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Category: Global Exchanges

Learning to Appreciate Life in Switzerland

Learning to Appreciate Life in Switzerland

The first few months of studying abroad were some of the most fast-paced and hectic of my entire life. I was dealing with all the struggles that come with adjusting to a completely new living situation, while also travelling nearly every single weekend. Time never really slowed down and it seemed like as soon as I finished one task I had to move on to the next one.

Although I had some terrific experiences and made memories that will last forever within those times, it made me forget to stop and appreciate the simple attractions of living in Switzerland. I was constantly thinking about what I had to do or where I had to visit next, instead of recognizing the value of the present moment. However, the last two weeks have been a complete shift from the rest of the semester, as everything has gradually settled and I’ve been able to take in the beauty of life here.

The increased amount of down time lately has made me realize that Switzerland and Winterthur, the town I live in, has a lot more to offer than I may have originally thought. To start, the weather here has been about 80 degrees every day and I haven’t seen a single cloud the entire time. In the past, my friends and I would always try to go to places that had beaches and warm weather to escape the coldness of Switzerland. Now when I check online, Winterthur often has even better weather than the places I went too or considered visiting.

The town is perfect for spending time in the incredible weather, as it is full of parks, forest trails, and nature areas. Whenever I’m feeling stressed out or if I just want to get some sun, I usually go to one of the parks and sit back while listening to a podcast or some music. No matter which park I go too it is always has an uplifting energy to it, as kids are playing, picnics are happening, and many people are just laying out, like myself. If I do decide to be a little more active during the day and still take advantage of the weather, I can always go on a long walk or hike. Along the various pathways I’m always treated to stunning scenes of the woods or of the vast Swiss countryside and I feel comfort and serenity from all the nature around me.

                 The calm countryside

Clearly, I’ve been loving the recent blue and sunny skies, but my growing fondness for Winterthur doesn’t just end there. The lively atmosphere of the main streets never fails to put me in a good mood, especially as the sound of music from street performers surrounds me.  If I’m lucky, there will even be an outdoor food market in the center of town, where I’ll truly engage with the Swiss culture by buying some locally made cheese. To top it all off, the somewhat small town of 100,000 people has more and arguably better cafés than all of Chicago.Each one is fantastic for sipping on a cappuccino while getting some work done, especially with final exams coming up.  My favorite is still Locanda Trivisano, which I wrote about in one of my first blogs, and I know that I’ll miss their coffee the most when I’m back in America.

Marktgasse, the main street of Winterthur

Even though I haven’t been traveling as much to other countries recently, I’ve still been going on day trips to other cities within Switzerland. All Swiss towns are somewhat similar to each other, but each one has its own unique features that make the short train rides well worth it. Last week I went on two of these quick trips with a friend, one to Basel and another to St. Gallen. Basel, the third-biggest city in Switzerland, is a gorgeous town settled on the Rhein river. Winterthur doesn’t have any body of water, so it was a nice change of pace to be able to sit by the river and take in the wonderful view. The Rhein also had one of the more intriguing attractions I’ve ever seen in a city, a small wooden ferry boat that crosses the river and is pulled by a string. The experience of the ferry trip wasn’t anything life-changing like some other of my touristic adventures have been so far, but it was extremely charming and something you won’t see in any other city in the world.

 

The “Reinfahre”, not exactly a speedboat
                Basel along the river

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I could’ve sat along the Rhein river the whole day and never got tired of it, we made sure to see the historic landmarks that the town is also known for. One of them was an impressive and also special cathedral, called the Basel Minster. From the outside, it was remarkable just like most of the cathedrals that I have seen in Europe, however the inside had something I wasn’t expecting at all. Instead of there only being paintings or statues within the cathedral, there were also tombs and graves of well-known Christian figures of the past.  It was especially fascinating to see a grave memorial for Erasmus there, as he was someone I thoroughly studied in my Theology class last semester.

The Basel Minster

 

The memorial for Erasmus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the cathedral, the city’s old Rathaus, German for town hall, was another one of my favorites. The building stood out from all of the others, as it had distinctive exterior decorations and a strong red color. The courtyard in the town hall was also extraordinary due to the symbolic figures and stories painted on the walls.

The Basel Rathaus
The walls of the Rathaus Courtyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other trip of the week was to St. Gallen, a smaller town than Basel and one with less touristic appeal. However, the one main attraction that it did have was one of my personal favorites while being abroad. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a beach, a restaurant, or even a museum, instead I was infatuated with the Abbey Library of Saint Gall. This wasn’t just any old library, it is one of the most important monastic libraries in the world and it dates all the way back to the 8th century. The Benedictine Abbey contains one of the most extensive collections of vital writings, with over 150,000 pieces of work stretching over the last 12 centuries. If that wasn’t already enthralling enough, the interior design of the library was mind-blowing. There were exquisite wooden balconies and bookshelves and the ceilings had intricate and dazzling paintings. For the hour that I was in there I felt like I had travelled back in time and I was a monk on a quest for sacred knowledge.

A picture of the also wonderful Abbey Cathedral, since pictures weren’t allowed in the library (look it up online!)

I understand now that Basel and St. Gallen may not have the notoriety of the past cities I’ve been too like Barcelona, but that doesn’t mean that the trips were any less valuable. Discovering a new place is all about what you do to engage with that city, and not about the ratings on Trip Advisor.

 

But for now I’m back in Winterthur, blogging in the corner of a small café as I finish the last sips of another tasty coffee. Simple moments like these don’t seem that spectacular, but I also know that sometime in the future I’ll wish that I could be back here again. So, it’s up to me to appreciate every moment of my life here in Switzerland.

 

Radek

 

Walpurgis (Valborg) night

Walpurgis (Valborg) night

April 30th (trettionde fjärde) marks, from what I believe, one of the two major holidays in Sweden. It is called Walpurgis Night or Valborg night/festival. Walpurgis Night entails dancing, drinking, bonfires, and maybe an occasional accordion player. The celebrations are in honor of St. Walpurga who was a missionary, converting pagan affiliated Germans to Christianity during the 700s. She took over as abbess of the double monastery of Heidenheim am Hahnenkamm in Bavaria.

May 1st (forstä femte) marks a day off of work for most Swedes and doubles as International Worker’s Day. This is also commonly known as May Day. Protesters occupied some streets of downtown Jönköping. My friend went and said they were from the far left and far right parties of the Swedish political spectrum.


I was in my Swedish language course when my friend asked if I was going to the Valborg festival in Jönköping. I completely forgot tonight and tomorrow were holidays. Usually, if I head to the city I plan to spend the whole day there. I absolutely love commutes (I know fight me) but I do not like to commute back home after commuting to my destination not long before. For this instance, I had my school bag and was not prepared to be outside all day and run around from apartment to apartment. Students at my uni were partying on the “quad” and then going apartment hopping until the clubs at night. I bit the bullet and went home with the intention of coming back to the city later to ride my new beautiful 1970ish bike around with a friend.

Actual is rarely similar to what is predicted. Pass that down to your kids, friends. My inside source told me that the bonfire was not happening in Jönköping, but in a town between the area I live in, Tenhult, and the city. Peep my earlier post about Huskvarna. My legs were eager to get turning so my house mate, Vivek (peep my 2nd post), and I went off to Huskvarna. We met up with two of his friends, and thats when the adventure began.

Vivek and i saw the flames a-blazing from the train. After 20 minutes finding a meeting place with his friends, the flames and smoke disappeared. We asked locals where to find the bonfire (yes, Swedish people do talk and actually love to help out. Do not believe everything on the Internet). We climbed, and rode, the paved hills of Huskvarna until we hit the stairway to heaven. Unfortunately, my rusty stallion became obsolete here. We walked up maybe 200 steps until we arrived at our destination. There was an aging boy/girl scout building on the left, the embers of the once beautiful flames straight ahead, and about 5 booths lining the dirt path up the hill to the right. It was 9pm. This is the point where I make another crucial point about Swedish society. Everything, except bars and clubs, close around 6pm so be prepared. The journey back was also quite the adventure. The rain picked back up and we missed our train by 5 minutes. The next train got delayed 45 minutes so we had to wait an hour and a half at the station, since everything was closed.

Alas, it was not a bad experience. The fire was still hot when we got there. The rain was not too bad. The booths had candy, a lottery, and cotton candy. The scouts’ building had a homemade desert feast benefiting the scouts. The remaining people were still smiling, and running so that was great to see. Vivek told me a lot about his religion. About the various gods and also how most families have a temple just for them. I also had time to listen to a nutrition podcast that I left a while ago. And play a really cool game on my phone.

When one door closes, another one opens. For lack of better phrases I am going to stick with that one.

 

Role Reversal

Role Reversal

Since March, I’ve spent nearly every weekend travelling and discovering new places, including Malta, Barcelona, Montenegro, and Vienna. During these trips I’ve made memories that I’ll never forget, but the travels have also started to slowly become overwhelming. Typically, I’ll come back from one destination on Monday or Tuesday, and by Thursday I’m on the plane heading to another new place.  Although I can’t wait to continue exploring Europe throughout the rest of my exchange semester, the last few hectic and travel-filled weeks have made me crave a bit of rest and familiarity. Therefore, this past weekend was a much needed change of pace, as instead of personally doing more travelling, my sister came to Zurich to visit me.

Aside from providing a break from the continuous travelling, seeing my sister also helped to stop the feelings of home sickness that I’ve been having lately. I’m about halfway done with my exchange semester so far, and it feels like each week my phone calls with my parents are becoming longer and longer. However, from the second I gave my sister a big hug in the airport, all of those emotions went away and it almost felt like I was back home again.

In addition to my sister curing my home sickness, having her visit me had a lot of other minor perks, such as all the American snacks she brought and the hotel in Zurich she got us for the weekend. Living in a dorm for so long almost made me forget how amazing it felt to sleep in a normal-sized bed and not have to share a bathroom with 15 other people.

View from the hotel

Now, while I could probably write this entire blog about the hotel or the American snacks, I did actually have to show my sister around Switzerland and act as a guide for the weekend. After being a lost tourist in every place that I’ve been too lately, it was interesting being the one that knew where everything was and how things work. That included everything from buying train tickets to planning out the days. It was satisfying to know that within two months I’ve mastered the basics of living in Switzerland enough to properly navigate someone around, a drastic progression from the twenty minutes I used to take to buy one train ticket.

My sister arrived on Friday, and most of that day was spent relaxing, walking around, and most importantly catching up with each other. I didn’t even really want to do anything that day besides just hang out with her, as I’ve realized that no amount of phone calls or texts can beat actually being with someone in person.  Plus, even though I live only 20 minutes outside of Zurich, I haven’t had that many chances to casually stroll the beautiful city.

We could’ve talked about life for the entire weekend and it still wouldn’t have been enough time, but we did have to do at least a little bit of sightseeing in Switzerland together. Having been to Mount Rigi once already and Luzern multiple times, I knew that it was the perfect choice for a day trip to take with my sister.

The day ended up going better than I could’ve imagined. This was about my third or fourth time in Luzern, but the town looked more picturesque than ever. There was an entirely different atmosphere walking around the town with the sun shining than when it was 20 degrees last time I went. The streets being filled with food markets combined with the people laying out and tanning by the lake made me feel like I was back in Barcelona instead of Switzerland. That environment continued when we went up to the mountain later on in the day, as it was covered in greenery and flowers, instead of the snow that I remembered. I don’t think my sister expected to be wearing shorts and drinking iced drinks on a mountain when she booked the trip to Switzerland a few months ago. To top it all off, we took a boat from Luzern to the base of the mountain, which was a far better experience than the bus I took last time to get there.

                   Spring time Luzern
                          View from Mount Rigi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, there was another, and far more insignificant, reason that my sister came to Switzerland, besides to see me. On Sunday, she had to take care of just some business: running a marathon. Actually, my sister running and finishing a marathon was anything but insignificant. This was about my sister’s fifth marathon and the one with the toughest circumstances so far. She had only flew in two days prior, which meant that she was still dealing with the jet lag from the flight. It was also the hottest day and most humid day of the entire weekend, which even made me sweat just from cheering her on. However, despite these tough factors, my sister completed the marathon and I couldn’t have been any more proud of her.

Monday morning it was time to part ways and for me to go back to my regular study abroad life. However, the weekend was just as enjoyable and far more meaningful than any trip I’ve done so far. Seeing my sister confirmed that there truly is nothing more gratifying in life than the simple activity of spending time with family and loved ones. I wouldn’t want to walk around Zurich or visit a Swiss mountain with anyone else, and inspired is an understatement for how I felt when she crossed the finish line.

 

Radek

A Weekend of impulse decisions

A Weekend of impulse decisions

The preparation for this past weekend began, as always, with my friends and I sitting around in our dorm’s living room trying to figure out what place we should visit next. None of my friends are American, so it can be difficult to find a destination sometimes as they’ve already been to most of the places in Europe. After a few hours of discussion, the choice was made to go to Montenegro. It was a country that no one had been too before, and one that I probably couldn’t find on a map. We all liked the idea of being able to discover a country that many tourists had never been too before, and the 85-degree weather combined with some beaches was a nice little bonus.

While buying our plane tickets for the trip, one of my friends noticed that there was an option to have a 15- hour layover in Vienna, Austria on the way back from Montenegro. The layover would give us about half a day and a night in Vienna, and we would not come back to Switzerland until Tuesday morning at 8am instead of Monday. It meant that the weekend would consist of me being in a country I knew nothing about for a weekend, then spending a few hours trying to figure out an entire new big city, and finally attempting to make it to my Tuesday class at 9am. On top of that, we were going to have to rent a car in Montenegro because our hotel was decently far away from the closest town, and that town wasn’t very close to any other towns.  With all of those different and somewhat daunting factors considered, I took an extremely long two minutes and said yes to the trip.

Fortunately, that quick, maybe a little too quick, choice ended up being a great one. For the duration of the entire trip, I truly felt and loved the authenticity and natural beauty of Montenegro.

The drive from the airport to our hotel apartment 10 minutes outside of Budva, a small beach town of 14,000 people, was filled with mountains and valleys that gave a glimpse of everything I would soon discover. When we got to our apartment, which was on a dirt road, we were immediately greeted by a local family that ran the building. They let us play with their dog for a while and then gave us all of their recommendations for Montenegro. It was all a far cry from the distant interactions you normally get at any place that you stay at. While the people made me feel comfortable and at home, the view from our room was something that I had never experienced before. Right in front of us was the beautiful Montenegro landscape that I never got tired of over the next few days.

The view from our Apartment

The first day, Friday, we didn’t arrive until about 5pm, so we just spent most of our time venturing around Budva and the nearby area. The old town featured small streets and an interesting history, while the city center was filled with stores. Although both of those were fun to explore, they weren’t anything that we couldn’t find in any other European town. Quickly, we realized that we needed to focus our trip on everything that makes Montenegro unique, instead of what it shares with the rest of Europe and the world.

Therefore, Saturday we went to look at Sveti Stefan, a small island right off the coast in Budva in the Adriatic Sea. The island looks like something from a fairy tale, as it is basically just a tiny and beautiful village in the water. We walked around the area for an hour and constantly looked at the island from every angle possible. When it was time to decide what beach to relax at for the day in Budva, which has about 30 beaches, we chose the one right next to Sveti Stefan. Not only did we get to enjoy the amazing weather and gaze at the island the entire day, there were only two or three other people on the beach the whole time that we were there. It was a stark contrast to the beaches in Barcelona, which were crowded with people and constantly filled with noise. I felt like I had my own private beach and it was a day of complete bliss.

Sveti Stefan angle #1
Sveti Stefan angle #2
Sveti Stefan angle #3

 

I would love to always lay on the beach all day like we did Saturday, but Sunday was our last full day in Montenegro and it was time to do some adventuring and see more of the country. After some complex research (a single Google search), we decided to drive to Kotor for the day. Except for knowing that it’s one of the top places that comes up when you search places to visit in Montenegro, we had zero knowledge of the city. Our plan involved driving over there early in the morning and then seeing what catches our eyes.

While the main attraction for Budva was the beautiful beaches and the island of Sveti Stefan, the highlight for Kotor was the bay that is located on and all the cliffs and mountains it is surrounded by.  About a quarter way up one of the mountains we noticed that there was an old fortress that people could hike up too. Without a second of hesitation, we started our walk up to the fortress. The hike took about an hour to complete and most of the time was spent trying not to slip and fall along the rocky path. It was also about 80 degrees that day, and by the time we got to the fortress all of us were pretty tired and sweaty. Thinking I had finished my exercise for the day, I strolled around the fortress and took in the sights of Kotor. Then, almost out of nowhere, a local man came up to us and asked us where we were from. There weren’t many people at the fortress, and he seemed genuinely curious as to why a group of 20 year olds decided to spend their weekends hiking up to a fortress in Montenegro. He told us all about the history of the fortress and why it is important to the country.

At the end of the conversation, he pointed us towards another hiking path that lead up to the top of an entire mountain. The path was one continuous stone covered zig-zag that looked like it was from the Medieval times. It was only about 11am at that point, and in our typical fashion we thought about it for a few seconds and gave the second hike a try. While the first one was a somewhat hard hour long hike, this one took about 3 hours and was at a steep angle the whole time. In addition, the path was extremely narrow and the rocks felt like they were bruising my feet with each step. It wasn’t the most fun experience going up, but the view from the top was worth every single painful step. Being on top of that mountain with a view of the remarkable bay and town of Kotor was one of the most surreal moments of my life.

View of Kotor from the top of the mountain
The walk up the “Ladder of Kotor”

With zero intention of doing so, we ended up hiking nearly the whole day. We got back down to Kotor around 4pm. We were all extremely tired, so started to drive back to Budva and relax for the rest of day. However, about halfway along our drive we saw a sign for Tivat, another town that popped up on our Google search. The choice was almost instantly made to check out Tivat, even though all of us had just completed the longest walks of our life. When we got to the Tivat, out of nowhere it felt like we had entered a different world. Yachts and fancy designer stores were everywhere and if someone told me I was in Dubai I would believe them. There weren’t any options for adventures, like in Kotor, but it was intriguing to see the drastic contrast from Tivat to the rest of the country.

Slight change from the dirt roads of Budva and Kotor

The next day, Monday, it was time to leave Montenegro and embark on another journey in Vienna. However, after all of the success we had in our time in Montenegro, it was only a matter of time until some things went wrong.

Our flight got delayed a few hours and we didn’t land in Vienna until about 4pm. Then, our hotel for the night was in a completely different part of the city than we thought it was in. When booking the trip we thought we would have a lot of time to explore the city, but in reality we got to the city center at about 7pm. Also, our flight the next day was at 6am, so we had to wake up at 4am the next day to make it on time.

Things weren’t going the way that we planned them too, but from 7pm till about 1am we made sure that we got the most out of being in Vienna. In those 5 or so hours, we walked around almost the whole city and saw every single significant monument, building, or landmark that there was in Vienna. My personal favorite was the St.Stephen’s Cathedral, which was stunning from the outside and even more so inside. We also had the opportunity to go to the top of the Cathedral, where we were rewarded with a magnificent view of the whole city.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Vienna from the top of the Cathedral

 

Along with the Cathedral, I really enjoyed the atmosphere of Austria and Vienna. It hit me from the moment I got on the plane to Vienna, as the Austrian Airlines plays classical music before the plane takes off. From there, every single corner in Vienna has a historical monument, a statue, or an ode to Mozart. Being in Montenegro may have improved my physical fitness, but my IQ probably went up just from being in Vienna for a couple of hours.

In front of one of the many statues in Vienna

Even though I was exhausted from discovering and hiking around Montenegro, seeing as much of Vienna as possible, and only getting 3 hours of sleep Monday night, I still made it on time to my 9am class Tuesday morning. It wasn’t until I woke up from my much needed nap after that class that I realized how amazing the weekend I just had was. I had the chance to see and experience a country that most people haven’t and then see much of Vienna, all while spending time with amazing friends.

Now its time to relax a little bit more in Switzerland and wait to see where my future adventures take me.

till then,

Radek

The Necessary trip to Barcelona

The Necessary trip to Barcelona

Hi!

When I first decided to study abroad, many of my friends who had travelled before told me I absolutely had to go to Barcelona. They described the extraordinary atmosphere of the city and how they wished they had to opportunity to go there again. When I finally made the decision to go there this past weekend, multiple people in Switzerland from the exchange student residence hall that I live in echoed similar sentiments.

All of this was completely new to me, as most people have never been to Switzerland before or had even heard of Malta, which was the first big travel I did two weeks ago. For the first time I wouldn’t be nearly blindly discovering a city and then figuring out if it is a nice place. However, these preconceived notions of Barcelona also created extremely high expectations for the 3-day trip. Thankfully, Barcelona lived up to and even surpassed anything that people told me about it.

Although my friend and I already knew a lot about Barcelona, we made absolutely zero plans for the entire weekend in order to maintain some level of spontaneity. After arriving early Thursday morning, we checked into our hotel and immediately started just walking around without looking at any map or anything. We started the day by our hotel on La Rambla, one of the most famous streets in Barcelona, and by the end of the day we had walked around the entire city for what felt like and probably was multiple times.

               La Rambla

Even though we didn’t even really intend to see anything, we ended up seeing La Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, Plaza Espanya, Plaza de Catalunya, the Columbus Monument, and most of the beach all in one day. Along with all the famous places, we ventured along countless small streets that all had their own unique flair. Following the entire day of exploring Barcelona, I looked at my phone and saw that we had walked a total of 37,000 steps, or 14 miles. Normally, it would take a hiking trip or something similar to get even close to that many steps, but Barcelona had so much to offer that I never even noticed how much walking we were actually doing.

La Sagrada Familia, a Church that has been in construction since 1882
       The Columbus Monument
                             Plaza Espanya

 

Despite not feeling the effects of all the walking during the day on Thursday, Friday morning my friend and I both woke up pretty tired and even sore. Luckily, Friday was the sunniest and warmest day of the weekend, so we decided to have a relaxing day on the beach. It also didn’t hurt that we had already seen a majority of the landmarks, which meant we wouldn’t be losing anything by spending a day not visiting anything. Laying out by the beach wasn’t only much needed after an entire day of walking, but also because it has been cold and cloudy in Switzerland almost every day. It was refreshing to have a day to bask in some sun and not worry about anything at all.

Barceloneta Beach, only a little different from the Swiss mountains

Saturday was the third and final day in Barcelona, and we couldn’t think of anything better to do than to see the whole city, literally. We took a cable car that took us up to the top of Montjuic, a hill that features a view of all of Barcelona and a castle with an interesting history. The rest of our last day was spent shopping and simply taking in the final sights and sounds of Barcelona.

    The view from Montjuic

The notable sights, beaches, and panoramic views were all more than enough to make the trip better than I could’ve expected, but without a doubt my favorite part of Barcelona was the food. To start, our hotel was also located right by La Boqueria, a well-known food market. Instantly when we walked into it for the first time I knew that I was in food paradise. I was surrounded by fresh fruits, every cut of meat, seafood, bakeries, and everything in between. It may not sound that groundbreaking, but it’s a stark contrast from the Swiss diet of bread and cheese. We went there at least once each day, each time trying out new foods and never leaving unsatisfied.

A little snack from the market
Only one of the many fresh fruit stands

The extent of my love for the food in Barcelona doesn’t end in the market, as everything that I had felt worthy of a 5-star review. The first dish we had at a restaurant was Paella, a Spanish staple and something that everyone that has been to Spain talks about. The combination of rice and seafood was worth all the hype and I wished that the plate for two was only for me. On Friday night we decided to switch things up a bit and go to a Latin American restaurant called FOC, and it was the best decision we made the whole weekend. I had a Brazilian steak called Picanha, which came out on a steaming plate and looked like enough meat to feed all of Barcelona. I truly believe that it was one of the best restaurant meals of my entire life, and we had to go back the next night for dinner again. Somewhat reluctantly I switched my order from the Brazilian steak to Argentinian steak, and fortunately it came close to being as good. The final part of the food journey in Barcelona was mainly deciding what flavor of ice cream I wanted or whether I desired beef or chicken inside my empanada.

          The Picanha
Approximately two seconds later the whole Argentinian steak was gone
        Paella for “two”

 

 

Barcelona was one of the best cities I’ve ever been too because it had a great combination of everything. There were intriguing historical landmarks, fun beaches, impressive views, and delicious food all inside one vibrant and dynamic city. Whereas Zurich feels similar pretty much anywhere in the city, Barcelona reminded me more of Chicago because every part of the city had its own particular and compelling characteristics.

Now, it’s my turn to be the person telling others that they need to go to Barcelona.

 

Radek

 

 

How I feel after finishing my 2nd book ever

How I feel after finishing my 2nd book ever

By finishing, I mean reading every chapter.

Yep, any book assignment ever given to me I have never read the entire book. I tried every way to get around having to read. I would use the beautiful sparknotes or cliffnotes. I would ask my friends for summaries. Last, I would just not do the work and bs my answer in some philosophical manner. I just couldn’t get myself to sit down and read. I used to be a very hyperactive child. I never knew how to sit down. My poor parents. Also, my mind never slowed down. I am a product of the generation of “over-thinkers.” So, reading a book never computed in head. (DOES NOT COMUPTE, DOES NOT COMPUTE! HE’S DEAD JIM).

As I matured (although I will cling to my youth forever) I noticed how my peers, role-models in particular, read a lot. The people I admired, the ones who inspired me, were people that avidly read. I was jealous and tried to replicate their habits. My most fond attempts at reading was Magic Tree House series and the Artemis Foul series. I was reading below my level forsure, but magical-related topics were my jam at the time.

After realizing my immature “why can’t I do that” state, I ask my peers more questions about what they were reading. The overwhelming answers were “something that interested me.” That was the kicker. Before, I was reading books below my level, and I wasn’t challenged but interested. In school, I hated the idea that I was forced to read, thus I had no enthusiasm. Furthermore, I tried to read the books my friends recommended, but I was forcing myself to read something that I was not genuinely interested in. I needed to know and understand that sweet spot.

So now I am at a point of actualization. I am mature enough to read most books, I am not often forced to read, and I have a better idea of what I truly enjoy. Now that I think about it, I read a lot. I spend a lot of my time reading articles of wide-ranging topics, books, and news.

What does this have to do with studying abroad? Studying abroad provided me with the opportunity to understand myself better. I believe finding out more about yourself is the most crucial part of being abroad. Having a strong grasp on who you are will make everything else in your life so much easier. You will notice what does and does not compute, in your eyes. Studying abroad gave me time to slow down and think. Gee willikers have I thought a lot. My life is not necessarily any less hectic, but there is a lot less baggage. The beauty of this is that when I go home, the baggage that held me back previously will be gone. Or I will make it be gone.

I know, 2 books is nothing. However, I have a better idea of what topics I can spend hours pondering. I am positive that number will go up. 1 book a month sounds like a good starting plan (subject to change).

Hehe I never said what my two books were. You will understand why I wrote this post after you know what books I read. Both were by the amazing author Malcolm Gladwell. His books, on a broad level, are about social psychology.

BLINK:

It is about understanding your impulses or gut reactions. He helps you understand your ability to think without thinking. Thin-slicing is the method that he explains will improve your decision-making. Maybe I could say, holistically, it is about narrowing down what matters.

OUTLIERS:

Geniuses are not what you think they are. That is what Gladwell tries to get across. Who we perceive as geniuses are people that had a tremendous amount of help along the way. Instead of being a genius based on academic ability, a genius can be defined as someone that seized the moment and took advantage of the opportunities provided.

 

Thanks for reading,

Jello

“The eyes perceive, the ears perceive, the mouth decides” – Angelo DeMarco

Husqvarna AB

Husqvarna AB

1600s, 1700s = Rifles, pistols, shotguns

1800s = sewing machines, ovens, stoves, cast-iron products

1900s = bicycles, motorcycles, lawn mowers, chainsaws, power cutters

Old models of bikes

2000s = robotic lawn mowers, demolition robots

The company Husqvarna AB has come a long way since making rifles for the Swedish Army. Husqvarna AB is the company and is in Huskvarna. Husqvarna AB changed its name once it became independent of the Swedish state. Obviously, not the first time they diversified.

Yesterday, I went to Huskvarna for two reasons. First, to visit the industrial museum connected to Husqvarna AB. Second, to visit Huskvarna library (biblioteket). The sun was up and I was ready to move and shake. A bus lets out right in front of the museum, but I wanted the long way so I took the train. I “lost” 20 minutes, slowly walking to the museum. I came across a beautiful view of the valley, with the church in the middle.

Huskvarna Church

I took a winding path down a hill and near the outdoor sports hall. Eventually, at the end of the path memories started coming back to me (I came to Huskvarna a month ago. Our fika lasted 3 hours and we missed the museum). I reached the museum, branching off the factory, which has motes on both sides. A 125 meter waterfall flows into the mote near the entrance.

Inside, a group of about 30 people were learning about the history of the company before starting their tour. They were an older crowd, and I can’t imagine the nostalgia they must have felt. Huge changes occurred during the 1900s, and if they are from Huskvarna, then they saw the impact this company had on the town. Once I started, I read, and read, and read because I am a history buff. The business-side in me was particularly interested in the people who ran the company. Each exhibit had at least one section describing the directors, and managers associated with dramatic changes. One man obviously stood out amongst everyone mentioned. His name was Wilhelm Tham.

He spearheaded what seemed like the largest change for Husqvarna AB. He became Executive Director in 1876. Remained until 1911 (35 years). He slowed gun production because there was no fighting. Instead, he focused engineers towards improved hunting rifles. At the same time, he enhanced production of cast-iron products, fireplaces, stoves, ovens, and most importantly sewing machines. He was a true entrepreneur. He noticed needs before they became needs.

Husqvarna’s guns over the years

Oh wait, he did more. He noticed that workers were commuting from the far countryside. He ordered 30 houses to be built for his workers. On average, each house had 6 families. He lived right next to them. In 1887, he joined the government of Jönköping County. He was the representative for Sweden’s occupational health and safety. Remember that church I mentioned? On Tham’s birthday, in 1901, he received a large sum of money from Husqvarna AB. He donated that money to build Huskvarna Church. Remember that sports hall I mentioned? Years later, he received more money as a present. He donated that money to build the sports hall. A bust of his head is near the site. He also expanded the street, Kungsgatan (King’s Street), to make Huskvarna a more complete whole.

 

Name one reason why Amazon keeps growing?

 

Did CEO retention come to mind? The CEO, Jeff Bezos, has been part of Amazon since he founded it in 1994 (2018 – 1994 = 24 years CEO). He eat, sleeps, breaths growth. That is why he and Amazon are still relevant. Growth can be simply explained by the person running the show. Bezos and Tham deserved to be CEO for so long. They knew how to constantly innovate and renovate. Tham also knew how to treat his employees and the community well. It was absolutely inspiring to read about a person who had such an impact on so many different things.

Husqvarna AB is now the leading provider of outdoor power products. Also, they just released bicycles again after many years of ceased production. AND THESE ARE E-BIKES. There are four models: mountain cross, light cross, tourer, and city. Also, look out for their sewing machine assisted by a pre-installed tablet. Husqvarna AB is an innovation machine.

Hejda,

Jello

 

Link to Husqvarna Bicycles:

https://www.husqvarna-bicycles.com/en-INT

 

 

LUC Mens Basketball Final Four… and I am abroad

LUC Mens Basketball Final Four… and I am abroad

I want to write this post to fathom my situation right now. Our basketball team is committing a feat that hasn’t been done in 55 years. I haven’t kept up much with our basketball team these past 2 1/2 years, and I know I would be a total bandwagon in this situation… but oh my god I wish I was back home right now. Loyola Chicago is known around campus to be a spirit-less school. Students never had much to rally behind, except for the mens volleyball national championships. Even those were under-hyped on campus.

The mens basketball team is doing more than just rallying Loyola students for the 2017-2018 year. The team is starting a spirit revolution. I believe this will kickstart students to think more about the collegiate sports on campus. By the looks of the insane videos of people crunched up in our student center, Damen, every student is jumping on the history wagon. Students will want to keep this spiritual momentum going once its all done. We have all been waiting for something to back up.

Congrats to the team and the true fans for sticking it out. AKA Carl Stradel. He has been hyping up the mens basketball team since day 1 on campus. Honestly, from the way he always backs them up in arguments, it is like he knew this was coming.

Richardson and Moser repeated that belief in their abilities, themselves, and their teammates got them to the Final Four. Carl also believed. This Cinderella story goes to show that belief goes a long way. It separates the sheep from the sheepdogs.

#NoSheepAllowed

Adventures in a country I never heard of

Adventures in a country I never heard of

Hi!

Since the start of studying abroad, I’ve tried to travel and visit new places as much as possible. Prior to last weekend, I had been to the Luzern area twice and to Konstanz, a German town close to the Swiss border. Despite every single trip being memorable and unique, none of them had been to places far away or much different than the Zurich area. So, last weekend I decided to finally experience a country with an atmosphere and culture distinct from Switzerland.

When planning last weekend’s getaway, my friend and I were looking at various places like Spain, Greece, and the United Kingdom. However, we quickly discovered that all of these places were going to have poor weather the entire weekend. Despite that normally not being the biggest issue, there have only been about two sunny days in Switzerland so far and we needed to escape the cloudy weather. Finally, after considering nearly every country in Europe, we found a great deal to go to Malta. The only problem was that I had no idea what Malta was or where it was. After only about 10 minutes of research, which mainly consisted of looking at beaches, we decided to take a risk and book the trip.

As soon as we got off the plane and felt the warm air and sun, we knew we made the right choice. For the majority of our trip, except for some cold winds Saturday that came from Sahara, we were accompanied by the amazing weather that was missing in Switzerland. I took advantage of that as much as possible by walking around in a tank top and shorts, while also trying to visit as many beautiful beaches and bays as possible in two days. At all of the nature attractions we visited we took in the spectacular views for as long as possible, all while getting a much needed tan.

The Blue Lagoon
Golden Bay in the West part of the country
St Julian’s Bay, a two minute walk from our hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aside from the warm weather and beaches, Malta also features wonderful cities and a rich history. When we weren’t tanning, we were visiting some of the famous cathedrals in the country or walking around the streets. My favorite city in the country, Valletta, was a place that I never wanted to leave. The atmosphere and streets were similar to what I imagine Italy to have, mixed with influences of Arabic and the traditional Maltese culture.

The funniest part of the entire trip came in Valletta when we went to the most famous cathedral in all of Malta, the St John’s Cathedral. The security in the front wouldn’t let me in because I was wearing a tank top and you can’t have exposed shoulders inside. They did eventually let me go inside, but I had to wear a cape to cover my shoulders. Along with all the looks and laughs I got inside the Cathedral, I got to keep the cape after so it makes for a nice souvenir. It also didn’t hurt that the Cathedral had stunning paintings all over and a captivating history to it. 

The last, and possibly best, part of Malta was the delicious and cheap food and drinks. The hardest decisions we had to make the whole weekend was where to eat because every single place looked amazing. The first night we chose to go to a traditional Maltese restaurant that our taxi driver suggested. I got a big ribeye steak that would cost four times as much in Switzerland. To make it even better, we got free appetizers and desert to go along with our meals.The next night we went to another Maltese restaurant but this time I got one of the most unique meals in Malta; rabbit. Even though I was a bit scared at first, it ended up tasting amazing and I would have it again. In between those two dinners, I had as many sweets and coffees as possible. Not a single thing I had disappointed and I’m hoping that all the walking we did burned at least some of the calories that were consumed over the weekend.

           Maltese Rabbit

Looking back on the trip now, it’s crazy to me how I can be in a place so different from Switzerland in just a two hour plane ride. Malta was a country unlike any that I’ve ever been too and I’m beyond happy that I made the spontaneous choice to go there.

 

Radek

Being an Airbnb host for the right reasons

Being an Airbnb host for the right reasons

 

I have traveled to Oslo, Norway three times now. The first time I stayed with an amazing couple with two kids. I paid 412 SEK ($50) for both nights, which I believe is reasonable. The price was definitely lower than it should have been based on the experience I had. Each night my friend and I came back, it was either talking all night or playing card/board games with our hosts. They also drove us to the city each day on their way to work. On Sunday, the wife (Nina) made us baguettes with over 10 spreads to choose from. Spreads are common to have with snacks and to use on baguettes, or crisp bread. A commonality in Sweden and Norway is food in tubes: kaviar, cheese, and dill spread. Also, we had homemade chocolate cake because it was Mother’s day. I did not know what to expect from booking my first Airbnb, but I was blown away.

They are such amazing hosts so I visited Oslo a month later with my brother and stayed 5 nights for FREE at their home. Again, each day consisted of traveling the city and each night was talking, board games, or card games. My brother is in SLU med school so he geeked out talking about Norwegian healthcare.

The wife is the main contact for all her Airbnb guests. What she wants most out of Airbnb is for her guests to be treated well on their first visit, so they come back and bring something from their home country. Yes, she has a motto, “if I like you on your first stay you don’t have to pay for any further visits, but you do have to bring something from your home country… preferably chocolate :).” Nina wants to hear stories from around the world, so she can visits those places later and experience the stories first-hand. She has been to 29 countries and she is 31 with a 8-4 job, 9-5 husband, and two kids 6 and 8 years old. How does she travel so much? Because it is easy to get away and know where to go when you visit people who were previously your Airbnb guests. I LOVE IT… to the point where I am debating renting out my other bed in my room, if that is even possible.

My “second” family, as I call them now, took me to their family cabin in Hemsadel, Norway. We went skiing all Saturday in the second largest ski resort in Norway. Previously, I only been on slopes that lasted at most 2 minutes. The longest slope here took 20 minutes to get to the very bottom. It was absolutely surreal. We had the 6 year old son with us, so we often took it slow. At one point, myself and the husband went off-piste and that’s where the real test began. I was toppling down the side of the mountains through fresh, powdery, untouched snow. I am hurting so bad three days later, I wasn’t able to go to the gym haha. I can now say I witnessed what real slopes are like, rather than the fake snow back around Chicago. Myself and the husband, 31 years old, had a 6 hour conversation into Sunday morning. What I found amazing is that someone who is 10 years older, from another part of the world, and a father could have such similar experiences and thoughts as I do… We are all humans in the end.

The purpose of this post is two-fold. One, it is to remind me how opportunities can rise from trying new things. I had no idea booking my first airbnb would snowball into so many experiences. Second, it is to educate my readers about how beautiful and exciting meeting new people is. Airbnb is an amazing platform to do so. It shouldn’t be about the money, unless you need it. If you have a part of your home that is vacant, try renting it out. There are a lot of characters in this world to make your world just as exciting to live in. The experiences are endless, if you choose to open yourself up to new experiences.