Travels within the Motherland

The five days I spent within the Russian Federation were surreal. We crossed the Estonian Russian border in the south of Estonia and there is such a start difference even at the border. To enter Russia, your bags get x-rayed, you stand in a long queue with border guards who have almost never seen American and Canadian passports so they pass them among the workers so they can see them, and your bus gets searched. Once your through the red tape, you start driving on the Russian side. The country side itself looked rather like elsewhere in the Baltics, even all the way to Moscow, but the villages you drive through, the roads your on, are all just something else.

The first day in Russia we visited Pskov and a monastery just outside of Pskov. The monastery was absolutely beautiful, with everything being done in the typical Russian Orthodox style of being completely over the top with elaborately designed churches, beautiful icons and brightly painted everything else. After the monastery we went to the city of Pskov to visit the Kremlin there (Kremlin means fortress). The Pskov Kremlin was ok, it did not appear to me to be anything spectacular, at least on the outside. Inside, there was a beautiful church with all the usual Orthodox trappings, gold, icons and other religious symbols literally everywhere you turn. The rest of Pskov however, seemed to fit exactly what I had assumed a Soviet town would look like (and what I expected Tartu to be when I arrived). Grey sky with all sorts of apartment buildings that looked in need of repair and sort of a depressing atmosphere. It was in Pskov that we boarded the train to go to Moscow.

The next leg of our journey was a 12.5h overnight train from Pskov to Moscow. This was my first time on a train and some of my friend’s first time on a night train so we had no idea what was going on. There were four people per little bench area with 2 people across the narrow aisle in seats. The train lights get turned off at 11pm sharp so at this time, the entire train minus me goes to sleep. I spend the rest of the night laying on my bench listening to music and hoping that the train would get to Moscow soon so I could get off and move around.

We finally arrive in Moscow and work our way through the throngs of people at the station which had levels of security I have not seen anywhere outside of Israel. The group heads to our bus for a bus tour around the city and its at this point you realize you are no longer in Europe anymore. What struck me most about Moscow was how unique it was. The architecture is a cross between European and Central Asian, the traffic is worthy of any major North American city if not worse and the Muscovites are not like any other Europeans I’ve ever met. After making our way around the city seeing from the outside at least, things like the Kremlin from across the Moscow River, Moscow State University and the Smirnov house, we board the Metro to take the underground to go to the Kremlin for our tour. The first thing you do in Moscow when boarding the Metro is take an escalator 100 metres or more down and once you step off, your bombarded with Cyrillic as to what lines  go where and at first, it is such an overwhelming experience. These stations are also beautifully decorated with stained glass in some, murals, busts and engravings in others and they are quiet clean. You have to deal with this sensory overload all the while keeping a watchful eye on your surroundings as pickpockets are a very real threat. My roommate actually had a jacket pocket opened on the Metro but luckily nothing was in that particular pocket.  We did the Kremlin tour and then had the rest of the night off. I initially went with some friends to Red Square where the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral sits but unfortunately, Lenin’s Tomb was under renovations so we could not visit that. Being in Red Square has been a long time dream of mine and being able to finally set foot in there and see St. Basil’s with my own eyes was just unforgettable. While such an iconic building in general for Russia, seeing it in person is so different.

Later that night I met a friend from Tartu who was spending the semester in Moscow and after this, because she lived on the other side of town, I had to take the Metro back on my own. This was a bit apprehensive for me as I have almost no knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet and my Russian consists of a few words that did not help me in the slightest. Despite the dangers the Moscow Metro possesses, namely pickpockets, I manage to make it back to my lodgings  in once piece with all my belongings.

The next day, we go to some art gallery, which was o so enjoyable (text based sarcasm is hard to convey) but after the art gallery, our last stop in Moscow was Arbat Street. Here we were able to wander around, shop, watch street performers and get food and drink for the night train to St Petersburg. Being a long time lover of Mcdonalds and being entirely powerless to not eat at the first restaurant in all of Russia, I went into the Mcdonalds and with 2 other people, ordered 14 cheeseburgers from the dollar menu for the train ride which we were going to accompany with a box of Dunkin Donuts pastries but due to running out of time, we only got as far as getting some drinks for the train after the burgers so we missed out on the donuts. We made our way on the Metro to the train station and then began the long journey by train to St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg is such a different city from Moscow. Having about half the population (12 million vs roughly 6 million) the city was much more relaxed. For me, being in St Petersburg was like being in any other European city, but it was still a great time. Here we visited the Hermitage and Czar’s Village which are too of the most ostentatiously decorated palaces I have ever seen. When we had our free time in St Petersburg, we spent most of the time wandering around Nevsky Prospect. Here we saw another church like St. Basil’s called Saviour of the Blood which was no less impressive, just not quite as iconic.

All in all, Russia was such a different place than any I’ve been to, the Middle East included. The people, the atmosphere, the architecture, all of it is uniquely Russian.   This uniqueness made this an unforgettable trip and has given me good reason to go back. I saw almost nothing Moscow and St Petersburg have to offer and there is so much North, South and East of Moscow to see. For example, I saw the second biggest mosque in Europe which is located in St. Petersburg. Now I need to go see the first (its in Grozny, Russia).

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Let’s Just Get Up To Speed, Shall We? (Featuring Day 1 and 2 of my Euro-travels)

It’s been somewhat of a challenge for me to submit blog-posts about events that I’ve experienced months ago; in terms of story-telling, I’m the type that wants to include every little detail, despite what the reader may or may not be interested in. With that being said, and after giving it some thought, I’ve decided to scrap my initial plans of describing my experience abroad from the very beginning in complete detail.

Instead, below you will find a brief point-form style list featuring just a few interesting little bits about my experience abroad in Swansea, Wales thus far:

- the beach across the street from the university is the best place to hang out on warm and sunny days, which we’ve been getting a lot of lately
- a place called Gower, just down the street (and by ‘just down the street’, I actually mean ‘about an hour’s walk down the beach’), is absolutely breathtaking; if you don’t believe me, search ‘Gower’ on Google Images. It’s one of my favourite day-trip locations.
- I spent a few days in Dublin, Ireland during the middle of March, and greatly enjoyed the mass celebration and festivities pf St. Patrick’s Day that occurred throughout the city (which is a really lovely place, even on an ordinary day).
- after several right-place-at-the-right-time instances, I managed to help form a 7-piece band (though we originally began as a quartet, we’ve since recruited a couple friends, and an audience member from one of our gigs) that now plays regularly in town. I live for music, so this really is living the dream; I still cannot comprehend how incredible it all is…how everything came together the way it did.
- we get a month-long holiday in April, which will consist of travelling through Switzerland, France, Spain, and finally, Italy. A flatmate and I started planning (booking transportation tickets and hostel rooms) for the trip about a month ago, and yesterday we finally departed for Geneva, where I currently type this blog-post from. I’ve been writing one (very) short blurb in my journal at the end of each day, and I plan on posting each one to this blog. Short and sweet: who would’ve thought I’d ever commit to such a thing?

Day 1 of my Euro-travels – Big beautiful mountains surround Geneva, and everybody speaks French here. There are lots of kebab shops, and there’s a really neat thing that shoots water vertically out of the lake. Also, South Park characters sound the same in French as they do in English. I have yet to see the city during the daylight hours.

Day 2 of my Euro-travels – Geneva is beautiful; 25 degrees and sunshine doesn’t hurt. The mountains around the city distract me from everything else. My French is improving: I gave someone the time. The Sunday fruit market smelled and tasted delicious, and the vertical jet of water shooting out of the lake continues to amaze me.

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Re-discovering Tartu

Despite my major trips to Stockholm followed immediately by Pskov, Moscow and St. Petersburg starting April 10th, Tartu is still yielding unexpected experiences. This past weekend, a group of exchange students went to the A Le Coq Brewery. Tartu is the home of this particular beer and the company is one of the biggest producers of beverages (juice, pop, beer, etc) in Estonia. This tour was rather interesting, being entirely in the Estonian language, of which only one person in the group of exchange students had a bit of comprehension so the rest of us used our experience from having visited other breweries in our travels to piece together what was going on. The end of the tour concluded like all tours of breweries end, sampling the product, however at this particular one, many more samples are provided.

Going to this brewery, aside from seeing a rather significant part of Tartu’s history (the brewery has been operating since the early 1800s and survived German occupation of the city during WWII), it brought me to a part of Tartu I had yet to visit. Realizing this, I have discovered that I need to take advantage of this nice weather, above 0 C temperatures and reasonably clear sidewalks to explore the parts of Tartu I have not visited. I can remember taking the airport shuttle through the city as it made the rounds picking up people at their homes that there was a cluster of churches in a neighbourhood of wooden houses. With that as a starting point, I’m sure that there is plenty more to discover here once I have returned from my few remaining international excursions.

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La Vie en France Part 2: School and all that fun stuff

Hello again!

So Dublin was one heck of a good time! Celebrating St. Patty’s Day smack dab in the middle of Ireland was definitely something I can now cross off my bucket list. I also found out over the weekend that my family is coming to visit me at the end of the month, which is a really nice surprise because my parents had always told me in the past that it would be too difficult for them to come visit me in Europe due to their work schedules (knowing them, they’ve probably been planning this all along).
Aaand I finally dragged myself up to the International Student’s office at the university campus today to see my marks from 1st semester, and I am proud to say that I successfully passed all my courses! It got me thinking that I should probably put a blog up about the French education system, as it is quite different from ours and I feel like there are some things you should know or expect to find here if you are interested in studying in this beautiful country.

Before I begin, let me jus say that I am speaking solely off my experiences as a student of Humanities here at the Université de Savoie. The system at other universities and in different faculties could be different, but here are some general tips regardless:

-I’ll start with the good news: there is virtually no homework! Lectures basically consist of a professor pacing around the room and talking, while the students furiously scribble down notes. That’s it. It is rare that you are assigned any work to do at home, including essays or take home tests. This makes for free weekends, which really helps with that whole “traveling across Europe every two weeks” thing. I don’t know how I’m going to re-adjust to the Canadian system next year!

-That being said, I find classes here to be less exciting because as I mentioned before, the Prof just blabbers on for 2 hours straight. There isn’t much student interaction and the teachers seem to be completely against powerpoints and fun stuff like that.

-Also, each course normally only has one lecture per week. So instead of taking five courses twice a week like we would back home, you would take 10 courses once. For this reason I would highly suggest going over your notes during your spare time, because if your class is only once a week for only 1-2 hours, odds are that you’re going to forget what your professor talked about the week before, so prepare yourself before arriving to lecture.

-The 10 courseload can also make for quite the stressful exam period, as you have to write 10 exams over a 2 week timeframe. That being said, keep in the mind that there isn’t as much course content to study as there would be at Brock.

-Professors here are extremely understanding with the exchange students. France gets millions of foreign students every year, so the teachers are quite used to dealing with us and our thousands of questions. Oftentimes if you discuss your situation with your Prof, he/she may exempt you from the exam altogether in exchange for something much easier, like a written assignment.

-Your final mark will be out of 20. Don’t be shocked if you finish with a 10 or 11, first of all because a 10 is not the equivalent of 50% back home, and secondly because it’s completely normal as pretty much everybody gets bad marks (nobody has figured out why, it’s just one of those odd French things). Finishing a class with a 17 or higher is almost unheard of, while a mark of 8 or 9 is still also consider a pass. Remember that Brock works on a pass/fail basis, so your actual numerical score isn’t THAT important.

-If you don’t succeed at passing your exams the first time around, well you’re done for. Nah just kidding. In France you can rattraper or “redo” your exams a second time. But if you’ve been chosen to do an exchange abroad, you’re probably a smart little individual, so need not worry!

-Registering for classes is quite…interesting, to say the least. There’s no online web registration or administrative work to sign up. You just …show up (seriously). You basically sit in on a class for the whole semester like a fly on the wall, coming and going as you please, and if you think you’ve learned enough during the semester to attempt the exam then you fill out a form stating you want to write it. It’s quite different from what we have back home, but it is what it is!

-Last but not least, you will be expected to obtain around 60 credits (they’re known as “ECTS” around these parts) over two semesters, which works out to about 14-15 hours in class per week. It can be a little overwhelming trying to make your own schedule at the beginning, but it all works out. My advice is to sit in on as many courses as possible and get a feel for what you are most comfortable with.

Alright well I feel like I’ve just written out a novel and I’m getting kind of hungry, so I’m gonna go be as stereotypically French as possible and head on over to the local boulangerie and grab a baguette!

Until next time,

Mike (mgo8tu@brocku.ca)

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La Vie en France

Bonjour! Ça va?

Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Mike, I’m from St. Catharines and currently in my third year of university, doing a double major in French and Italian. Since August I have been studying at the Université de Savoie in the beautiful city of Chambéry, France through the Ontario-Rhône Alpes program (ORA) and am having quite the experience! Unfortunately I can’t go through everything I have done here in the past 8 months but I assure you it’s been a heck of a ride. I’ve had the chance to meet many great people and see many great things. I’ve been lucky enough to visit many parts of Europe- multiple cities throughout France, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands and Switzerland to be exact!

My new adoptive town of Chambéry is quite incredible. It’s fairly small (the population is around 60 000), but it has all the charm you’d expect from a city situated in the French Alps! There are beautiful snow covered mountains surrounding the city, and surprisingly the architectural style in the downtown core is predominantly Italian (as this region historically belonged to the Kingdom of Italy up until 150 years ago). I like to think of it as a cross between British Columbia and Tuscany! It’s also in a great location geographically, as I’m about an hour and a half from Italy and 40 minutes from Geneva, Switzerland. Living in the Alps provides for some great skiing as well!

The university itself isn’t that bad either. The education system is quite different from ours and can take a while to adjust to (I’ll probably discuss that in a later blog), but my school has the 4th highest number of international students in France so needless to say I have had the opportunity to meet people from all around the world!

Life in France is…unique, to say the least. Going into my exchange, I knew I would experience some level of culture shock, but nothing could have prepared me for this! Every aspect of their society- their culture, administration, education, social life etc.- is completely different from what we have back home. From an outsider’s perspective it may seem completely backwards and at times extremely inefficient (don’t even get me started on French paperwork), but that’s just how it is! At first it was a tough adjustment but nowadays I’m pretty much used to it.

On a personal level it has been quite the change, as this is my first time living on my own. At first it was a tad difficult, for example having to learn how to cook or having to open up my own bank account in French (there’s absolutely no English going on in these parts), but I think in the long run it’s been great because it really has made me a more independent person. Luckily the adjustment to having to speak French all the time wasn’t too difficult, thanks to the great profs in Brock’s French department who prepared me well!

So anyways, this week I’m off to Dublin, Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s day (you’re jealous, I know), so I’ll be sure to put up a blog chronicling that adventure when I get back! Also, if you’re interested in doing an exchange and have any questions regarding France or Europe, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at mg08tu@brocku.ca.

Au revoir!

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Travel and Tim Hortons Substitutes: The Lifeblood of a Canadian Exchange Student

Today, I picked up the paperwork for my Russian visa application, in preparation for my trip to Pskov, Moscow and St. Petersburg. While this is still quite some time away, being from Canada, I get to fill out lots of paperwork unlike my European counterparts, who are able to have the travel agency running the school trip do it for them.

In my first post, I mentioned a potential trip to Serbia. What I failed to mention was that Serbia was a last ditch effort to go somewhere when the unofficial airline of the Latvia, airBaltic, increased the price of their non stop flight from Riga to Tbilisi, Georgia. However, several days ago, my roommate and I were looking on many airline websites (by many, I mean most as we must have gone through every national carrier for Central and Eastern Europe as well as every budget carrier we could think of) to see if we could figure something out. While I was on the airBaltic website, I noticed they had a summer flight sale that ended on March 14. Following the link, I looked at their routes and prices and there is Riga – Tbilisi – Riga for 115 euro + baggage. Being somewhat impulsive and still very much enjoying to go to places that not a lot of people want to go to, we booked our tickets and are now anxiously looking forward to our seven days in Georgia.

As an aside for the Canadian traveler to Eastern Europe who is missing Tim Hortons (extra larges do not seem to exist in the average location), make sure to go to Poland. They have a coffee shop much like Tim Hortons called coffeeheaven, even to the point where you could almost say there is one on every corner. Also, they have extra large beverages and the coffee is quite good, though of course, not better than Timmies. After having sampled quite a few coffee shops throughout Riga, Estonia, Warsaw and Helsinki (not really Eastern Europe I know but close enough), coffeeheaven is by far the closest I have found.

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Everyone’s a Foreigner Somewhere (Part 2 of 2)

My coach bus to Swansea finally arrived; it was now time to leave London. I’ve never been to the UK before, so I was very excited to be able to lean my head against the window and take in all the sights from London to Swansea. That’s actually one of my favourite things about this exchange so far: pretty much everywhere I go is new to me, so I’m constantly observing my surroundings. Every day is a brand new day! (cliche, but it’s true)

Anyways, I made sure to choose a seat on the right side of the bus so that, as I just said, I could take in all the sights. However, as soon as we left the bus pick-up area and hit the streets, I realized I hadn’t made the smartest choice (though to be fair, I was quite tired); people in the UK drive on the opposite side of the road. Clearly things were starting to really set in – I was not at home anymore.

A light rainfall commenced just after we exited London, and my exhaustion began to settle in, as I didn’t get much sleep on my overnight flight. As much as I wanted to take in all of the novel scenery, my eyes just weren’t having any of it. I drifted off to sleep…

When I woke up, we were driving through a tiny town on a hillside (which is probably how hundreds of English towns could be described as). It was kinda funny being in such a large vehicle, navigating through these old streets made for little cars. I decided to go back to sleep once I heard the bus driver announce what the next stop was (not Swansea).

When I woke up from the second nap, I felt like I had been sleeping for ages. The key word is ‘felt’, because in reality we hadn’t even arrived at the next bus station. It should also be noted that the bus ride was only 4 hours total.

I’m going to skip to the most exciting part of the story now: suddenly turning a corner and seeing the lovely city of Swansea in the distance. It was such an amazing feeling…it was as if all of the pictures of Swansea I had looked at online in the months prior to the trip were magically coming to life. I sat up from my sleepy slouch posture, and marveled at everything before me: the sea, the giant hill tucked away with all sorts of houses attached to one another (which I still can’t get enough of), and just…everything. I’m putting myself into a daze right now just thinking back to that moment.

As we pulled into the Swansea bus station, the girl sitting behind me asked if this was Swansea; I told her that I was pretty sure it was, and asked her where she was from. It turned out she was an exchange student from Nigeria, and it was her first day here as well, so we decided to share a taxi to the university campus. We each picked up our residence keys and parted ways to our respective accomodations. Come to think of it, I’ve only seen her once since then, but I imagine she’s doing okay.

Anyways, I walked towards the front door of my new residence, the little old building that it is, and took a deep breath as I took out my key.

I think this is an appropriate time for a cliff-hanger. Next post I promise to finish my move-in story. Hopefully you’ve been able to tolerate my lengthy and sometimes over-detailed story-telling; I just can’t help but feel nostalgic and then my thoughts get all jumbled and this is the result.

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The Perils of Spring

With spring rapidly approaching, I fear I shall be doing battle with the greatest adversaries of the unsuspecting exchange student, ice and giant puddles of slush.

For a northern country, the Estonians do a remarkable job of keeping the roads clear of snow and ice. The same sadly cannot be said about the sidewalks. Each journey out of Raatuse is an adventure, having to pick your way around the big puddles, the known icy patches and mothers pulling small children in little plastic sleds that are abundant on the way to class, to the grocery store, to the popular student haunts, etc.

Despite my best efforts, particularly during a warm spell in January and one in early February, I have fallen prey to the ice several times, luckily avoiding the giant puddles of slush (though I can feel it coming) though there have been far too many close calls to count.

When falling, there are two ways to go about it. First, you can fall, get up quickly and sort of run away in hopes no one saw you, the path exchange students are apt to take. Alternatively, you can accept that it is inevitable and upon falling, quietly mutter to yourself about how annoying the ice is but just move on, as it happens to everyone, therefore no one cares.

Thankfully, there is still time before this battle begins, though I fear no amount of training (not really sure how to train for it but… meh) will allow me to successfully navigate the streets of Tartu unscathed this spring.

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Everyone’s a Foreigner Somewhere (Part 1 of 2)

As I’ve already mentioned in my first blog-post, I’ve been overseas for just over a month so far. That being said, I’m going to take this opportunity to (somewhat briefly?) describe what it was like upon arriving here. Rather than jamming it all in one lengthy post, I’ve decided that I’m going to split it into 2 parts (possibly 3). Bear with me as I attempt to rake my terrible memory for you.

This past month (specifically the first few weeks) was a complete transition period for me as I immersed myself in this totally different British/Welsh (let’s just say UK) culture. At times it was a breeze, but at other times, of course, I struggled. Looking back, aside from the initial culture shock, there were some necessary adjustments I needed to make to my daily living. I wish I could list them off, but they’re all little things here and there that collectively make up what I suppose is the British culture.

I mean, from the moment I stepped outside Heathrow Airport in London, it immediately hit me that I was now in a very different world. I was experiencing a sensory-overload of sorts as I walked out of the airport and into the streets; it looked, sounded, smelled, and felt very different to me. And then I found a bench to sit on as I waited for my bus to Swansea, and I simply smiled, because it was the only way I could react to such an overwhelming sensation, really.

Finally, my bus arrived and I was off to Swansea – my new home for the next 5 months. In my next blog-post, I’ll be reminiscing about my bus voyage from London to Swansea, along with everything that happened once I finally stepped foot into my new ‘flat’. Spoiler-alert: it was raining, hard.

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The Long and Short of First Semester

When asked if I would be interested in keeping a blog about my exchange to Estonia, I was roughly half way through my year abroad and the thought had never occurred to me. How do I do the previous semester justice while still being able to do a relatively normal blog?  After a 17h bus ride back to Tartu, Estonia from Warsaw, Poland and talking with some friends, what seemed that the most logical option was to do the previous semester in brief before focusing on current goings on in Tartu. So in brief. . .

My name is Ian  and I am currently in my fourth year of study in a combined major of history and political science and am on academic exchange at the University of Tartu in Estonia. The most often asked question was ‘Why Estonia?’ Quite simply put, there is no good answer as to why. I walked into the International Services and Programs Abroad Office, asked where can I go, was showed the ISEP website, which had a rather comprehensive list of schools around the world, saw they had one in Estonia (the only previous knowledge I had of Estonia was from a course on Russian Politics) and said let’s go with that. So after a summer of working at Walt Disney World in Orlando and in general, not being home for a terribly long time before heading abroad yet again, I departed from Toronto to start the terribly long journey to Estonia. Leaving Toronto with my mother (yes, I went with my mother, the company and the ability to bring a lot more stuff, however unnecessary it was to bring, was nice), we entered Europe at Frankfurt with a connection to Riga before finally flying into Tartu on a little propeller plane.

Tartu is not a terribly big city by any stretch of the imagination, only about 100,000 people and the population fluctuates as students go home for breaks, yet it is the second biggest city in Estonia. The start of my year abroad essentially began by wandering into the town square, locating the main university building and the dorm where I would spend the next year, and assuming I had the city figured out. This would prove to be the case during the day, but after dark I could get lost quite easily due to there not being as much lighting as one would expect, especially since in the winter months there is a definite lack of light with the sun starting to set rather early in the afternoon.

With classes 3 days a week and all located in the exact same room, I would have plenty of time with which to get the most out of my first semester, both in terms of travel and socializing with the other exchange students.

The first semester, I did a fair bit of traveling, going to Tallinn (the capital) several times, once to see an international soccer match between Estonia and Slovenia for the Eurocup 2012 Qualifiers, Helsinki, as well as a nine-day trip to the Netherlands and southern France. There were also several small trips around Estonia with the big one being what was supposed to be a two-week trip to Israel with a few days spent in Jordan to go see Petra. This trip proved to be both incredibly stressful (very expensive and perhaps not the most backpacker friendly conditions) yet very memorable. I also in this semester managed to be one of those lucky travelers to be in Frankfurt during the debacle over Christmas.

Obviously, I am unfortunately omitting quite a bit, but condensing the past months into a few paragraphs is quite daunting. But with that out of the way, the beginning of second semester:

Most of the exchange students from last semester are all back at their home universities, so there are only a few ‘veterans’ from last semester among the sea of fresh students. For us seasoned exchange students, we are seeing a definite increase in daylight. I am writing this at 5:40pm EET and it would be quite easy to navigate one’s way through the icy side walks to one of the many haunts of the exchange students, including one of the greatest fast food places ever, Metros. It is really just like any standard Subway or Quiznos without anywhere close to the selection, but all the taste, for about half the price. Conveniently, it is also located quite close to the residence (Raatuse) with the only major obstacle being the sidewalks, which can at times be pure ice.

Having just returned from Poland where I spent the last few days, and having missed no class as some courses operate in blocks, playing catch up with all the readings will be quite enjoyable, especially since all my courses are part of an English language MA program the university offers.

I think I have rambled on long enough, now to see about a trip to Serbia for May to accompany Russia and Sweden in April.

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