Home Sweet Home

I meant to write this post earlier, but with the end of my semester and final exams, as well as traveling to Germany for Christmas and then home to the United States, it has been a crazy couple of weeks! It still hasn’t sunk in that I’m back home yet. Now that the jet lag is almost gone and the holidays are over, things seem to be returning to a routine again. While I don’t have to go back to school for another couple of weeks, I’m looking forward to being busy again! I’m going to do a recap of my last few weeks in Amsterdam as well as what it has been like the first few days back at home!

After our trip to Paris, I spent the weekend in Copenhagen with family. My older sister studied abroad in Copenhagen her junior year and I was excited to see the city as it was clear she loved her time there! Although it was a short trip, I was able to get into the city center but more importantly spend time with family that I don’t get to see often!

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When I returned to Amsterdam, the following weeks were filled with studying and finishing up my last few classes. I couldn’t believe that I only had one more weekend in Amsterdam!

I had two exams this period, and the last was on the morning of December 23rd. Following my exam, I headed home to pack and went to the airport to fly to Hamburg for Christmas! This was my first Christmas away from home and I had been a bit sad about missing all of my favorite Christmas traditions and celebrating with my own family. However, it was the best first Christmas away from home I could have asked for! Lots of amazing food, wonderful company and a lot of laughs.

All too soon it was time for me to fly back to Amsterdam and finish packing up to head home. It didn’t really hit me that I was flying back to the United States until I stepped off the plane in Philadelphia. At that point, I was so tired from traveling and the whirlwind of the last few days that I was so ready to be home. The whole fam was there to greet me at the airport and it felt like it had been just days since we’d last seen one another. The following days involved belated Christmas celebrations, lots of naps and family time. Even though I wasn’t home for the holidays, it was still a wonderful Christmas season and I felt like I got double the celebrations (which is never a bad thing!)

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I know mama was happy to have all three of her babies home for a few days at least, and it sure was fun for the three of us to be together again!

I will do a more in depth post about my favorite things about Amsterdam, my favorite trip of the semester and general things about studying abroad. For now, I’m enjoying being home and sleeping in my own bed!

xxLauren

 

 

 

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Paris

Paris is always a good idea. Especially when you get to travel there with a special someone! 🙂 I arrived in Paris on Tuesday evening and we lost no time in taking in the sights! After checking into our hotel, we went to grab some dinner. As we walked out the door of our hotel and turned the corner, we were greeted by a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower.

After dinner, we walked to the Eiffel Tower and watched the light show. My camera roll was soon filled up with attempts to capture what we were seeing but I don’t think pictures can do it justice!

Wednesday morning we woke up to clear, blue skies and a day with nothing to do but explore the city. After breakfast we took the train to the Arc de Triomphe.

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We walked the streets for a bit then decided to take the train to Montmartre. Once there we grabbed a quick lunch and rested our feet before climbing up to Sacré-Cœur.

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I freaked out when he climbed over the railing! 

That evening we went to a lovely dinner at Le Reminet. We were a bit early for our reservation so we walked to Notre Dame to see it all lit up. It was beautiful!

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The food was AMAZING. We had escargot, salmon and pigeon. And lots of wine! It was a lovely dinner and followed by another evening walk.

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Thursday morning we were up and ready for another day of exploring! We went back to Notre Dame to see it in the daylight as well as go inside. No matter how many cathedrals and churches I visit, I am always amazed by the architecture and detail.

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After the Notre Dame we decided to walk to the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre. Because this was such a short trip and we were lucky enough to have beautiful weather, we decided not to go inside any of the big museums. Both of us knew we would want at least 4-5 hours in the museum and unfortunately we just didn’t have the time! I guess it just means we’ll have to come back!

Because of the beautiful weather, it felt so nice to be outside and walk throughout the city.

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We took our time, stopped to take lots of pictures, changed directions, walked down side streets. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

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Running into the middle of the road to get a picture! 

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Just being a tourist. 

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We caught the sunset as we were walking out of the Jardin des Tuileries. The lighting was honestly magical and it was the perfect way to end our day.

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I think this is my favorite photo from this trip!

We spent our last evening in Paris eating good food and drinking great wine. Friday morning we packed up and I headed to Copenhagen (blog post from there coming soon!)

Paris had to be, by far, one of my favorite places to travel to this semester. It is such a magical city and I honestly felt like I was in a dream the entire time. It is one of those places that you always dream of going to and once you’re there you can hardly believe it! I can’t wait to come back and visit again!

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xxLauren

3 days later…

Because the weekend with Emily was so much fun, we just had to continue the festivities in London the following weekend! It was funny how these past two weekends worked out, as I had originally thought of going to London to celebrate my 21st birthday and to see Emily. But then she was already traveling last weekend and extended her trip to include Amsterdam so Shannon and I decided to pay her a visit the following weekend! We said our goodbye’s Monday morning only to be reunited Thursday afternoon. In typical fashion, we wasted no time in hitting the city. Emily made sure to start our visit out just right with good food and some shopping!

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We went to bed early so we could start Friday fresh. After a lovely breakfast at an adorable restaurant called Honey & Co. we headed to Notting Hill to check out Portobello Market. After walking the length of the market, we hopped on the bus and made our way to Harrods! I had been to London when I was very young and apparently we went to Harrods, but it was fun to see it again, especially now that it is all decorated for the holidays! We, of course, had to go to the toy section where I found a stuffed bear that looks very similar to one that I have from my first trip to London!

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After Harrods we walked to Covent Garden to see some more markets and get a cup of tea.

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Obsessed with all of the holiday decorations.

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So happy to be in London!!

That evening we had a lovely dinner and walked through a Christmas market, where we all picked up these fabulous faux fur headbands! We felt a little ridiculous but they are so warm and a fun way to remember this trip!

 

We began Saturday with a delicious brunch at The Riding House Café (continuing our weekend of amazing food…Emily did not disappoint!) and then hopped on the tube to see Big Ben, the London Eye and more of the London sights.

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That afternoon we joined the Wellesley Club UK at a reception welcoming Dr. Paula Johnson, Wellesley’s new president! We were so lucky that she happened to be in London the same weekend we were visiting and that it worked to meet her. It is always fun to attend Wellesley events like this because you get to meet so many incredible alumnae.

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Current Wellesley juniors abroad with Dr. Johnson!

Sunday was more brunch and exploring Shoreditch. We were so lucky with the weather all weekend but Sunday was a little cold and rainy. Luckily it wasn’t bad enough to keep us inside!

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Beautiful even in the rain!

It was a wonderful weekend and so much fun to see Emily again. She was the perfect hostess!

As always, it was a blast to travel with my trusted travel buddy, Shannon. Next up, Hamburg and Dublin!

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xxLauren

 

 

21! (and a special visitor)

What a crazy whirlwind the last week was! After returning home from Prague on Monday evening and all of the election craziness on Tuesday and Wednesday, it was so nice to have my friend Emily come and visit from London, where she is studying for the year. She arrived on Wednesday evening for the weekend to visit Amsterdam and help me celebrate my 21st birthday!

Thursday I was in class all day but we began the birthday celebrations with a girls night. Shannon decorated her room and we all hung out, drank champagne and ate a lot of chocolate! On Friday, Emily and I headed into the city to do some shopping and sightseeing. It is always fun to have people come and visit because it gives me an excuse to see some of my favorite parts of the city and discover new places I may have never been!

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Walking around the Jordaan; my favorite part of the city!

We shopped, walked and chatted about our semesters and caught up. Luckily Shannon was able to meet us in the city and we all headed for dinner and drinks.

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I took them to Foodhallen which is one of my favorite eating spots in Amsterdam. It is basically one huge room that contains many different food stands. They have the most AMAZING gin and tonic bar that serves your classic G&T but also has really cool recipes to choose from. My favorite is the lavender and green apple one. I also grabbed a truffle burger from The Butcher. In my opinion, this was the perfect meal!

Saturday (my birthday!!!) we took a tour of the historic Tuschinksi Theater and the Anne Frank House with our Semester in Amsterdam program. It was a full day and we were happy to come back home and take a rest before heading out for a birthday dinner!

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After dinner, we all headed to Door 74 which is a speakeasy style cocktail bar. It was very cozy and fun to have it all be a bit secretive! By American standards, I’m sure it was a very calm 21st birthday, but to me it was perfect!

What a wonderful way to spend a birthday weekend and one of my last few weekends in Amsterdam! It’s crazy to think that over the next four weeks I’ll be traveling to five different countries, and then only one more weekend in Amsterdam before I head home. Lots of exciting travel posts to follow!

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I love this city

xxLauren

Prague

Prague is somewhere I have dreamed of going for a long time. When first beginning my search for study abroad options, I listed Prague as a potential city to spend my semester in. While I’m so happy to be in the Netherlands and wouldn’t trade it for anything, it was amazing to go and be able to visit Prague for the weekend. Luckily, my travel buddy Shannon was keen to visit as well! We left on Thursday evening and arrived in Prague late that night, ready to get up the next morning and explore.

Day 1

Friday morning, we took a visit to the spa as a gift to ourselves for finishing finals because #treatyourself. We both got oxygen therapy (which I’m still unsure of as to what the benefits of that are) and a massage. We were also able to use the spa facilities for a few hours after so we lounged in the pool and sauna. Feeling refreshed and relaxed, we headed into the city to experience Prague!

Our first stop was Old Town Square where we sat and ate lunch, just in time to watch the Prague astronomical clock strike 1 pm. The clock is the third oldest astronomical clock in the world and is the oldest one still operating! (thanks Wikipedia)

After lunch and a walk around the square to take in all of the street performers, we wandered down a random side street to see some more of the city. Luckily, we came upon the river and were presented with spectacular views.

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It was about 2 pm at this time but it easily could have been sunset. The sky was overcast so it gave the impression that the sun was setting behind the clouds!

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The BEST travel buddy! (Charles Bridge in the background)

We finished our day with a walk on the other side of the river, pictures and a warm hot chocolate at the sweetest little cafe.

Day 2

Saturday we woke up and had a lovely breakfast at a cafe near our hostel. Then we made the walk back over Charles Bridge to climb up to the Prague Castle. The walk up to the castle was long but so worth it! The views were incredible and we took our time, making sure to take lots of pictures!

Once at the top, we were able to see the changing of the guard and walk all around the castle compound. We saw the cathedral, the palace itself and many of the beautiful buildings and views that surrounded the castle.

Touring the castle and the grounds was beautiful, but the views were really breathtaking. You could see all across the city and it was amazing to see it all from above.

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One of my favorite pictures from this trip!

Unfortunately, Saturday evening, Shannon’s bag was stolen. This meant that her passport, all ID and credit cards and her camera were stolen as well. We ended up having to call the police and spend a few hours in a Czech police station so she could fill out a report and use it to get a replacement passport. This meant that we needed to extend our trip by one day, as the U.S. Embassy wasn’t open on Sundays. We spent Saturday night calling airlines, parents and the Embassy, and eventually went to bed hoping we could get it all figured out on Sunday!

Day 3

Sunday morning we woke up early so we could check out of our hostel and find a spot with wifi to rebook flights and find a hotel for one more night. After finalizing all of that, we headed back across the river to our new hotel. Of course, stopping for a few pictures along the way.

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Missing our Agora sisters on Election Day! 

After checking in to our hotel we took a quick shower and got ready for the rest of the day. We weren’t going to waste our extra day in Prague! We decided to hike up Petrin Hill and take in some more views of the city as well as enjoy some fresh air.

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It finally felt like fall with all the color!

Once at the top, we climbed to the top of the Petrin Tower for even better views of the city.

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It was a beautiful hike both up and down! Afterwards, we awarded ourselves with our new favorite snack: Trdelník. These are amazing and I could have eaten them all weekend, easily.

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Even though we ran into a very unexpected hiccup in our trip, we still managed to enjoy ourselves and have a wonderful weekend. It was also very exhausting and we came home ready to sleep in our own beds! Thankfully, we were both safe and had one another to troubleshoot and figure everything out! While it may be fun to travel by yourself, it sure does help to have a travel buddy when something goes wrong!

Staying in Amsterdam for this next weekend to celebrate my 21st birthday and can’t wait for a visit from my friend Emily who is studying in London for the semester. Then off to visit her the next weekend!

xxLauren

Halfway Through

I can’t believe that today is the first day of November. Time seems to be going by so fast and before I know it I’ll be on the plane back to Minnesota. The halfway mark means that I’ve been in Amsterdam for eleven weeks…On one hand it feels like I’m still getting to know this city and just yesterday I stepped off the plane. And then on the other hand Amsterdam is starting to feel like home!

What have I been up to for these last eleven weeks?!? Apart from what I’ve posted here on my blog, it’s been a lot of exploring and getting to know this city and spending time with all the amazing people I’ve met here. I just wrapped up Period 1, which meant final exams and papers. This final/exam period was very different than what I am used to at Wellesley. Because I was only taking two classes over Period 1, I had to prepare for only two finals: one paper and one exam. It felt strange to be taking final exams at the end of October, as I’m usually used to taking midterms at that time and finals closer to Christmas.

Today marks the first day of the second period which means two new classes for the next seven weeks. This period I am taking Evolutionary Psychology and a class titled Mind, Brain and Education. I am especially excited for this second class as it combines psychology, neuroscience and education.  This is different than any class I have taken before but combines many aspects of what I am interested in.

I took a break from travels over the first period due to having classes on Friday afternoons but am excited to begin exploring some of Europe! This weekend I am headed to Prague and after that will visit five other countries over five weeks! It still surprises me how easy (and inexpensive!) it is to travel throughout Europe. Half the fun of booking travel is simply looking at all the different places I could travel to from Amsterdam. Narrowing the list down was difficult but I’m excited to travel to places I’ve been before when I was younger as well as places I’ve only read about or dreamed of visiting.

I will check back in next week with pictures and a recap of my travels to Prague!

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Thank you to Shannon for this picture!

xxLauren

They’re here!

What a wonderful few days I have spent with my grandparents in Amsterdam! Way back in April or May, when I first told them I would be studying in Amsterdam, they let me know that they wanted to come and visit. We made plans, picked dates, bought the travel books, read up on our Rembrandt facts and dreamed about all of our Amsterdam adventures. Who knew that October 5th would arrive so quickly!

They arrived very early Wednesday morning and I was able to surprise them on their walk back from breakfast. Good thing I just happened to spot them otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to meet up until later! Although they had traveled all night we lost no time in exploring the Museumplein and even taking a canal boat ride! Not a wasted day at all.

After a good sleep for everyone, we met up early on Thursday morning for breakfast. Determined to beat the crowds, we headed to the Rijksmuseum just before it opened to guarantee a front row viewing of some amazing paintings. Good thing we did as the gallery that houses the famous Rembrandt’s and Vermeer’s was basically empty. I stood in front of these masterpieces next to my grandparents and listened as my grandpa gave me all the facts (better than any art history major, I’m sure!) It was a very special moment and I’m sure the three of us will never forget it.

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Rijksmuseum at 7:25 AM

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Grandpa in front of The Night Watch 

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So happy about fountains!

Afterwards, my grandma and I left my grandpa to wander on his own and we headed to the other galleries. Two and a half hours later we all met back up for a quick snack and some tea before heading out again.

Since we were lucky to have beautiful weather, we headed to the Jordaan neighborhood near the center of Amsterdam. With its picturesque canals and classic architecture, I knew it would be a good spot to spend the afternoon.

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We finished our tour of Jordaan at ‘t smalle, a corner café on one of the canals. A few Heinekens and some bar snacks ended our afternoon perfectly.

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I can’t wait to see what adventures the rest of the weekend brings! I love being able to show my grandparents around this beautiful city that I am able to call home for the next few months!

xxLauren

 

For Grandpa: an update!

It is hard to believe that the third week of classes is beginning. Because of how our semester is laid out, we take two classes for seven weeks which means I’m almost halfway done with this first round of classes! The workload has picked up a bit, with more readings and some written assignments but luckily I still have had plenty of time outside of class and studying!

Since my last update, I have tried to play tourist in my own city a bit more and get to some of the spots on my Amsterdam bucket list. Last Saturday, I went to brunch with Shannon and our friend Hallie at this amazing restaurant. MOOK Pancakes is just a ten minute ride from us and well worth it. While they offer the traditional pancake, what sets them apart is all of the delicious alternatives! Salmon, avocado, bacon, cheese…the list goes on and on. I chose pancakes with blueberries, bananas and strawberries, topped with coconut shavings and maple syrup.

Afterwards, I went with Shannon to the Rijksmuseum. Although I’ve passed it so many times on my bike heading to other places, I hadn’t found the right moment to go inside. Since the weekend was so hot, we escaped to the quiet galleries and the air conditioning. Our first stop was the library which you unfortunately aren’t able to take pictures of (although I snuck one through the door!) but is definitely worth visiting. After that, we headed straight for the Rembrandt gallery to see The Night Watch. It was definitely the busiest around this painting but we finally made it to the front to snap some pictures.

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The entrance to the museum.

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As close as we could get!

That evening we went on a sunset canal boat ride with some other friends from our program. I don’t have a lot of pictures from that evening as it was dark fairly soon after we got on the boat, but it was very fun! The captain let us bring our own food and drinks onboard so we ate and chatted while seeing Amsterdam at night from the water.

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Sunset over the city.

Last night I attended the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest with Shannon. Veronika Eberle was the violin soloist and it was phenomenal. The concert hall was beautiful and we had very good seats (thanks to the student discount rates!)

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This week will bring more classes and a lecture on Buddhist Identities in Contemporary Myanmar, as well as a day trip to the city of Utrecht with my program. The weather is finally starting to feel like fall, and today marks one month in Amsterdam!

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xxLauren

Week 3 Update!

I can’t believe I’ve been here for three weeks already! Granted the time flew by those first two weeks when we had no classes and it was all about exploring Amsterdam and meeting new friends! We started classes on Monday and although it felt strange to be back in a classroom, I am excited to start this semester.

The structure of the semester is a bit different here than what I am used to at Wellesley. The semester is split up into two periods and you take two classes per period. For this first period, I am taking a class titled “Education and the Good Life” and another one titled “Anthropology of Religion.” Although I am a psychology major, one of the reasons I picked this specific program was because I had access to almost all of the classes the university offered. It gave me the freedom to pick some classes that could fulfill major and credit requirements but also choose some that just sounded interesting!

My Anthropology of Religion course was one I chose purely because the title and description sounded cool. My first few days of class did not disappoint! Although I have never taken an anthropology course before, and almost everyone in my class is either a religion or anthropology major, I’m hoping it will be a good challenge!

My other class is a mix of psychology and philosophy. It focuses on what it means to live a good life and how we can relate that to education. Our class has already had some great discussions and I can tell that these next seven weeks will be filled with many more!

Unfortunately I’m stuck in bed with a cold so it will be a low key weekend, but I’m looking forward to biking through the city and checking out some museums!

xxLauren

Sunset on the canal

Midway through week number two (which is crazy!) and loving each day here more and more. My favorite thing to do has been to take the tram into the center of the city and walk through the streets and along the canals. We often grab a bite to eat at one of many small restaurants and enjoy these last few weeks of outdoor eating weather!

Last night, we headed to the canal belt to take some pictures just before the sun set. Shannon is an amazing photographer and it is always so much fun to see what she ends up shooting!

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Our friend Jackie! She is studying here as well.

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You can see more of Shannon’s photography here as well as her blog!

xxLauren

P.S. My dress is Madewell, glasses are Warby Parker, bag is Madewell (old, but similar here) and my shoes are from Zara.