprised by how much I learned visiting NATO. It was interesting to hear their side of what is going on in Afghanistan and to challenge my previous views on the situation. After lunch we went to the EU Parliament and had a tour and listened to a speaker. It was interesting to be able to compare Europe’s government to the US. For dinner we went to an Italian place in Antwerp’s center. There is a cluster of Italian restaurants. They didn’t speak any English and I definitely don’t speak Italian so ordering was very interesting. We did figure out halfway through the conversation that our common language was Spanish. Who would’ve known!

The second day I took a day trip to Amsterdam with my friends Carrie, Paige, Barrett, and Braxton. On the way I tasted my first Belgian Waffle, which was amazing! We took a train out of Antwerp (their train station is gorgeous) in the morning. We walked around and grabbed some lunch. It’s amazing how different their culture truly is. We wanted to go walk through the red light district to say we have experienced it but didn’t know who to ask for directions. A guy our age, Mark, saw that we looked lost and we started talking to him. He told us he had finished class early and was locked out of his house so he would love to show us. He ended up being our tour guide for the entire day. He showed us all around the city and took us to the Anne Frank house which was heartbreaking. It is amazing to think that we stood where she did many years ago. Amsterdam was an unforgettable experience and it was great to see it with a local.

The next three days were spent in Paris. The first night we found the Eiffel Tower and went out to a nice dinner. The second day we did an on-off bus so we had transportation. We saw all the major sites like Notre Dame, Arc de Triumph, and the Louvre. Paris is beautiful! For dinner we ate by the Eiffel Tower on the patio. When we were just finishing paying our bill the tower started to sparkle. It was one of those travel moments you’ll never forget. The twinkling goes off on the hour for five minutes at night so we grabbed some crepes and sat across the road by the fountains. Unbelievable. That night I went back to the hotel and was fortunate enough to skype my family. It definitely made my day seeing all of them, and what better day than my parents anniversary! Those 45 minutes seemed like 5. The next morning we got up extremely early and hiked up the Eiffel Tower. To get to the top you can walk to the second level and then have to take a lift. I definitely got my exercise for the day. At the top they have champagne and perfect places to take pictures. We had to rush back to make the bus back to Antwerp. When we got back we went out to dinner and walked around town with some friends.

The last day I hung out with my usual friend group. We haven’t been able to all hang out much in ports because we signed up for different trips. It was a nice end to the trip. We went to the Antwerp Zoo, which is the oldest zoo in Europe. We walked around for a while then went and bought Belgian Chocolates before heading back to the ship.

Right now Semester at Sea is trying to figure out if it is safe enough for us to stop in Morocco coming up. That’s the big question and gossip floating around the ship. Although we are traveling the world and learning a lot about it we are sometimes cut off from the world. Without the internet we don’t normally stay up to date with current events. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Otherwise I can’t complain. I am forever grateful for the opportunity I have been given and every morning when we eat breakfast out by the ocean I can’t believe this is real life. Studying with the sound of the ocean is surprisingly calming! Well I’m off to pack for Portugal. 3 days in Portugal, one day between (which I have no class) and then off to Spain!

Barrett, Paige, Me, Braxton- Mark in front in Amsterdam

Paris Crew

Me, Paige, Jessie (my roommate), Jake

A few of us at the zoo

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London

London flew by extremely fast! It was another country that was very similar to our own so getting around was easy. It’s the last country that we are visiting with English as their primary language so traveling will be very interesting from here on out!

I spent the first day in Southampton. I went out to dinner with a group of people in the city. There isn’t too much to do in Southampton but it is well known for where the Titanic set sail. We have officially completed the exact track that the Titanic went on backwards.

The second morning Paige and I were up bright and early for our trip to London. We signed up through Semester at Sea for a London on your own trip where they provide transportation and accommodations for the trip. The apartment they put us in was a little sketchy and two of our roommates even went and reserved a hotel instead because they didn’t want to stay there. The water was turned off so our toilet, sink, and showers didn’t work. It’s all part of the experience! We set off right away with a friend of ours to go sightseeing. We spent 3 hours in St. Paul’s Cathedral. We got in free because we went to the end of the service and then spent a lot of time walking around. We climbed all the way to the top, which took an hour in itself. It had amazing views of the city but was pretty scary being that high up. After we wandered around the city and saw a lot of sites such as: The Monument, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Globe Theatre, Westminster Abbey, the House of Parliament, and a little amusement park. We watched the sunset when walking towards Big Ben and heard the clock bells go off on the hour. Surreal moment. Paige’s Grandma bought us tickets to use the bus system and the tube for the days we were there. Taking the tube we met a runner for team USA on the Paralympics team! We saw a lot of athletes throughout town, which was sweet! We spent most of the night out of the apartment because we were terrified. The cab driver who dropped us off at the end of the night told us he was going to watch us go inside because we were in an unsafe part of town. We went and met up with a big group of SAS students at a place in SOHO. Getting there was an adventure and we met some amazing local people who helped us learn the bus system.

In the morning we set out early to get breakfast and visit Kings Cross Station. At the station they had Platform 9 ¾ from Harry Potter so we had to take pictures in front of it. We then took the Tube out to Abbey Road. We met a couple from Indiana on the tube and they ended up going around with us for awhile. We took pictures crossing the road like the Beatles and only got honked at a few times. We decided we had to go to Paul McCartney’s house after since we were already so close. We tried ringing the doorbell, which made the Indiana couple run from us, but no one answered. We then took the tube across town to the London Eye and went on the fast track to get on right away. It took 30 minutes and had amazing views of the city! We rushed to Buckingham Palace after to see it but ended up not having enough time to go on the tour. We caught the bus back to Southampton.

The last day I had my field lab, which essentially is a field trip that is worth 20% of our grade. We went to the University of Southampton and learned about teen pregnancy in the UK and compared it to US culture. We then later went to the mall to “observe” teen moms. There’s no easy way to not look like a creeper while trying to do this. After we went back to the ship and caught up with friends about their trips.

Ship life has been great! It’s hard to get back in the groove of school after trips like these. I had one class today and then I’m gone for six days traveling Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. We have a huge project for Global Studies, which we are making a documentary in a small group. My group is focusing on people with disabilities and the accessibility to healthcare and services for them. This is going to start taking up a lot of time in port with visiting hospitals and med schools. A lifelong learner Milton is helping us a lot with getting in contact with doctors and forming a good project. Tonight I had dinner with my “extended family” which they pair you with a teacher and a few other students who can get together and do stuff together. The teacher can be a friend or a mentor or someone you can just go to when you have any questions. Doug is our “father” and he is the drama teacher here. He seems pretty awesome and I think the program will be a lot of fun. We all ate dinner together tonight and are hoping to do it once a week. Right now my roommate and I are packing for our week of travels we have ahead of us. In 7 hours we’ll officially be in Belgium!

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Ireland!

My trip to Ireland is officially over but was full of lots of good craic! Ireland was a perfect first port to stop at and it was hard to say goodbye to the friendly Irish! We have meetings the nights leading up to our arrival to prepare us for entering the country. Two nights before we have our cultural pre-ports where we learn about the culture and history behind the country. The night before we have logistical pre-port where they tell us places to visit and any information about traveling.

We arrived in Galway at 6 AM. Most of us got up at 5:30 to watch the ship pull up to land. Standing up on the 8th deck and seeing land for the first time in over a week was surreal. Galway was an interesting port because we weren’t able to pull up to the dock. We instead had to go through the process of tendering. We anchored on the water and took the lifeboats to shore. The process of checking passports, going through customs, and taking boats out to port took a few hours but we finally touched land at 10. I traveled with my friends Paige, Jade, Ashley, and Haley in Galway. We started off going to a touring company and signing up for a tour to the Cliffs of Moher. We went with a bus full of SAS students and when we were there ran into even more friends. The tour was a half-day tour and took us through the beautiful green hills of Ireland. The cliffs were breathtaking and I took a million pictures walking around. After the tour we went back to the hostel to take a nap after traveling all day. When we woke up from our nap we had our first experience with “land sickness” the faculty told us all about. After adjusting our bodies to continuous waves our body didn’t know how to react to being on land. We all sat up and were dizzy and/or nauseas. We didn’t let that hold us back from experiencing Galway at night. We found dinner at a local place and went shopping for the Clauddagh rings that originated in Galway. We spent the rest of the night in pubs throughout town talking to locals about life in Ireland.

The next morning we were up bright and early to get on a bus. Our group split and Paige and I traveled with other SAS students to Dublin. There was a huge game – Notre Dame vs. Navy – which drew a lot of US fans. It also meant that most hotels were full. We walked around town looking for places and finally found the last room in Dublin! That night we met up with other SAS students and went to the Temple Bar area to the Pubs. We ended up meeting a group of Irish boys who talked to us for over an hour about Ireland and what they loved about it. It was sweet to be able to compare our countries and hear about different traditions they have. (It also helped that our homework assignments are to speak to locals about different topics and they answered everything we could ever need!!)

The next morning we woke up and went sightseeing! We paid for an on-off bus through Dublin. We planned on mainly using it for transportation. We went to Trinity College, Dublin Castle, the Cathedrals, and wandered through the streets. We ended up getting lost and walking all over which ended up being an amazing way to see the city and meet locals. The people here are so friendly! We asked for a good place to eat and not only did they tell us a good place but they walked us to the place, which was at least half a mile away. They have an amazing spirit in Ireland which I’ve never experienced before. We met up with some SAS students at a pub later in the day to watch the Dublin vs. Mayo game. They had live music playing while everyone was packed in watching the game. One thing I love about Ireland is their live music and street performers everywhere! After the game we went and got Shepherd’s Pie and walked around town more. Perfect day in Dublin!

The last day we had a shorter amount of time because we had to be back at the ship by 6. If we are late we get “dock time” where we aren’t able to leave the ship in the next port for a certain amount of time. We got back at 4:30 to make sure we had time to spare. I knew my brother would kill me if I missed out on a tour to the Guinness factory so we took the on-off bus to the factory. We went on the tour and got to see how it was made. They had a computer where you could type in your last name to see if any of your ancestors ever worked at the factory. I typed in Bolger, how they used to spell my last name and multiple people popped up. You never know! We went to the top deck to get our free Guinness. Although I wasn’t a big fan of the beer, the view from the top deck was amazing! On the way back we stopped to see the statue for the potato famine and then headed back to the ship.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot because cramming Ireland into four days is nearly impossible. I fell in love with the country and people of Ireland and hope to come back soon! I wish my family were here to see it with me! I haven’t gotten too homesick yet which surprises me but there are definitely times when I’m sightseeing that I point out how much my parents or my brother would love to see certain things. We had one day of classes today, which was hard after an exciting four-day break. It was a lot of fun to catch up with friends and exchange stories while sitting out by the pool or eating dinner outside. I still can’t believe this is all happening. I hope everyone at home had a relaxing Labor Day weekend! The State Fair was missed by all of the Minnesotans on the ship! Tomorrow at 8AM I’m off to London! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me in England!

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Ship Life!

I have officially been living on the ship for over a week now! Last Wednesday seems forever ago! I boarded the ship with all the other students who have a job onboard and we were able to walk around and explore. I love my new home! The people here are amazing! I got lucky and have an amazing roommate Jessie who has become one of my good friends. We are on the second deck, which is the lowest deck allowed for cabins. I didn’t know when I signed up for rooms that this deck was the place to be. They are smaller cabins but because it is on the lowest deck it rocks the least. So when huge waves come we get don’t have to deal with our drawers whipping open or stuff flying off the shelves like other people do. The only downside is that because it is closest to the water, when waves hit it splashes our window, which can be creepy in the middle of the night.

Our room is pretty simple. It has two beds, a tiny table, a small desk, and three cabinets across from the bathroom. We have a steward named Rene who comes in and cleans our cabin every other day. It was a big surprise coming back from class to my bed made and all of my clothes folded. The sixth deck is where we spend most of our time. It has one of the dining halls, a lot of classrooms, the union, library, school store, and a snack bar. Everyone is usually hanging out somewhere on 6th or outside on 7th by the pool and weights.

The first night all of us went out to the Dome, which they closed down for Semester at Sea students. It was nice to be able to go out and hang out with new people. In the morning all the students that boarded the ship the day before helped out with embarkation. I was paired with another student Jared and our job was to tell parents it was time to say goodbye. (Worst job ever!) Everyone was on by 2 pm. At 5pm the ship took sail! A bunch of the parents stayed and waved goodbye, which made the trip finally seem real!

Classes started on Saturday (We don’t have weekends here!). The first day was easy sailing but the second day we started to hit rough waves. For three days straight we were in the middle of a storm. The waves were 20 feet high and walking to class was a funny sight to see. I’m one of the lucky few that hasn’t gotten seasick. They put barf bags all around the ship and it’s not unusual for people to run out of class. Classes so far have been really interesting and it’s sweet to see that what you’re learning in the classroom you can really use in the different countries we visit. Classes are 15-20 students so it provides a lot of one on one interaction. It’s also interesting how the teachers live with us. It’s not unusual to eat a meal with a professor or have another sit outside with your group of friends and watch the sunset. It is definitely a very different experience than campus at UND. We have had a few different inter-port people who come on the ship and stay for a short period of time. The founder of Crocs is a Semester at Sea Alum who came to our Global Studies class. Also the Dean of the next voyage talked to us about her trip to space as an astronaut. One inter-port student was a PhD student from University of Galway in Ireland. Sarah taught us about Ireland in our classes and was available to eat meals with us during the day. My friends and I ate lunch with her one day and she told us all the places we should go in Ireland and helped us plan our visit. Tomorrow morning we finally get to Ireland and have four days free of classes! At 5:45 AM all of us are getting up to watch the ship pull into the first port! I can’t wait to touch land! I’ll post an update after Ireland!

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After an entire…

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After an entire day of traveling Sunday we finally arrived in Halifax!  We had a layover in Toronto where we went through customs and then had to go through security one more time.  We got on our second plane and then were told it was delayed because a light in the bathroom was out.  We ended up sitting on the plane for an extra half an hour while they fixed it.  In Halifax we rented a car and made the trip to our hotel which was reserved for Semester at Sea groups.  The first night we grabbed dinner and walked around town a little.  

Monday we went to lunch with my Dad’s cousin who lives right outside of Halifax.  We went to an Irish restaurant named Durty Nelly’s which is known for their fish and chips.  Their grandson Aiden came who is two.  He provided the entertainment and was the cutest little thing!  They recommended we go up the hill to the Citadel because it has the best view of the city.  We ended up going in and exploring the old fort.  For dinner we met up with my friend Paige and her family.  Paige is a good friend from high school who is going on SAS with me.  It’s nice to have someone I know for all of this first week anxiety!  We went to a restaurant in town and then walked down to the boardwalk to get ice cream from Cow’s which is apparently ranked within the top ten in the world!  We walked the boardwalk home.  It’s amazing to think that the ocean is literally going to be my home for the next three and a half months.  Kinda crazy!  

 

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On Tuesday both Paige and I’s families packed in the car to drive out to Peggy’s Cove which is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world.  For lunch we drove out to another small town Lunenberg.  We didn’t spend much time in Lunenberg because it was almost a two hour drive back to Halifax.  For dinner my family went over to my Dad’s cousins house for a lobster boil.  When they heard it was my first time ever having lobster they went all out!  It was fun to be able to get a feel for Canadian culture through not only a local but a family member.Image

 

This morning is full of packing!  Right now I have four bags that need to be condensed into two!  In two hours I’ll be boarding my new home!  I’m getting nervous but I definitely think I’m ready!  I can’t believe the next time I post will be from Europe!  Cya in Ireland!

 
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Minnesota!

Another amazing summer has come and gone.  I officially handed in my uniform, packed my bags, and am in the process of saying my last goodbyes to my vf crew tonight.  Although my picture perfect summer is officially over tomorrow I’m embarking on an amazing adventure for the semester.  I’m going to be studying abroad through the University of Virginia in a program called Semester at Sea.  The entire semester is on a ship where we stop in multiple countries on the way. By December I will have visited 4 continents and over 15 countries.  The schedule is:

 

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Galway, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland

London, England

Antwerp, Belgium

Lisbon, Portugal

Cadiz, Spain

Casablanca, Morocco

Tema, Ghana

Cape Town, South Africa

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Montevideo, Uruguay

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Manaus, Brazil

Roseau, Dominica

Fort Lauderdale, FL

 

After four months of planning I can’t believe the day has finally come.  On the ship I’ll be taking Global Studies, Leadership Development, Cross Cultural Psychology, and Comparative Politics.  I’m going to try to post at least once every country so all my friends and family can keep up with my travels!  Tomorrow my parents are flying with me to Canada and we are making a little family vacation out of it.  Wednesday I’ll get on the ship a day early because I am going to be working in the school store for the semester!  Thursday night the ship will set sail!  I’m still in the process of packing- two suitcases that are 50 pounds each is harder than you’d think to pack your life into!  So I’m off to keep packing and spend the night with my VF crew!  Wish me luck!

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