Indiana University Overseas Study

Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

Less is More

Susanna Sorrells - Seville, Spain

I have the worst habit of over-packing. At middle school sleepovers, I was the friend who brought a full-sized duffel bag for one night. What can I say, I just like to be prepared. Recently, however, I have learned that the contents of your bags can only prepare you so much.

Before I began packing for this semester, I had a list of what I thought I needed. It was a fair list consisting mostly essentials. Then, when I actually started to pack, I was having separation anxiety with some of my clothes. I had everything I wanted to bring to Sevilla scattered all over my room at home. I looked at my two empty suitcases, back at everything in my room, and then back at my suitcases. I had to reconsider some of my choices.

Despite this initial dilemma, I successfully managed to fit four months’ worth of everything I needed (or thought I would need) into my backpack, one carry-on sized suitcase, and one suitcase that I checked at the gate that came in just shy of the 50 pounds mark (thankfully).

Once I started traveling around other parts of Spain and Europe I learned a lesson very quickly: it’s always easier to travel light. My middle school self would be doubtful, but I can attest that it is indeed possible to pack for a weekend trip in a backpack.

Backpacks are great. You can maximize the space in a backpack pretty easily and be hands free while on the go. Packing light is simply always the best option. It prevents you from having to check one bag and potentially having to pay for it. It prevents you from having to go to baggage claim upon arrival. Traveling light is significantly easier — not just in airports, but when traveling by bus, train, and/or ferry too.

So how can you pack light but still be prepared? With the mindset that less is more. For clothing, check the weather forecast in your final destination and think about what activities you will be doing. If you wear the same pair of jeans twice, or even the whole weekend, no one will really notice.

The main reason I—someone who tends to over-pack—have come to terms with traveling light is because what you pack won’t define your trip. The most important thing about traveling is the experience and the desire to see and learn new things.

Study abroad has taught me that material things, including what you pack or don’t pack, really do not determine the outcome of your trip. So if you pack smart, but light, and have that less is more mindset, you will be prepared for your trip.

Susanna Sorrells

O’ Captain, My Captain: Sailing the Isefjord

Rachel Larsen - Copenhagen

I just had the most amazing opportunity that I will never forget. Myself and 18 new friends traveled to Isefjord, a small freshwater fjord connecting Kategat (the cat canal) to mainland Hoelbæk of Denmark. We met in Copenhagen and took a scenic train ride through rural Denmark at a beautiful 7 am. We walked through the town of Holbæk, known for one of the oldest hotels in Denmark and for the beautiful ports that host many of the country’s documented wooden ships.


In Denmark, wooden sailing ships are not only a living piece of history, but they are a prized possession that requires much responsibility. To be a licensed wooden ship in Denmark (one that belongs to an illustrious club, that is), there are rules that dictate everything, including how the deck must be washed and how the sails must be sewn (criss-cross seams fail a ship upon inspection).

Once we were on the boat, safety demonstrations began. We put all of our stuff down below where there was enough sleeping rooms for 23. Soon, we began leaving Holbæk for Hundested, or “dog’s place.” The temperature was warm for Denmark, but the sea breeze was perfect. Kenneth told me he had almost never seen such a perfect Danish day for sailing.


Out on the front of the boat, rigging was set to help hoist the sails. Between the 3 of us, we were able to shimmy out past a net, onto the beams beyond the boat to raise the sails in a windy adventure. We saw jellyfish go by underneath us at a comfortable 5 knots. We sailed for an entire day before landing in port, the beach of Hundested. It was a beautiful small city, one that most of the crew was pretty familiar with. Kenneth, Jonas, and Johnny showed us around and let us have a great time around the city, teaching us new words and Danish and laughing at our all-together Americanness.


Every day, different members of the crew cooked a meal and did the dishes. In Denmark, customs say that if you make the meal, you eat last, inviting your guests to partake first. While we weren’t used to this, the first mate was quite strict. That being said, the fruit here in Denmark is the best you will ever have. Denmark doesn’t use preservatives like other countries, meaning the food goes bad faster here, but tastes must fresher. We had bread fresh from the bakery in both ports. And, we learned to make a tenderloin-sausage stew that was absolutely fantastic! Everything we had on the boat was good!


While many of the sights were beautiful and amazing, easily the best part of this trip was the crew. The captain, Markin, was the quietest, but one of the funniest. He obviously loved our energy and laughed at our jokes and bad dance skills on the boat, but never spoke to the guests directly. Christina, the first mate, was a delight. She was the person who helped us all cook and taught us the tradition of logkake, a layer cake that is made for celebrations in Denmark. She also was dating the captain, which she explained happened during a 2 month excursion to Spain.

Johnny was the funny guy. He had been on the ship the longest as a crew member and loved the seas. He was very open and loved to talk to us all, though his English was spotty. That made Kenneth, a 27-year-old student on the ship, even more fun. Kenneth was as fluent in English, no doubt about it. He only needed to look up a few words during the entire trip. He was an amazing artist and really enjoyed spending time with us.

Finally, “micro-man” Jonas was the most reserved about the group. Jonas was only 19 and was a student in the sailing school. He was very wary of us when we started, but he warmed up pretty quickly. We got him to laugh, though his English was the worst. Not bad, at all, but definitely a challenge.

The crew really took us in and taught us the meaning of hygge. Hygge is the traditional moral of the Danes, a way of life that incorporates comfort, compassion, and welcome into their lives. I can’t imagine being able to recreate the feeling of watching the sunset on a small boat with the comfort of new friends.

Rachel Larsen - exploring collaboration in STEM & study abroad

Bloomington Meets Berlin

Sarah Monnier - Berlin, Germany

When I was preparing to study abroad there were a lot of warnings about culture shock and homesickness; and of course when my mom was driving away, leaving me at the airport, I was shaken up. That nervous feeling did not leave me until I met the other Indiana University students in Berlin. Since then I have been too busy exploring to be bothered by weird instances of cultural confusion, like the Kontrolleurs on the trains. The Kontrolleurs spend their days in plainclothes slipping onto trains and flashing their badges before requiring everyone to show their validated ticket. Being caught without the correct ticket will get you kicked off and earn you a pricey fine.

While I’m on the subject of public transportation, I think Bloomington could take some pointers from Berlin; they have it down to a beautiful, eco-friendly network of trams, trains and buses. To get to class I can take a tram from the hotel we are staying in on a five-minute ride to the Oranienburger Straße stop which is at most a two-minute walk from our classroom at IES. The trams are particularly nice because they have their own lane to operate in and only stop when requested, making for quicker commutes. To get virtually anywhere in the city, we can also take the U-Bahn, the underground train or the S-Bahn, the above-ground train. I prefer the S-Bahn because you can see the city as you travel. A tip to those riding public transportation, Germans are not fond of noisy, over-talkative groups so save your breath and keep it down. Also, don’t be alarmed if you feel like people are staring at you — I’ve gathered that they are just an observant bunch and don’t mean anything by it.

Sarah and friend eating döners.

My treasure hunt partner, Greer Brown and I enjoyed the task of finding the best döner in Berlin. Döner is becoming one of the most popular foods in the city, behind currywurst.

On our first day of class our professor paired us off and assigned us each a treasure hunt to find different sites or things around the city. Mine took me from the first place the Berlin Wall opened to the best döner kebab stand to a fancy mall overlooking the zoo. I felt like I was back at Freshman Orientation learning my way around campus and finding places to hang out or study. An early favorite of mine is the Teirgarten; a huge park perfect for jogging, sunbathing, reading, or just watching the other visitors, usually with their impressively obedient dogs in tow. When you are close to the outside perimeter of the park and can see the Brandenburg Gate, it feels just like any small, green space in any city; but when you are deep within it wildflowers, weeping willow trees and countless statues surround you. If you’re lucky and find yourself near the statues for Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn, you’ll hear chimes — solidifying the feeling that you are in some kind of fairytale.

Sarah posing with Ampelmann

While on our way to the Reichstag, we discovered a giant statue of the Ampelmännchen, the crossing guard symbol of East Germany. Affectionately called Ampelmann, it is one of the few symbols left over from the communist German Democratic Republic.

After finishing our scavenger hunt we reunited with our class to tour the Reichstag, the home of Germany’s parliament. Touring the Reichstag gave an interesting insight into the theme of our class. The exterior of the building has historic grandeur while the inside is pristinely modern. There are few reminders of the mysterious fire that destroyed part of the building in 1933 after Hitler came to power.

Our tour guide led us through the enormous glass doors and began to explain the dusty, charcoal graffiti found on the walls. At the end of World War II after taking Berlin, Soviet soldiers descended on the Reichstag and left their mark on the walls. She explained that it was decided that it would be preserved to serve as a constant reminder of Germany’s history.

German graffiti on wall

This may not look like much but there are numerous walls in the Reichstag covered in it. The graffiti was filtered by the Russian and German governments when the decision was made to preserve it, first removing any pieces that were explicitly violent to the people of Germany.

We continued on our tour to an interior balcony overlooking a wall-sized window facing the east. Our guide pointed out the bullet holes left in the ceiling from the Battle of Berlin and then focused on the slightly darker line on the pavement outside. She explained the Berlin Wall used to run directly behind the Reichstag separating it from what used to be East Germany. She laughed as businessmen walked along the line, unaware that a group of tourists were observing, perhaps oblivious to what they were walking on. After one week here, these are the kind of ironic contrasts we are starting to get used to.

Sarah Monnier - exploring the history and memory of Berlin

Welcome to Florence!

Dominique Saviano - Florence, Italy

Being abroad for only a few weeks has already been a life changing experience. I have now been in Florence, Italy for exactly two weeks and have already accomplished more than I could have even imagined. This trip has been a whirlwind of chaos, excitement, and nerves and I could not be any happier. Leaving the day after the end of the semester was something that was very stressful, from trying to move out of my dorm and back into my family’s home, to packing up my stuff to live in a foreign country, on top of studying for finals is something that I would never have imagined accomplishing, but I did.

I left for Florence on Saturday, May 7 and arrived Sunday morning into Rome from Chicago and then proceeded to take a train from Rome to Florence. Arriving at the hotel on my own was intimidating, but once I got there, everyone was friendly and welcoming. My program is set in Florence for six weeks and there are about thirty people participating. Together, we all stay in a hotel which is on the top floor of a building that has amazing views of the center of Florence.

view of duomo

This is the beautiful view of the duomo from the rooftop of our hotel!


Fly Me Away!

Rachel Larsen - Copenhagen

T-minus 4 weeks before taking off on the journey of a lifetime. I’ll be honest, this is a really odd feeling. While it seems like there is so many things I should be preparing for, its difficult to figure out exactly what that is. I’m picking up on a little bit of Danish (Jeg er tale lidt dansk), and I’ve started looking at what I’d like to do with my free time while in Denmark and during my stopover in LA.

Without a doubt in my mind, the hardest thing I’ve done so far is scheduling the actual means of travel.

I love to fly and I’ve scheduled quite a few domestic trips for conferences and previous study experiences. International travel is a whole new ball game. I’ve laid out some tips for students to get ahead of the flight-booking game that may make it a little easier for you on your journey than it was on mine.

1. Change Your Departure City

I understand that flying out of the airport 30 minutes from your apartment is probably the easiest, but it may not be the cheapest. I love Indianapolis and the airport is amazing for domestic flights. The international airfare through Indy is much more expensive than anywhere else I looked. By choosing to fly out of Chicago, my flight was almost $200 cheaper. Not to mention, I get to stay with a few friends before and after the trip in Chicago!

2. Round-Trip or One-Way? (more…)

The Perfectly Imperfect Moments


Studying Abroad is made up of a series of moments. Some are good and some are bad, some are fun and some are tough, but each is equally essential in creating the formative and unforgettable experience you are sure to have.

In an earlier post, I discussed a defining moment for me: one that gave me the strength and courage to know that I was in fact capable of handling most anything I was sure to be faced with—not only throughout my journey abroad, but also in life.

Today I would like to talk about a different type of moment one experiences while studying abroad. The “perfectly imperfect” moment is what I like to call it.

Everyone comes into study abroad with a certain idea about how it is all going to go. They imagine pretending to hold up the Eiffel Tower, recreating the Beatle’s photo on Abbey Road, and, like me, staring in awe at the ancient and mystical Stonehenge as the sun sets beautifully behind it.

The ironic and actually wonderful reality of studying abroad is that none of these moments actually happen like you imagine. Not one.

This is not, however, a bad thing. Quite the contrary, because the moments that you do end up having are far better than you could ever have imagined. Why? Because they are yours.

For me, my perfectly imperfect moment came when I was trying to fulfill my dream of seeing Stonehenge up close and personal. The group I was with had planned a five-day trip to England, and set aside one of those days to journeying out to see Stonehenge.

We made it to the little town of Salisbury by train and decided to grab a quick bite to eat before setting to work figuring out how to get to Stonehenge from there.

We were a little worried when we discovered the visitors center had already closed for the day, but continued on, confident we could find a bus that would take us there. When we got to the bus station and began looking through the maps, two locals approached us.

Long story short, they explained that Stonehenge had closed twenty minutes prior, and that the last bus had just left for the historic site. They offered their condolences and kept on walking. Determined to still see the mystical rock structure, one way or another, we decided to ask a taxi driver if he could take us there.

That is where the adventure really began.

The taxi driver who’s cab we got into could not have been more fun or delightful. He explained to us that he would be able to take us along the highway next to Stonehenge and would slow down as much as he could for us, but that that was the best he could do.

Charmed by the driver, and excited about the prospect of seeing Stonehenge with our own eyes, no matter how far way, we agreed and began the journey.

I can’t remember the last time I smiled that much and that big for such a long time. Our cab driver should really be a full-time comedian.


When we finally saw Stonehenge from the cab window, I will never forget the overwhelming happiness I felt in the moment.

No we weren’t up close and personal, no the sun wasn’t setting, and no it wasn’t the image I had in mind of experiencing Stonehenge, but I would not trade that moment for the world. I wouldn’t trade the adventure, the laughter, and the feeling of accomplishment we felt sitting in that cab, seeing Stonehenge. It was utterly and absolutely perfectly imperfect.

So those of you planning to study abroad, by all means, dream away. Fill your head with fantasies, but be prepared to have your fantasies surpassed with perfectly imperfect realities.


The Truth About Travel

Nadine Herman

I always imagined traveling as a romantic act.  I pictured myself admiring a charming foreign countryside through the window of a high-speed train.  The perfect song would magically start playing as I reflected upon all the surrounding beauty.  Surely a hidden camera would be capturing the cinematic moment of the sun’s rays kissing my face as rolling hills approached in the distance.

This lovely depiction that I replayed to myself over and over again before beginning my study abroad program was shattered as I ran through the Florence train station, desperate to catch my train to Rome.  My roommates and I had eight minutes to find the correct train.  Eight minutes may not be an eternity but surely it was enough time to locate the correct carriage.  However, not immediately finding our train on the departure board was enough proof to us that our train was never coming.  Stricken with panic, we jumped on the first train with the sign “Roma Termini”.

I’ve never considered myself a master in public transit.  While I’m not completely inept in the realm of buses, trains, or metros, I am by no means an expert.  I wanted my first real Italian escapade to go smoothly (if nothing else, to prove to myself that constant travel was something I could handle).  Needless to say, we hopped on the wrong train.  My broken Italian allowed me to shortly converse with a nearby couple in order to discover that, yes, the train would eventually arrive in Rome.  Four hours later than anticipated.

Movies, TV shows, and social media portray travel as an idealized and effortless endeavor. A journey from point A to point B is only a matter of snapping ones fingers.  Spoiler alert, it’s not.  Travel is sweaty backs, repeated outfits, blistered feet, and missed trains.  Not to say that this unspoken chaos of travel isn’t worth the trouble.  Every moment of travel provides an opportunity to learn and grow.

Our train ride wasn’t filled with the peaceful air that I wanted.  Rather, the majority of the ride was devoted to muttering under my breath about the tragedy of the situation.  About halfway through the ride I finally stopped my self-loathing and realized something.  A four-hour difference doesn’t need to overshadow the fact that I was on my way to Rome.  The “Eternal City” could wait a few hours for my arrival, and in the meantime all I had to do was enjoy my extra tour of the Italian countryside.

I can’t promise that I won’t have more travel mishaps (in fact I can almost guarantee it will).  However, I can promise that these unplanned moments are the ones that will stick with me years from now.

Nadine Herman - absorbing a new culture through adventure

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