Jaycie's Journeys

my adventures around OU and the globe (hopefully)

Week Three: Interlaken, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm, and everywhere in between

Week three started off as a blur: we woke up Monday morning, and my friend Michael and I planned to catch our first train to Milan. We confirmed with the lady at the hotel desk that the train station was right around the corner and set off for the day.

There was only one problem: it was the wrong train station. I looked at my map and realized we were at the wrong place, and then quickly understood that we needed to move fast if we still wanted to make it. The other station was a 14 minute drive, and there was 20 minutes until our train left. We rushed to the side of a major road and spent about five minutes hailing a taxi, quickly jumped in, and were off to the other station. We thankfully made it just in time and got on the train.

The ride to Milan was pretty and short. As we approached the station, I texted Michael to ask if it was our stop. He said that it was, and as I got up and started to grab my bag, the train started moving. I looked out the window as Michael stood on the platform, myself on the train. Our second mishap of the day. It turned out that that had been the wrong stop, and I got off at the correct stop. Michael took a taxi to the other station and we continued our adventure. As we rode through Switzerland, the landscape was absolutely breathtaking.

View from the front of the hostel

 

We spent most of the day on trains, but we eventually made it to our destination in Interlaken. We arrived at our hostel after a short bus ride, and met up with a bunch of our friends from the trip. It was really nice to just sit and chill for a night in the Swiss Alps.

 

 

 

Harder Kulm

The next morning, we got up and headed to Harder Kulm, a little station on the top of a mountain overlooking the lakes. We took a funny little slanted train up to the observation deck, and the views were absolutely incredible. However, my overly ambitious self wasn’t quite satisfied yet, so I decided to lead us on a hike up to the true top of the mountain. It was really even more incredible from the top.

In the afternoon, we went to the grocery store to buy some food to cook at our hostel. We got sandwich stuff for a quick lunch, and then headed back out to enjoy the views and do a little swimming. Later on, we cooked dinner, and I made a Maltese dish for an intro assignment for anthropology school. We ate a lovely dinner of Sopa Tal Armla and chicken, enjoying the views by the lake. We headed in for an early night and got packed up for the early trip the following morning.

Last dinner in Iseltwald

Me and the River Seine

Wednesday morning, we departed for Paris! We took two trains with just a quick stop in Basel, and arrived in Paris in the early afternoon. I ate one of the best pastries I’ve ever had in the train station, and we headed off to our Airbnb. It was the quaintest, cutest place I’ve ever seen. Since we had time to actually do things, we set off on a walking adventure. We walked by some government buildings, along the Seine, and near Notre Dame! All of it was surreal. We grabbed a quick dinner and headed back to the Airbnb to chill out a little bit, before heading back out for the night. We spent our first Parisian night sitting outside a cafe watching everyone go about their activities. I couldn’t help but feel as if this was pure bliss.

The next morning, our lovely friend Hannah arrived to spend the day with us for her birthday!! We made a breakfast of potatoes, eggs, bacon, and fruit, and sat down to enjoy each other’s company. After our other friend Zack arrived, we all set off to enjoy the day. We first went to the Eiffel Tower (it was as impressive as it seemed, and then walked to Hannah’s favorite museum, the Musee D’Orsay.

Celebrating Hannah’s bday with crepes and the Tour Eiffel!

The museum contained all of the impressionistic art I’ve only seen in pictures: it was surreal to see a Georges Seurat painting in person when I had done an 8th grade art project about him. After the museum, we walked

A day at the Musee D’Orsay

back towards our hostel and found a place to eat. We had what Hannah considered to be a French classic–steak and chips. It was all wonderful, and then we had to decide how to finish off the night. We ended up walking around for a bit, before finally deciding to just head back to the Airbnb to play some cards and enjoy the fact that we were in Paris.

Friday morning, I awoke to another surreal experience: there was someone playing the violin out the window. In Paris. Hannah had to get up sort of early to leave for her study abroad trip, and we all got up to wish her well. We had to check out of the Airbnb at 11, so we found the nearest City Locker (those things are a lifesaver), stashed our stuff, and went to enjoy the day. Cesar and I walked to the Louvre, the only other major Paris thing I hadn’t gotten to see. I spent the entire afternoon looking at more art I had only seen in pictures, and it was better than I could have ever imagined.

Louvre Pyramid

As the end of the day neared, we all met up for dinner at a pizza place, headed to get our stuff, and then headed to the bus station to begin our next adventure. After a somewhat stressful ticket debacle, we boarded our overnight bus to Amsterdam!

 

Saturday morning, we arrived in Amsterdam. It was rainy, and we didn’t quite know how to call a cab from the train station, so we decided to walk. For an hour.

This was not necessarily the best plan, what with me and my gigantic suitcase. However, we finally made it to city center and stored our items in city lockers (again, bless up for those city lockers), and set off to do some exploring. We walked around the city for a while, found a burger place that looked good, and sat down to finally have a good meal.

Chilling in Amsterdam

After we had eaten, it was time to check into the hotel. Our one room, which was supposed to fit two people, had to accommodate all six of us, which was quite a task. At any rate, we spent the afternoon relaxing before heading out to enjoy the Saturday night festivities. We walked around for a while before sitting down at a restaurant patio to eat. I had croquettes, which were one of the most interesting and delicious dishes I’ve ever tried.

Walking around the city

After dinner, we headed toward the infamous red light district. We walked around for a while, mostly observing the wild sights and inebriated individuals. At some point, we all got tired and headed in for the night.

The entrance to Anne Frank’s secret annex

The next morning, we woke up late and had brunch at a cute little restaurant that was shaped like a carousel. I had authentic dutch pancakes with stroop, which was incredibly tasty. In the afternoon, we did more exploring, and finally made our way to the Anne Frank House. It was a humbling experience, to say the least. After reading the book, truly experiencing the place where the family was hidden was both awe inspiring and utterly sickening.

The last night in Amsterdam, we stayed in to pack and talk and prepare for our flight the following morning. We woke up early on Monday morning, booked a taxi, and headed to the airport.

We arrived in Stockholm in the early afternoon, and luckily had enough time to do quite a bit of exploring (and shopping–there’s an H&M on just about every corner!). The downtown area was incredibly nice and modern, and we spent most of our day strolling around and enjoying the sights.

Exploring Norrmalm at night

The next morning, we got a semi-late start and grabbed a quick lunch at Max (a Swedish fast food chain) before attempting to use the public transit to get to a little island called Skansen. However, we quickly became frustrated when we bought bus tickets and discovered that the trams weren’t even running! When we asked someone why everything seemed to be out of whack, he simply stared at us and said “the Queen is having a parade!”

The Nordic museum after the queen’s parade

Evidently, we just so happened to be in town on the Swedish national holiday, and the queen of Sweden just so happened to be having a parade in Stockholm. We asked around a little more and found out that it was nearly a 30 minute walk to Skansen. We headed east and started our journey to the little island, where we would be able to observe the parade. We eventually made it to a pretty good viewing spot, where we sat and watched the festivities take place, and got to see the queen! What an odd day.

Fun at the park with flowers!!

After the parade, I got a cinnamon bun from a vendor and we all sat down at an extremely cute little park for the evening. We watched families play and took pictures with the flowers and just generally enjoyed the atmosphere. We headed back towards the center of town and our hostel and stopped on the way for food. I finally got the real Swedish meatballs (I’ve only had the IKEA ones) I had been hoping for, complete with potatoes and lingonberries.

It was a great way to end the night, as it was my last night of backpacking. The next morning, I would set off for my second study abroad program….completely and 100% alone.

Week Two: Florence, Siena, and Rome

The second week of the PLC trip began with a short bus ride to Florence. This was another moment where I had trouble comprehending where I was–Florence: the birthplace of the Renaissance. For real.

We arrived at our hotel (the Hotel California, oddly enough) and immediately began our tour with Kirk Ducleaux. Kirk is a fiery, fast-paced instructor, and he didn’t wait on anyone to catch up. We began by touring near the duomo and the baptistery, with Kirk talking in our earpieces (this was a new concept–there were a lot more people (a lot more tourists) in Florence, and it would be much easier to get lost from this point on). We learned about the church, the baptistery, and other important buildings in Florence, and then we visited a museum to look at some important works. We got to see Ghiberti’s doors, which I recalled learning about in my sophomore year world history class, and some other famous sculptures by the likes of Michelangelo and Donatello. After the museum tour, we got to climb to the top of the dome of the cathedral. It was absolutely the most breathtaking view of anything I have experienced. It was a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding mountains, and one could see centuries of history in a single glance.

Just some guys being dudes in Florence

The top of the duomo

Later, we had a group dinner, where my table nearly set our table on fire (oops). It was a lovely dinner, though, in a wonderfully lovely city.

The next day, we did more touring, visiting more sites in the morning (including the gallery where David is held!) and then the Uffizi Gallery later in the afternoon.

David!

I learned at one point that the Obamas were in the next building at the same time we were at the Uffizi, so that’s pretty neat. In the Uffizi we got to see a variety of incredible art, including works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Da Vinci, and Botticelli. After the Uffizi, I attempted to go to the Galileo museum, but it was closed on Tuesday. What a bummer. I kept walking for a while, though, and found my way into an anthropology museum! It was incredible–there were works by multiple famous ethnographers and artifacts from civilizations I had only read about in books. I explored town a little more before meeting back up with a group at the leather market, where I bought some souvenirs for my family. We ate another fancy dinner, and then worked on our papers for class before calling it a night.

Wednesday morning, we departed for Siena. We arrived shortly at the small medieval town, checked into the hotel, and left to tour. We toured the Siena government building, which had incredible works of art everywhere from the floors to the ceilings. We got a bit of free time to roam around, before we had a tour of the cathedral. The Siena cathedral was, dare I say, the most impressively unique of all of the churches I visited. The floors were marble, covered in Latin engravings, while the supporting columns were made of striped granite.

Facade of the cathedral in Siena

After this, a group of us got dinner and headed back to work on our papers before going out for the night.

View of Siena from hotel balcony

The next morning, we had a brief stay in Siena before departing for Rome. In the morning, we had a tour of a church that housed both the thumb and the head of St. Catherine of Siena, which was an interesting and humbling experience. After the tour, we were free for the afternoon. I walked around with Michael and some of the guys for a while, visiting a soccer stadium and some shops in the town. I had lunch with a big group at a restaurant that was recommended by the locals, and it may have been the best gnocchi I had on the trip. Later that afternoon, we left for Rome! We checked into our final hotel of the trip and had dinner (a four course meal!), before exploring the city at night and taking pictures at the famous Trevi fountain. What a good life it is.

The Trevi Fountain!

Friday morning, we were up early for another tour. This time, however, it wasn’t in a museum. We got to tour a neighborhood called Quadraro, which has become famous for the way it is utilizing street art to make the area more beautiful. It was a nice change of pace. After Quadraro, we walked toward the center of town and had a mini-tour before splitting off for lunch. We ate lunch at a rooftop McDonalds, which was super legit. We met at the Campo del Fiori in the mid-afternoon and finally made our way to the Roman Forum. As we ascended the Capitoline Hill, I was in awe of the amount of history that had occurred beneath my feet. I thought of the people that had walked there–Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, and some of the other most famous (or infamous) orators and governors of all time. We walked on a sidewalk alongside the Forum ruins and I got my first glimpse of the Colosseum. With the Forum on my right, and the Colosseum directly ahead of me, I couldn’t help feeling overwhelmed with emotion. I started crying–for real, I could not stop crying. My friends looked at me funny and smiled, amused at the girl who loved a place so much she cried. We finally got to tour the Forum, and I listened with rapt attention as Dr. Watson described the Arch of Titus, the Temple of Saturn, and other going-ons of the Forum.

The Arch of Titus, which commends the siege of Jerusalem

After the Forum, we headed toward the Colosseum. We were informed that we would get to go onto the floor of the Colosseum. The floor, as in where gladiators fought and died and some of the most important and real stories in the history of Rome occurred. We entered onto the floor through an arched tunnel, and I couldn’t help but imagine the way it must have felt for someone to have come through that same entrance, unsure about whether they would walk back out. I imagined the thousands of screaming fans, the emperor’s box, and the ceremonies taking place. Nothing was better than that experience for me, I think.

The Colosseum!!

Anyway, after the Colosseum, we had another family dinner, where I performed a rap I had written about Julius Caesar in 8th grade for Dr. Watson. It was singlehandedly one of the best days of my life.

The next morning, we toured a monastery that was still in service and got to go into the catacombs underneath the building. We learned about the history behind the bones; the entire experience was extremely humbling. We walked through Rome, stopping by the Trevi fountain once again, before heading to tour the Pantheon. The Pantheon was absolutely beautiful; sculpted in the classical style during Agrippa’s reign, it looked as if it had not aged a day.

Me inside the Pantheon

After visiting the Pantheon, we took the long hike (about 40 minutes) to the Vatican. We first visited the Vatican museums, which contained some of the most beautiful artwork I had seen. We made our way through to the famous Sistine Chapel, which was, as everything else was, quite unreal. I stared up at the ceiling that was painted by Michelangelo and smiled at the fact that I was really, truly there.

Cathedral at the Vatican

After this, we visited the main cathedral, which was beautiful, and walked around outside for a while before catching a taxi back to the hotel. We ate dinner on our own and then explored the city a little more before heading in for the night.

Our last day in Rome, we got to visit more catacombs and another archaeological site. In the morning, we visited the catacombs, which were extremely impressive (even though they had to move the bones to the lower levels because people kept taking them). We walked around the park area, and then to the archaeological site. We saw a centuries old church and a castle, among other historical buildings. The most fascinating part, however, was the circus ruins. Circuses were where Romans hosted horse races, and there were still ruins from one of the largest circuses in Rome. We also got to walk on a cobblestone path that was one of the most important roads in ancient Rome! This was a major difference between Italy and the U.S.–everywhere I looked there was history underfoot. We had our last dinner in Rome (our last everything, really), and then had to pack up to leave on Monday morning.

Onward, to Switzerland!

Week One: Arezzo, Italy

Now that I’m back in the states, I finally have access to my computer and I’ve had time to process the many notes I made throughout my trips and condense them into blog posts.

I can honestly say that studying abroad has been one of the best experiences of my life. I know that everyone says that, but I am now a firm believer that a change of pace (and location) changes everything.

My journey began with the PLC Italy trip. I arrived at the Kansas City airport at 5am, and my flight left at 6:05 (not gonna lie, they called my name to the gate–I was cutting it pretty close.) At any rate, I took a short flight to Dallas, where I met my friend Michael, who was on the same flight as me to Rome. As we waited in the airport, more students from our group began to arrive. It was an odd concept for me to grasp seeing everyone in a non-school context, and especially not in Norman. We boarded the flight around 12:30 and set off for our adventure.

The flight was relatively non-interesting. I watched movies, read my book for class (SPQR by Mary Beard), and talked to friends sitting around me. We arrived in Rome after 9 short hours and I got off the plane and tried to take it all in. I was in Rome–THE Rome I’ve read about and seen in movies for as long as I can remember. The pinnacle of a successful society which defined many modern structures, from architecture and music to government and warfare. Rome.

We sat in the airport for a while, and then my group left for Arezzo. It was a two hour bus ride, but I slept the whole way. We arrived at Arezzo, unloaded our items at the monastery, and took a tour of the monastery and the small city which would be our host for a week. I had my first Italian gelato and real Italian pizza, and I knew that this would be one of the best weeks of my life.

The next day, we had orientation at the annex (OU’s other classroom building in Arezzo). We learned all about navigating Arezzo, very basic Italian, and the structure of the week’s activities. After that, we visited a basilica in Arezzo, which had breathtaking frescoes. We had the rest of the afternoon free, and I went with some friends to the edge of the city and sat on the medieval walls enjoying the view. For dinner, we ate with our family groups, small groups of ten which were led by a faculty member. My faculty member was our professor for the class, Dr. Watson. He was absolutely incredible, and as I talked to him at dinner about my interests in anthropology and archaeology, he informed me that there was an OU professor who did Roman digs in Italy–a future opportunity to come back!

On Wednesday, we had our first actual class lecture. We arrived at the annex and Dr. Watson began teaching us the history of Rome, even from its mythological origins. I learned a lot more than I gained from the book, which was really cool. After class, we had a tour at the Arezzo amphitheater and archaeology museum. The amphitheater was a small colosseum, and I could only imagine just how large The Colosseum(TM) would really be. The archaeology museum was also amazing; it included a ton of Etruscan art (Arezzo, or Aretium, was first an Etruscan town).

Chillin at the archaeological museum

In the late afternoon, we had our vineyard tour! We walked towards the outskirts of Arezzo, to a beautiful vineyard on the side of a hill. We got to learn about how the vines grew, how the wine was made, and at the end of the tour, we had a wine tasting and some bruschetta. It was an absolutely incredible place, and it was Italy as I had imagined it. We had another family dinner after the winery, got gelato as a group, and headed back to the monastery for the night.

Frolicking in a Tuscan vineyard

The next morning, we had another class lecture with Dr. Watson, where we explored the beginning of the empire further. After class, we had another archaeological tour, this one at the Pionta. This site was an old Roman church that had been taken apart so that the stones could be used in the construction of other buildings. There was another, newer church on the site, and we were able to go down into the crypt of this church, where I got to see real human bones. After the visit, we went to lunch at the crepe place and had the afternoon free (I took a nap). We had another family dinner, this time at a super fancy outdoor restaurant, and then a large part of our group went to the bar that was under the annex for a wild time.

On Friday, we had our last class in Arezzo, in which Dr. Watson talked about the expansion and success of the empire and its eventual demise. We took an afternoon trip out of town to Rondine, a site where people come from different countries that are in conflict with one another to work and learn together. It was interesting, for sure, but it didn’t seem like the people that were there enjoyed it all that much. For dinner, me and a group of friends headed to a very quaint little restaurant in Arezzo. I had some incredibly good gnocchi. We finished out the night watching a movie and headed to bed kind of early.

The next day, we didn’t have class in the morning, but instead took a group trip to the flea market. It was a really cool experience, but I didn’t see anything I really wanted to spend money on–except cherries. I bought an entire bag of fresh cherries, and they were some of the freshest, best-tasting cherries I had ever eaten.

Some neat flowers at the flea market

We got a light lunch afterwards (crepes) and I headed back to the monastery to prepare for our pasta making session. Pasta making was super fun; we got to make everything from gnocchi to ravioli, starting with only an egg and some flour. Our pastas even turned out to be quite edible. Later that night, it was karaoke night at this bar called My Way, so a bunch of us ended up singing random songs with some OU basketball players who also happened to be studying in Arezzo. It was a good farewell to the lovely city.

Our last day in Arezzo wasn’t really in Arezzo; we had a free day, which meant that we could go practically anywhere we wanted within the time frame. I went with a group that first visited Pisa (Galileo’s birthplace!!), and then Viareggio, a cute little beach town on the western coast of Italy. In Pisa, we walked around for a bit, had breakfast, and visited the leaning tower, of course.

The leaning tower!!

We caught our next train to Viareggio, where we got to chill on the beach near the mountains. It was an absolutely incredible view. We got a late lunch at a seaside cafe, and then headed back on the train to Arezzo.

Beach day at Viareggio

For dinner, we had a cute little picnic in the courtyard of the monastery, and took some final pics before heading to bed and preparing to leave for Florence the next morning.

My first week of international travel was better than i could have ever imagined. I learned more about the Romans, about people, and about myself, than I had in a really long time.

Prepping for Italy and beyond…

In ten days (yes, you read that right, TEN DAYS), I will be embarking upon my first international adventure. I will be studying in Arezzo and Rome with PLC for two weeks, backpacking with some friends for about a week and a half (to places including Switzerland, France, the U.K., the Netherlands, and Sweden), and finally landing in Malta for about a month to be part of an anthropology field school. I know this is going to be one of the craziest adventures of my life, and I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around it. It seems like there are still so many things I need to figure out in the next ten days, and on top of that I have to take my finals. However, I do think that everything is going to work out, and once I get to Europe, I will know that the hard work I have put into the trip is worth it.

 

(p.s. if anyone has good tips for packing for two months abroad, hit me up)

Mr. and Miss Hispanic OU!

On April 22nd, the Mr. and Miss Hispanic OU pageant was held! Two of my friends were competing, so I went to watch them perform their acts. For their cultural presentation, my friend Chris did an impersonation and homage to one of his favorite Mexican actors, and my friend Jema performed a monologue about Latina feminism as Frida Kahlo. For the talent portion, Chris performed an extremely impactful spoken word piece about the American dream, while Jema taught the audience some salsa dancing. All of the acts presented were very entertaining and taught me much more Hispanic culture in new and unique ways. At the end of the pageant, the awards were given out, and both of my friends won! Overall, a very exciting night full of new aspects of Hispanic culture that I had not experienced before.

My friends are famous! A group PLC pic with the big winners.

Fulbright Meeting

On March 28th, I attended a meeting that Jaci held for anyone to learn more about the Fulbright program. The Fulbright is a scholarship awarded for students to teach, research, or study in another country. As a part of the Global Engagment program, I will apply for the Fulbright my senior year, so I figured it would be best to begin learning about the process now. At the meeting, I learned much more about the program itself, as well as how to apply. I heard from students who had applied and received the fellowship, and took notes on how I should approach the topic. It was extremely beneficial to attend the meeting, because I now know the type of things that I can be doing right now to put myself in a good position to apply when the time comes.

Latino Flavor!

On March 7th and 8th, I attended the Latino Flavor event hosted by Latino Student Life at the university! On the 7th, there was a fajita bar as well as a mariachi band in the union courtyard. Music is something that is very important to me, and being able to experience live music from another culture was extremely cool. The band was very engaging, with brightly colored suits and a lively sound. The next day, it got even better! There was a buffet in the union of foods from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries, as well as multiple musical acts. There was one artist who sang in Spanish and English, combining multiple aspects of culture to create her own style of music entirely. This was something I had never seen before or thought of before, and it was really clever and cool to see. Me gusto mucho.

OU Cousins-Part 2

This semester, I continued to be a part of the OU cousins program, with my cousin, Nelly. Getting to know Nelly better this semester has been so much fun, because the more time I have spent with her, the more I’ve come to know how similar we are. Our lives may have taken very different paths, but there are certain things that seem to be universal. One of my favorite memories this semester has been our weekly trips to Baked Bear (the ice cream here is better, apparently). Nelly is going home for the summer, but has said that she will miss our adventures from this year. OU cousins is such a unique organization because it can be whatever you want it to be. For me, it’s been gaining a really cool friend and a new perspective on France, and maybe the world. 10/10, will do again.

Truly understanding the global community…

This semester, I took the course Understanding the Global Community with Dr. Noah Theriault. Though I took the course originally out of a requirement, I would gladly take it again every semester for the rest of my college career (ok, so maybe that would get repetitive, but whatever). The class was, quite simply, a blast. I looked forward to coming to class every MWF because it was kept interesting by sporadic guest lectures, videos, and discussions. This class honestly opened my eyes to a lot of things going on around the world that I would not have even thought about, and even made me consider some aspects of myself that I never would have considered. Dr. Theriault himself was incredibly kind, poised, and intelligent throughout, and truly made it seem like he cared about each individual student. It is not an overstatement to say that this class made me think about the world in a new way; it has truly made me into a much more aware global citizen, and I am tremendously thankful for that.

Latin Ball (it’s lit, again)

The same night as the international prom, somehow there was also a latin ball happening just a floor below in the Union! The ball was hosted by the Latin dance club, and they were teaching anyone who wanted to come various styles of Latin dancing. My friends, many of whom were mainly of Hispanic heritage, knew a lot about the dance styles. In a pretty short amount of time, they taught me the basics of salsa and bachata, two forms of dance. It was fast paced and a lot of fun, and I even found myself as partners with Mr. Hispanic OU at some point! It was a whirlwind of a night, but it was a lot of fun for me to learn more about both the styles of dancing and my friends.

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