Thursday, June 18, 2015

C'est Fin


It's over.

I just wanted to post an update blog on the last two months of my time in Brussels and elsewhere.

Since my last post I have had my parents here and my girlfriend, who I am with at the time of this post. Before continuing, I feel it is necessary to say that there are some missing accent marks on many of these non-English words. I apologize in advance.

Seeing my parents was indescribably relieving. When I saw them in the airport I wanted to cry. As an only child, they are my closest friends. So you can imagine how much I missed them. For the two weeks they were in Europe, they rented and apartment. Because those two weeks corresponded with the spring break of my university, I was with them the entire time. While most of my friends were traveling and relaxing, I was working at the European Parliament for my internship. Luckily, the apartment my mom booked was an 8 minute walk from the Parliament. I was able to walk through Parc Leopold every morning to the office. It was SO convenient and pretty, since it was spring and just beginning to warm up.

We were able to travel on the weekends while they were in Brussels. The first weekend we went to Paris. It was a bit rainy, but that didn't stop us from doing a crash course in Parisian sightseeing. We skipped the Louvre and Versailles, but hit almost everything else. My favorite experience, by far, in Paris was the Catacombs. Despite the two hour wait, the experience was incredible. I tried to take a bone for my roommate, Garrett, but chickened out. We ate atop the Centre Pompidou at a great restaurant, where I tried caviar and cognac for the first time. I'll keep eating caviar, but that cognac stuff I'll stay away from.

The next weekend we went to Haarlem in the Netherlands. A much better place to vacation in the Netherlands than Amsterdam. We went to see the tulips at Keukenhof Gardens, only to find out we were there a bit too early. Nonetheless, the gardens were beautiful and there were still plenty of early tulips! It made mom happy, she loves flowers :). We went to an old museum (fifth oldest in the Netherlands) which was right next door to our 17th century apartment right on the canal. There was also a great market that we went to in the old town square in the shadow of the cathedral turned protestant church. We had the best stroop waffles and fresh squeezed juices. To help clear his shelf, a man selling pastries gave me an offer I couldn't refuse and ended up with WAY too many pastries.

And for the final weekend that my parents were in Europe, we went to Barcelona for my mothers birthday weekend. We only made it after missing our orignial flight and spening too much for another. The stress got to mom and made her sickly. I felt bad for her and there was nothing we could really do. But once we where there it was all better! WE  LOVED BARCELONA. We went to several works by Antoni Gaudi, including La Segrada Familia, Casa Batllo, and La Pedrera. It was fun seeing dad in these places. He had studied these things and now finally as inside of them. In fact, he was fun for that reason during the whole trip. He pointed out so many things I never would have noticed about the architecture in different places. On mom's birthday we sat our on the wisteria covered balcony connected to my room and sipped mojitos (the best I've ever had). We then went to the best dinner I have ever had for her birthday meal. Just a sampling of the fare: Frozen Passions Fruit mojitos made with liquid nitrogen, sweet corn tacos with foie gras  and mole ice cream, and a curry of tuna skin and flesh with a "lightly tangy consomme. In total it was a 16 course tasting menu with wine parings for each course. It was phenomenal.

We also spent the weekdays in Brussels. I went to work at the Parliament, they got to play and go to Bruges one day. I would come home and we would go eat and hang out around Brussels and in the apartment. We ate Indian food quite a bit at a place called Spicy Grill! Ha! It was a blessing to have them with me for those weeks and it was one of the happiest times of my life thus far.

Since then my girlfriend has arrived and we travel to Norway, Hungary, Turkey, and Greece. I would write about this, but it isn't part of my study abroad experience. But going to these places was one of the coolest things I have ever done. Unfortunately, I dropped my phone in water and lost most of my photos from my five months abroad. Still thinking of ways to recover them, but that explains why there are no photos on this post.

These last months have made me realize how special all of this was and how sad I am for it to be coming to an end. The people that were on the trip were all great and the trips that I had amazing. I am ready to be home, but I will miss Europe.

Until next time,


Sunday, January 18, 2015


Hello to all of my friends and family from abroad!

This is where you can find my travel blog in which I will reflect on my thoughts, feelings, and experiences had while in Europe! BEWARE: before reading on, this will not be a step-by-step of my time here. Nor will it contain any journalistic prose or even cohesive sentence structure for that matter. Expect typos and many opportunities to shake your head in disbelief that I've made it this far in my educational career...

Having provided a necessary disclaimer, I will continue. This week has been wild. I feel like I've been going a million miles an hour with only the occasional shut eye, most of which is temporary while adjusting to a new schedule. But I must say, the transition could have been worse. The team at The IES and Jean-Marie (and his girlfriend) have been incredible. In fact, I can't imagine doing this first week without their guidance and help to show us the ropes. From buying us meals to aiding in my poor pronunciation of French words, they have been pillars of stability and comfort in an extremely transitory and fluid week. Or, to borrow from the Jason Mraz song that is currently blaring though my headphones, "an island of reality in an ocean of diarrhea" (sorry, too perfect of timing not to include it). 

But it hasn't been just free meals and city tours, though plenty of both have been included so far. We have done some preliminary work, most of which has been orientation to the program at IES and Vesalius College. I am super excited about the EU Redux curriculum we are learning at IES. The two lectures we've had so far have been tremendously informative and held my interest longer than I initially expected they would. The best so far has been a comparative analysis of the internal markets of the EU and the United States. I will know more about the International Trade course at Vesalius next week. 

When it comes to the housing, I counted my chickens before they hatched. But, to be fair, Hendrix teased us with extremely nice accommodations at the U-Residence (where we had daily turndown service *wtf we're 20-something college students*) and then put us into this Martin-Hall-esque student house where a creature seems to be growing out of our bathroom vent. While I do bitch a bit, that isn't to say that the place is not extremely interesting. Lofted beds and lots of other languages make for interesting evenings. 

We've tackled a lot of stuff in just one week. So far my favorite experiences have been the tours of Brussels and Bruges. There is so much great stuff to see. Bruges was by far my favorite, though. The city is gorgeous and I couldn't help but take a billion photos of the architecture for my daddy. There is a reason the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We saw some neat things, but nothing compared to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The structure was built in 1134, only four years after the crystal vile (purportedly) containing the blood of Jesus Christ was obtained by crusaders who placed it in this site, en Bruges (shout out to Collin Farrell). 

I sat down for a moment in the front row of wicker chairs to reflect. I looked up at the stained glass and saw figures (presumably) from the church's past, the Stations of the Cross, and the stunning murals on the walls. I couldn't help but feel a connection with those that have come before me (sounds cheesy, I know but shut up and stop reading if you can't deal). This thought lead to another. It led me to my Grandma Judy. My mother's mother, a devout catholic with a protestant work ethic. She's worked for everything she has, and as a result my mother gained this trait. I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by a sense of both gratitude and ineptitude in that whicker chair. I don't often pray, but I said a prayer for my Grandma. I prayed for her health and asked for half of the strength of that little, ole' Irish lady. She and I used to light candles at her church (St. Joe's in Conway!) during adoration when I was young and couldn't get out of going to Mass. I paid 50 Euro cents and lit a candle for her. I made sure to set it far apart from the rest...

 It's now 1:43 a.m. here in Brussels, and the fact that I'm tired means I'm finally adjusting. I think that's enough for tonight, but I want to end on what I'm looking forward to next week. I found out that I got one of three interviews for an internship at the European Parliament. I'm SUPER excited about this, but at the same time a little nervous. Regardless of how it goes, I feel blessed to be this far since it's based solely on my resume. It means I'm doing something right. We will be going to Amsterdam next weekend where I will meet up with an old friend who is studying in England. I have gotten to know this group of people much better in just this week alone, and I couldn't ask for a better group to be here with. I'll leave off with a few photos and a song. The weather here SUCKS and I can't get some lines in this song out of my head. Makes me miss warm summer nights in Arkansas. Until next week, au revoir (said in my native arkie tongue... *pronounce the "r"s*).