Spring Break + Ireland

I’ve been procrastinating immensely on this post, probably because it means the semester is ending soon, but here it is. The first week of spring break my mom and sister, Denise, came to visit! We went to Slovenia and Croatia for a week and then spent the last two days in Munich. After that I flew to Florence and met up with Ann, Katie, and Kristen. We spent Easter in Florence, headed over to Rome, Venice, and then back to Munich for Springfest (the spring version of Oktoberfest). It was hands down the best two weeks of my life! Two weeks later we went to Ireland for five days, which was so incredible! We stayed in Dublin one night (such a cool city) then spent three nights in Galway. I loved it!! Here are some of my pictures from the trips. Enjoy!

Rovenia, Croatia:

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Motovun, Croatia:

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Piran, Slovenia

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Lake Bled, Slovenia

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Florence, Italy

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Rome, Italy

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Venice, Italy

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Munich, Germany

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Dublin, Ireland:

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The oldest pub in Ireland, established 1198

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The first Guinness ad

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Galway, Ireland

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Cliffs of Moher:

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Starting a new tradition of throwing coins off the Cliffs of Moher

10 Things I Learned from Spending the Weekend with Citadel* Guys

I spent this past weekend in Vienna with three guys from The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina. I knew it would be interesting and I would hear a lot about their school, but I didn’t expect to learn so much. Here are ten things that really stuck out to me.

1. It’s not Citadel. It’s The Citadel. They will correct you each and every time you say it wrong. I even got corrected while on the phone with my mom. Save yourself and always use the definite article.

2. It’s not a part of their life, it’s their whole life. Everything they talk about is somehow related to The Citadel. I went in to the weekend never having heard of their school and came out knowing more than I ever needed. If you are wondering the best way to polish brass hit me up.

3. Time is a luxury. At The Citadel, they have little to no free time. While they are studying abroad, they have more free time than they probably do in all four years of college combined. And let me tell you, they take full advantage of it. We left Salzburg Friday morning at 8:00 am and didn’t get back to our hostel until 3:00 am that night. We slept in an hour later than planned (11 am) and then left to explore the city for the day. The next morning we took the 7:30 am train back to Salzburg. Sleep is for the weak.

 

4.  (Most) of them are insanely good at directions. They always knew where they were going, even though we’d only been to Vienna once and were on a guided bus tour for half of it. We never had to stop and ask anyone for directions. We never took the wrong train or went to the wrong stop. This was especially great for me because I have no sense of direction.

5. The food at The Citadel is terrible. Meals consist of powered eggs, instant grits, salad, and burgers so greasy the buns are soggy. My stomach churns just thinking about it.

6. Despite (or maybe because of) the food, they are extremely health-conscious. Normal college guys wouldn’t think twice about eating greasy junk food and sugar all day, but normal college guys don’t go through the obscene amount of training that The Citadel guys do. They call candy fat nasty because “when you eat a lot of it you get fat, and then you look nasty.”

7. They also worry about their futures. Just because they go to a military college doesn’t mean they are free from the omnipresent stress of the future the rest of us constantly suffer from. There are various factors that can determine their success. From what I learned over the weekend, the biggest fear is not getting a contract and therefore having to enlist.

8. They’re some of the most respectful people you’ll ever meet. This one is obvious, but nevertheless noteworthy. Having grown up in Northern California, where the majority of the guys in my town where self-centered, impolite jerks, I had little faith in the male species. It wasn’t until I went to college at University of Texas that I realized chivalry is not, in fact, dead. You just have to know where to find it. The respect and manners that stem from The Citadel are probably a combination of its location and core values. Regardless of the reasoning, it was comforting to see such respect.

9. They’re really curious about the mundane details of a “normal” college. My friend asked me to give a detailed description of a normal day for me at UT. When I told him I usually take an afternoon nap he was surprised. Then I told him how much free time I have and he was astounded. It made me realize I should never complain about how much work or studying I have, because they have the same amount plus hours of training.

10. Their bond is stronger than anything you’ll ever experience. After being in Vienna for an hour we met up with another guy from The Citadel who is studying there for the semester. He and my friend had never really met before and within a matter of hours were best friends. Without knowing this, someone easily could have assumed they’d known each other for years. As much as I tried to learn about The Citadel and be a part of their conversations, I knew I would never fully understand what it’s like there. Even though they are in different companies they all go through the same intense training, sleepless nights, and overwhelming workloads which gives them a bond that no outsider will ever share.

*The Citadel

A brief note: This is obviously a generalization based on three average, or what I assume to be average, students from The Citadel. I have never visited The Citadel, nor do I personally know everyone who goes there. As with any situation, there are exceptions to these descriptions. This post was intended to share my impression of their experience at The Citadel, not typecast the entire student body.

Vienna Waits for You

Last weekend we all went to Vienna! Then we had midterms all week, which is why I’m just now posting this. We had to meet at the bus stop (a 20 minute walk from our dorm) at 7:45 Friday morning. Needless to say, we were all zombies. After three hours we pulled up right in front of the Rathaus (city hall) and walked to our hotel to drop off our stuff. We then went on a city tour and saw all sorts of churches, government buildings and historical sites. I had no idea how gorgeous Vienna is! Every single building, no matter the purpose, was intricately constructed. At the end of the tour we walked down Mariahilfer Strasse, aka the Rodeo Drive of Vienna, and window shopped. Unfortunately our $180 monthly food budget can’t buy anything in Chanel. After the tour we got gelato. I got cookies and coconut (I have recently developed a coconut obsession) and it was delicious. It was 65 and sunny, so we sat on a bench in the sun and people watched. Later that night we went to the Naschmarkt, a famous outdoor market that sells anything and everything. They even had a store called Käse Land (cheese land). We had sausages for dinner and were serenaded by a band of street performers. They were actually really good so we gave them a few Euros. In Salzburg we pretty much only have bars, so we were excited to check out Vienna’s clubs. We ended up going to a club in this amusement park called Prater, where we had actually gone earlier that day. We showed up before midnight so not only did we get in for free, but we also each got a card pre-loaded with 15 Euros. The club was huge! It was four stories and had so many different dance floors. We didn’t even discover one huge section of the club until after we were there for an hour. We had some drinks, danced, and then saw there was a pizza stand in the club! So naturally, we had to get some. At 4 am we decided it was time to go home. Europe is awesome because the subway pretty much runs 24/7 so you never have to worry about rushing to catch it. 

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Once again, pretty but significance not known.

The next morning we had a tour of the Kunsthistorisches Museum (the Fine Arts Museum) at 10:45. I strongly dislike art and museums, so it wasn’t exactly the highlight of my day. To clear things up and prevent art fanatics from coming to murder me, I appreciate art, I just don’t like it. When I look at a painting I think wow that artist was really talented, I definitely could not have done that. But that’s it. One thing I did really enjoy was the Faberge Egg exhibit. All the eggs were exquisite, but my favorite piece was a fan set with gold and diamonds. I considered sneaking a picture but there were security guards in every corner just waiting to bust someone and I didn’t want to be that person. After the tour (finally) ended we were in dire need of a nap, so we went back to the hotel and relaxed (ate chocolate) for a bit (three hours). I had made plans to go to the opera so I needed to buy something to wear. It was pouring rain and freezing but fortunately we found shelter in H&M. I bought a dress and then realized I wouldn’t make it back in time to meet my friends and go to the opera. I was bummed, but I figured I would be back in Vienna soon enough and could go then. With even more time on our hands, we went to Vapiano for dinner. Even though it’s an international chain, I’d never had it before. I got pasta with chicken in an orange-chilli sauce. It was so good! Later that night we met up with my exchange student from high school and her friend for drinks. It was so weird seeing them grown up! It was really nice catching up on the past five years.

ImageThe Kunsthistorisches Museum

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In my opinion, this was better than all the paintings.

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Selfies in the museum because boredom.

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I actually liked this one enough to take a picture.

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The Roman section!

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All grown up!

We had to meet in the lobby Sunday morning at 7:45. We were all a little frustrated with AIFS for coming up with such an early meeting time, especially after most of us went out Saturday night, but what can you do. We went to Schloss Schoenbrunn, where the Habsburg family spent their summers. It was stunningly ornate. Once again, we weren’t allowed to take pictures but this time I snuck a few in. Europe has turned me into a real rebel! We braved the weather (it was insanely windy and cold) and walked through the gardens. I almost blew away, but I got some good pictures so it was worth it. We then all piled back into the bus and headed towards our next destination: Stift Melk Abbey. It’s the strangest name, I know. Stift Melk is the town and Abbey is the monastery. It was an odd mix of modern and historic that still continues to baffle me, but it was cool. They have the most beautiful church I have ever seen. It looks like it was dipped in gold. Pictures don’t do it justice. We finally made it back to Salzburg at 5:30 after stopping at Burger King for dinner (don’t get me started) and studied for midterms. PS: study abroad midterms are immensely easier than midterms back home.

Image Schloss Schoenbrunn and Alex photobombing

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I’m so sneaky!

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Where the security guards at?

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Stift Melk

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Solid gold cup. I’ll take it.

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All gold errything.

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