Sunday, April 30, 2017

This is an update, not a reflection.

This is an update, not a reflection.
'Julie, you haven’t posted a blog since the start of April! What have you been up to?' Well, after my trip to Venice, I finished up my academic year in Strasbourg with a week of an intensive course then finals. My exams went well, but I won’t know my official grades until June. Thanks France.

The weekend after my finals was Easter weekend, and I spent the whole weekend playing soccer. The University of Strasbourg has this tournament every year, The Tigers, where the sports teams from each faculty (Business, Sciences, etc.) play each other in this big event at the end of the year. We played well, and had a ton of fun supporting the other teams including our own coach's soccer team. The last day there was a party to celebrate, and it was really fun to go out with some of the girls on my team. This isn't the first time it's come in handy to recognize that you don't have to speak the same language to dance together, although I have to say the girls all speak English with me, and I definitely should've worked harder to come their way with French this year as well.

For the past week, I’ve been traveling. I went to Marseille, the Verdon Gorge in France, Barcelona, Madrid (and Alcalá de Henares, where Kelsey and Mary have been studying this semester), and finally finished my travels with a couple days in Lisbon with Francisca. In Lisbon, I saw Tomás (another best friend from Stras last semester) and caught up with other friends I had met before, but the sweetest bit of this visit was definitely the trip out to Setúbal for dinner at Francisca's home with her parents. I’ll post about all of these trips with pictures later! There’s a lot to say.

I got home to Strasbourg yesterday, and one of my teammates invited me for a coffee at her place. It was such a thoughtful gesture, and it was special for me to have that last day with her. After that, I studied for and then took a final for my online class back home. It went very well, and then I immediately started getting ready for a dinner with the soccer team. I was originally a little bit surprised when Coach suggested a goodbye dinner, but now I’m so glad he did. It was so special to have that last meal with them. I have a lot to say about this team, and how they enhanced my exchange, but I’m going to write a separate post about that as well, but for now just know leaving the team is easily the hardest part about leaving this school. 

Today is Sunday, April 30th. 
It’s only significant because it means I leave Europe tomorrow.

I’ve been living here since August, and I leave tomorrow. (Whoa.) I’m ready. I’m so excited to see my family, but I’m also heartbroken to leave. Call me dramatic. I probably am.

I’ve been calling my parents a lot. I miss them. I’m so beyond excited to be greeted with their big hugs in the airport (even though Momma hates affection), and then go home and relax in the space with my family where I feel most loved.

Right now, I’m listening to old country music, and imagining driving north on I-75 to move into my college house and see Erica and hang out on that porch with her. You may have noticed that it seems like all of my closest BG girlfriends are studying abroad this semester... and you'd be right... except for Erica. We all totally ditched her. It's the home stretch girl! Keep hanging in there, and then this summer we'll have all of the fun! 

I’m also giddy to find a good book, and get up to the lake to see my family in Michigan. I really miss the spoiled life of the lake... rolling out of bed whenever I want with the only goal of getting coffee and deciding which perfect reading spot I'll curl into that day, or if I'll get out on the water in the afternoon. There are some comforts that can’t be articulated.

Okay, that's all. I’m going to go enjoy my beautiful city for one last day.

Love, Jules
I think I'll even miss Jimmy's.

P.S. I’m 95% packed, 98% ready to go, but not 100% ready to say goodbye to these friends. [Insert tear-streaked faces here]

P.S.S. While writing this blog, I got the notification to check into my Delta flight... that means it's less than 24 hours until takeoff!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Venice, Italy

>>> Hello Venice, Italy <<<

I flew straight from Barcelona to Venice, and I slept the entire flight from takeoff until landing... So I had three hours of sleep to take on Venice. Fall semester 2015 prepared me for this moment. (Right, Chels?)

Day One -- Solo Exploring

"Acqua Alta" Bookstore; definitely a Venice must see
This first day in Venice was really exciting for me. I haven't done too much solo traveling this year, but I really enjoy exploring new places on my own as well as alongside friends. 

Since the cheapest flight for me was super early on Sunday, I ended up getting to Venice earlier than I originally planned, and Emma, a friend from BGSU who is studying at EM Strasbourg with me this year, met me late in the day. 

We stayed at Venice Lagoon House hostel in Tessera. It's about a 20-minute bus ride from downtown Venice, but it's a very cost-effective option. We enjoyed our stay! Luca, the hostel owner/manager, was an extremely kind host, and his hostel was basically just a house with a few rented rooms... It was very homey and comfortable, although it was different than a traditional hostel experience because it was such a small operation. I do recommend it highly though! (And I did just try to talk Chelsie into staying there for her time in Venice!)

Day Two -- Walking Tour Day

Emma and I at one point on The Grand Canal

A number of different companies operate free tours in Venice, but I found it different than other cities because these all asked for registration ahead. I registered an hour ahead for Emma and myself, and there were no complaints. 

We enjoyed two tours with the company Venice Free Tour ( ). In the morning, we went on the Introduction to the City tour, and we enjoyed ourselves so much that we came back in the afternoon for the Main Landmarks tour. If it sounds to you like six hours of walking is too much, you're probably right, but it's a perfect way to see and learn about all of the highlights within a city from guides who really know their stuff. 

In the evening, we (almost) caught the sunset on the coast. Regardless of our poor timing, we sat on the edge of the island and enjoyed the orange/pink sky as it got dark on the water. Before this trip, I didn't know very much about Emma, but moments like this were great times to get to know each other better. It's amazing how comforting it is to talk about life with someone who knows what growing up in Ohio is like after spending this whole year with (amazing) friends who just don't know that life you live. 
Study abroad is just one big cluster of extremes... Last semester I clung to everything outside of my comfort zone, and this semester I'm seeing myself treasure that comfort so much.
As it got later, Emma and I crossed Venice to find a concert that our morning tour guide recommended. We entered just as they were getting ready for their set, and it was a perfect opportunity to grab a table and a drink before the music started. 

We enjoyed the atmosphere, but we found ourselves relieved to have to call it an early-ish night because we had to catch the bus out to Tessera to Luca's hostel. 

Day Three -- Beach Day 

Venice Beach, Florida Lido Beach, Venice, Italy

Emma and I agreed to let ourselves sleep in, but the beaches in Venice were calling so we got up early anywho.

We had a Flixbus home to Strasbourg at 9pm, so we had basically the whole day to explore. With such beautiful weather, it was no question that we would spend our day as close to the water as possible. We caught an amazing lunch before heading out to Lido first. The beach was so great. In Barça, I didn't get to enjoy the beach, so this was my first time at a beach since the week of Christmas in Portugal. (And while the beach in Setubal was even more perfect than Lido, it was a little too chilly to actually lay out. Right, Kika?)

Anyway, Emma and I laid out on the beach for a good part of our afternoon, and they may have been my favorite couple hours of this whole trip. At first, we were talking about everything under the sun... Mostly how genuinely happy we were to be on a beach in Italy, and how unreal it feels to enjoy these luxuries this year. Then we spent some time just in our own heads... While I was laying on the beach, I was drafting a motivational message to my soccer team in preparation for our next big game... Coming off my shoulder injury and a few tough losses, I wanted the girls to hear how much I believed in us. 

It was in that moment, laying out in Venice, Italy of all places, that a few things started to feel very real:

  1. Deciding to spend this year abroad was likely the greatest investment I've ever made in myself, and I wouldn't trade my time for the world
  2. My time here is dwindling, and I'm torn between my excitement to go home and my longing to live this study abroad lifestyle for longer
  3. Playing soccer for EM Strasbourg was the coolest opportunity I ever stumbled upon, and I am going to miss my team and this sport dearly when I go
After these moments of insight and a few more comments about how happy we were to be alive, Emma and I headed back to the mainland. We planned to get to more islands, but public transportation via boat isn't known for its speed... and missing an overnight bus home because I'm stuck on an island too far from the mainland is a story I didn't want to bring home with me. (Although I have to say Chelsie's "Sick and Stuck in London bc Missed a Connecting Flight to Dublin" can only be topped by Kelsey's "Violently Ill from Bad Water and Stranded on Tenerife Island in a Tropical Storm", and those stories are going to be worth it a few twenty years from now, right girls?)

Then (as all my good travel stories end), we boarded a fifteen hour Flixbus home to Strasbourg. 

The End.

Love, Jules
"Wander with wonder and the whole world becomes home." - Tyler Knott Gregson

P.S. I scheduled my classes for FALL SEMESTER OF MY SENIOR YEAR on one of those aforementioned walking tours. I got all of the classes I wanted, and I have to say the "Eh, it'll work out somehow" attitude that study abroad has impressed upon me is the only reason I didn't sweat the idea of scheduling on an iPhone in the middle of a tour guide's description of the architecture of a cathedral in Venice, Italy.

P.S.S. Less than 20 days until I see Francisca in Lisbon, and then just 23 days until I'm home! (Ohio friends! I miss you! I'll be in Boro the first week of May, then I move up to BG for the summer. I'll be wanting all of the Saxby's dates, Bill's runs, Grounds for Thought reunions, and 315 East Merry porch visits before I start my internship!) 

Saturday, April 1, 2017


>>> Hello Besties and Hello Barcelona <<<

Remember that one time I went to Ireland with my BGSU best friends? Well, after that five days was too many days apart, so we met back up in Barcleona, Spain last weekend. 

Kelsey, Mary, and I got into Barcelona late Thursday night. Their flight from Madrid landed about a half hour before mine, but by the time I switched terminals they had waited almost an hour for me. Thanks for that, pals. After figuring out the night buses that would take us to the center (not our proudest public transportation navigation experience) we finally made it to our hostel around one in the morning. 

We stayed at the Hostel Sun & Moon... it wasn't my favorite hostel, but I've been to some really great hostels and some really terrible hostels this year... this was neither extreme. It was 10 euros per person per night with a modest breakfast included, and the location was hard to beat in the Gothic Quarter right off La Rambla; I'd say it sufficed. 

Oh yeah, this part isn't cool 
It's worth mentioning that this was the first time I've experienced travel semi-injured. Wednesday night, the day before I left for Barca, I took a rough hit in a soccer game coming out for the ball. I got the ball, but the girl definitely got me as well. Immediately after the hit my right shoulder was throbbing. My natural reaction was to stand right up, but when I put weight on my right shoulder to stand up, I immediately went back down in loads of pain. Cue lots of tears, mostly for the pain but partially for the disappointment because this is NOT the time in the season to get hurt. 
My team cares about me a lot, so they insisted I get x-rays immediately. This went against everything my "shake it off" upbringing taught me, but after putting up all the fight I could, I realized they weren't going to let me talk them out of it. I pride myself in being pretty tough, so I guess if I were in their shoes seeing me cry like a little girl was probably a terrifying testament to how badly I was hurting.
Anyway, the doctor more or less said I was fine, and just needed to ice religiously and take 7 to 10 days of rest. He said I injured the ligament between my shoulder and my collar bone, and gave me pain medicine. Cool beans. For me, this was all I needed to hear. I'm not broken, therefore, I am fine. Right? Not exactly... Traveling with a hurt shoulder was low key the worst.
In less dramatics, being injured meant my teammates had to finish a tough game without me. It also meant a painful momentum shift for us at a really crucial point in our season. It meant my teammates took me to the hospital at midnight on a school night, and translated everything for me the whole time. It meant feeling super sick because of the pain medicines to the point that I couldn't take them anymore, and relied on Ibuprofen to get me through the weekend. It meant sleeping terribly because every movement caused me to wake up in intense pain. It also meant majorly regretting saying "No" when the doctor asked if I wanted a sling. Luckily, I'm turning the corner and feeling a lot better now, but this was definitely a worst case scenario. 
Moving on.... 


 was high key gross... It rained on us from morning to night, and as optimistic as we were, it was still a pretty miserable experience wandering through the streets of Barcelona in the pouring rain. In the morning, we toughed it out and headed down La Rambla to the coast. We enjoyed a covered street fair when we got there, and it was fun to see the little trinkets for sale. We let ourselves be saved from the rain at a few points throughout midday and the afternoon by wandering into La Boqueria, a really amazing street market full of fresh foods, and finding a nice place for lunch in the Gothic Quarter. At lunch, I quickly realized how far euros stretch even in "an expensive city" in Spain, and that was really nice. Throughout the Gothic Quarter, we also enjoyed browsing our way through a number of cheap clothes stores. It's a good thing I'm working with luggage constraints because otherwise I could've definitely justified a few of those dresses at the prices they were selling for. 
My raincoat has lost most of its waterproofing abilities by this point in the year, by the way.

Chelsie met us in the evening on Friday when she was finally able to fly in from Nantes, France. Then, we spent the rest of our night more or less hiding from the rain inside a tapas bar where we found great paella for dinner, and then back at the hostel where we met some new friends and played a pretty memorable game of Heads Up!. As a side note, I think every British bachelorette party in Barcelona crossed paths with us that Friday night... It was so very strange and so very entertaining to observe.

Saturday was everything I wanted my time in Barcelona to be

We started our day early, knowing we had ambitious goals for this one day of beautiful weather. First off, we looked online and got our hands on tickets for Sagrada Familia for the afternoon. Then, we headed to Park Güell. These tickets can (and should) be bought ahead of time as well, but we got there early enough in the day that we only spent about fifteen minutes waiting in line. The tickets were for the next hour, which gave us just enough time to locate some churros and chocolate, a Spanish specialty that Kelsey and Mary are definitely spoiled with in their study abroad.
Apologies for the terrible snapchat filter on this... but really, this is heaven.
Barcelona is littered with Antoni Gaudí's art... It's great stuff because it's pretty weird, but it's definitely not boring. Gaudí's Park Güell is beautiful, and if you're with friends who like relaxing and walking through pretty parks, I definitely recommend stopping by if you ever find yourself in Barcelona.

Here are pictures from our visit to Park Güell:


After Park Güell, we made our way down to La Sagrada Familia. This cathedral was absolutely amazing. Its construction was started in 1882, and it has yet to be completed to this day. I think the aspect that I found to be most interesting about Sagrada Familia was the interaction between the style on the outside compared to the inside. I'm not proud to admit I'm probably competing for the least educated traveler when it comes to architectural styles, I suppose art history in general, but maybe some of you will understand what I mean.

Here are a couple photos to illustrate how amazing this place is:

After being touristy inside Sagrada Familia, it was about 3pm, which seemed like a perfect time for a picnic lunch. We headed to the Carrefour right on the corner, then we found a great spot to enjoy sandwiches, strawberries, and snacks with a perfect view of the cathedral. Picnics aren't uncommon to me while traveling because we end up saving some money and getting to enjoy the cities a bit more, but I have to say this was definitely my coolest picnic yet.

I think we spent about an hour and a half in this spot just enjoying the beautiful weather and yummy foods. We played Barcelona by Ed Sheeran a couple times throughout that time, and particularly enjoyed trying to capture a short video of Kelsey and Mary acting out the lyric "dancing around La Sagrada Familia".

Once we were sufficiently stuffed, we headed back to our hostel. We definitely talked about siestas, but I can't recall whether we actually took naps or not. I think we did. 

Our hostel had a cool deal with a restaurant nearby, so for dinner we went and enjoyed a full meal for the price of one drink (they did specify that it could be anything besides water). This was great for all of us except Kels, but being vegetarian and allergic to tree nuts naturally creates limitations. 

After the dinner, we continued our evening at the hostel for a bit. Everyone had plans to go to a discoteca, but I knew it probably wasn't a great idea to join. I needed to leave the hostel at 4:15am to get to the airport for my flight to Venice, Italy, and it was also the night of the "spring forward" time change... this meant I was effectively leaving the hostel at 3:15am, and people don't even go out to discotecas until around that hour to begin with. I did sacrifice my sleep to join the girls in heading to a fun shots bar, where the walls are lined with all different types of shots you can order. We tried the boyscout shot, roasting marshmallows over a fire on the bar before eating them and taking a sweet shot. There was another shot where you drank through a straw from a flaming orange... I don't really understand the point of these, but whoever comes up with them has quite a wild imagination. Study abroad is all about experiences, so I'll add this to the list of them I suppose. 
Boy Scout shots
I'm not sure why fire is so involved, but this was fun to see as well.

After the shots bar the girls walked me back to the hostel before heading out. They got home just a bit before I left the hostel, so it wasn't a huge night for them either, although everyone had a great time. 

I was definitely tired heading to Venice, but a really nice thing about having traveled so much this year is that I know myself pretty well. I can power through tired travel days because the cities and experiences are always so worth it. I slept the entire flight Barcelona to Venice, asleep before takeoff and until landing.

That's all! Thanks for reading! My Venice blog will be up soon! 

Love, Jules

"Wander with wonder and the whole world becomes home." -TKG
There's no one I'd rather spend rainy Barcelona days with. (:

P.S. My shoulder is feeling significantly better, and I'm optimistic in my ability to play decently tomorrow. I have a team dinner tonight, and our game is tomorrow... We've worked so hard leading up to this game, and I've definitely been feeling nervous all week. Wish us luck!